Psychosocial approach: Communication and social listening in polarised contexts
About Lesson

Social identity

Diverse wooden characters
Image by Freepic

Social identity, a concept that lies at the heart of social psychology, captures the intricate web of group memberships that individuals forge based on diverse traits such as age, gender, nationality, race, religion, social class, and sexual orientation. It is within this tapestry of social identity that individuals construct their self-concept and navigate their perceptions of others.

The construction of social identity emerges through a social process that involves constant comparisons and contrasts. Individuals engage in a dynamic interplay of self-evaluation, assessing how they measure up against members of their own group, as well as those from other groups. These social comparisons hold the power to foster group unity, generating a collective sense of belonging and shared values. However, they can also give rise to differentiation and discrimination, as individuals seek to establish their distinctiveness and preserve the boundaries between groups.

Crucially, social identity is not a fixed entity.

It is a fluid and ever-evolving aspect of human existence. As individuals navigate an array of social contexts and engage with diverse social groups, their social identity adapts and transforms, reflecting the nuances of their experiences. It is this inherent mutability of social identity that renders it ripe for manipulation and exploitation by populists.

Populists, astute in their understanding of social dynamics, recognize the potential of social identity to shape people’s perceptions and fuel collective action.

Comprehending how social identity influences the ways individuals relate to one another and how social inequalities manifest  and persist, populists can harness this knowledge to advance their agendas.

How is this exploited by populists?

Populists adeptly leverage social identity to build social movements and mobilise support. They capitalise on the inherent human desire for belonging and connection, tapping into the shared values and aspirations embedded within specific social identities. Through the crafting of narratives that emphasise perceived challenges to these identities, a sense of unity is cultivated, inspiring individuals to join together in collective action and resistance against external forces.

In their quest for societal change, populists exploit the malleability of social identity, leveraging its transformative nature to foster social resistance and advocate for shifts in power dynamics. Through a deep comprehension of the complex dynamics that connect social identity, interpersonal connections, and social inequalities, populists possess the ability to tactically utilise emotional appeals and persuasive rhetoric. This skill allows them to inspire individuals and foster transformative movements.

Social identity
Join the conversation
Scroll to top