Coping with identity threats to group agency as well as group value: Explicit and implicit routes to resistance

de Lemus, Soledad; Spears, Russel; van Breen, Jolien and Telga, Maïka (2017). Coping with identity threats to group agency as well as group value: Explicit and implicit routes to resistance. In: Bukowski, Marcin; Fritsche, Inmo; Guinote, Ana and Kofta, Miroslaw eds. Coping with lack of control in a social world. Current issues in social psychology. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, pp. 151–169.



Social resistance is defined as a group’s opposition to economic, political, and social circumstances that perpetuate social disadvantage, or status differences within society. Social identity researchers (SIT; Tajfel & Turner, 1979), amongst others, have theorized about the psychological processes underlying social resistance (Reicher, 2004; Spears, Jetten, & Doosje, 2001). Social identity is that part of an individual’s identity derived from their membership of groups, be they chosen, such as sportsteam supporters, or acquired, such as gender or ethnicity. SIT outlines various social resistance strategies, ranging from the indirect to the more direct, in response to threats to social identity (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). However, SIT typically conceptualizes identity threat in terms of threats to group value. In this chapter we argue that to conceptualize threat primarily in relation to group value or identity content is limiting, especially as the responses to such threats involve a range of different actions (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Missing from this analysis is that identity threat also typically implies threats to the agency of the group, and thus its ability to engage in action (hence, “social resistance”), be this direct or indirect. In this chapter, in keeping with the central theme of this volume we therefore conceptualize such threats as threats to agency as well as group value and present preliminary evidence of reactions to identity threats both at the explicit (e.g., collective action) and implicit level (e.g., automatic ingroup bias). Finally, we describe some effects of identity threat on cognitive control and approach motivation. We discuss the implications of this conceptualization of identity threat as threats to agency and value for social identity theory as well as for the literature related to agency and control.

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