Social Identity Complexity and Inferences Regarding the Motivations of Ingroup Members
On 4th of April, professors of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel) Lilach Sagiv and Sonia Roccas made a report "Social Identity Complexity and Inferences Regarding the Motivations of Ingroup Members" on scientific seminar "Culture matters".
All people are seeking for becoming members of different groups. Groups provide members with benefits but membership also entails costs, e.g. group membership provides security feelings and positive identity, but at the same time every member has duties and obligations before his/her group and some groups may provide negative identity. Groups as well can give opportunities to express values, and make barriers to value expression. Some group members view their membership as a high-investment commitment to the ingroup, while others are not willing to share the costs of group membership. Group members that are viewed as loyal enjoy higher status, more influence and more admission to resources of the group. But according to S. Roccas and L. Sagiv determining what really motivates group members is difficult. The same behavior could be motivated by the wish to benefit the group or by the wish to benefit other targets (e.g the self, an enemy outgroup).
S. Roccas and L. Sagiv named three attribution principles that can help make inferences regarding the behavior of group members: default, discounting principle and motivation. They presented a research that studies the inferences people make regarding the behavior of other group members. They proposed that Social Identity Complexity affects these inferences. Social Identity Complexity refers to the degree to which people perceive their multiple ingroups as being distinct from each other (Roccas & Brewer, 2002). It can be high or low due to degree of overlapping between different social identities of a person.
A complex representations implies awareness of multiple moral codes and view multiple ways of actions as legitimate. A simple representation implies the belief that “our way is the only way”. When the social identity is simple each identity is less crucial. People are highly motivated to make inferences biased in favor of the group. S. Roccas and L. Sagiv proposed that complexity would cause people to rely less on the “default” inference, and to make less defensive inferences.
They conducted three studies. In these studies they examined selective military conscientious objectors, reactions to a person who revealed military secrets and complexity of self concept map. As a result of these studies S. Roccas and L. Sagiv made following conclusions. Social identity complexity is related with the content of inferences regarding the behavior of group members: it is negatively correlated with the default interpretations and positively correlated with additional interpretations. It is possible to change these attributions by encouraging people to think about the complexity of their social identity.