Social Categorization and Social Construction theory

It is through social interactions that have put people to act and react implication to others. Due to the social interactions we learn what is acceptable and what is not. Over time these rules become internalised within us and eventually become an unconscious part of our lives and our identity. Social identity theory asserts that group membership creates in group self-categorisation and enhancement in ways that favour the in group at the expense of the out-group and associating with a group even under minimal circumstances is enough to create in group out-group hostility. I will explore the effects of the contact theory or intergroup behaviour. It is also the aim of this essay to explain what is meant by the term social construction and social categorisation and how these two theories have further to our understanding of identity.

Social categorisation is viewed as a perception cognition or behaviour that is influenced by people’s recognition that day and other are members of distinct social groups. Relations between social groups can have far reaching and persuasive effects on the behaviour of member of these groups, effects that go well and beyond situations of face-to-face intergroup encounters.

Social construction his used to describe how we as humans understand how the world is conscripted in and through social relations there are many different ways of understanding the same issue, rather than they had been an objective reality. Our behaviour is regulated by guidelines, which make everyday life predictable and understandable causing us to behave in a certain way the way that is seen as the norm.

Housework provides a good example of the social construction being seen as the norm in Western societies many people thought that it was natural for women to be whipped rather than men to do all the housework. (Phoenix, 2002). It seemed natural because that was what usually happened and continued for as long as people remembered. The next sample of a construction was taken from natural because it had been the excepted pattern for a long time it wasn’t until the feminist viewpoint argued for equality for women, that the idea was that it is not natural for women to do all the housework that another construction developed.

Tajfel devised an intriguing paradigm to exploring the effects of intergroup behaviour using minimal effects (Tajfel, 1982). Two random groups of children were made, but allegedly on the basis of their express preference for paintings by two different artists. The children only knew the group table in with the identity of out-group and fellow in group members concealed. The result showed the children strongly favoured their own group they adopted the in group favouritism strategy despite such minimal effects and how this was created on the basis of a flimsy criteria.

The robust finding from hundreds of minimal group experiments conducted is that the mere fact of being categorised as the group members seems to be necessary to produce ethnocentrism and competitive intra group behaviour.
Social identity phenomena are motivated by two underlying processes self enhancement and uncertainty reduction. One of the key premises of the social identity approach is that group stand in status and pressed each relation to one another some groups are simply more prestigious and higher status than other.

Jane Elliott, made a short movie called the eye of the storm, of a classroom demonstration in which he divided her class of very young children into those with blue and those with brown eyes. For one day the brown eyes, and then for one day the blue eyes were assigned inferior status, hence they were ridiculed, denied privileges. In a follow-up study of the students when they were 18, Elliot found that they reported themselves as being more tolerant of differences between groups and actively opposed to prejudice.

Wright (1997) and his colleagues suggested that intergroup friendship between others if my friend John has close out group of friends then maybe the out-group isn’t quite as bad as I thought. When people are separated they are likely to experienced hostility, resulting in failure to understand the reason for their actions. Lack of contact means there’s no way of checking out interpretations of others. Bringing people into contact with each other should make them seem more familiar, and at least offer the possibility that negative cycle can be interrupted and even reversed.

We have seen that by just allocating individuals to groups can create prejudice for and against individuals. Prejudice allow self-esteem to be enhanced by belonging to the positive group, creating hostility to others seen as inferior, for no reason other than that individuals are allocated social categories. Individuals also advocate themselves to a groups of higher social standing using social mobility e.g. through promotion in employment, leaving behind what was seen as being inferior.

In social construction, language is a powerful tool, used to justify particular perspective, an example of the unused is that of (Potter and Wetherell,1987) which illustrates this whether we call someone a freedom fighter or a terrorist, the two terms can refer to the same person in each constructs a different way of viewing that person and the world. Social construction is an idea which may appear to be natural and obvious to those who accept it, but in reality it is an invention of a particular culture or society.

The social constructionist approach allows us to change our identity throughout our lives, as Gergen’s did when he was forced to eventually to use a computer instead of a pen. As we have seen social constructionist is concerned with how we use categories to structure our experience of the world they believe that the way we understand the world are not natural, but are constructed between people in everyday social interactions, that identity is fluid and changing from one social situation to another. Social constructionist Kiwis reject the notion that people have one core identity that is the centre of who they are. Instead they suggest that people have many different identities, and that these are de-centred because they always operative in relation to other identities.

We have seen that identities are not fixed, but are fluid, complex and diverse. There is the interrelationship between the social and personal identities which are constantly contradicting and competing, opening up opportunities for diversity. Individuals to have multiple identities which can do change throughout their life. People can often categorise themselves into different groups, they can choose to adopt their identities to the group they want to belong. People are constantly changing and adopting new identities to suit themselves, adapting and enhancing their self-esteem, which makes us uniquely human and different from other animals. Evidence has shown that contact and education causes people to recognise that they are in face a great deal more similar than they had initially thought which helps us better understand intergroup behaviours and ways of resolving a negative prototype perception of the out-group.

Final word count – 1065


* Open University
Part two

Scenario 1

Question 1

This study is not consistent with the guidelines. Whenever varies possible consent of the child has to be obtained. Parents’ consent is required for disclosure of confidential information, and in this case the investigator must receive approval from ethics committee. Special safeguarding procedures are required with children. In United Kingdom a researcher requires a CRB. Children should be given as much opportunity is possible to be explained the nature, purpose and anticipated of taking part, and also be made aware of right to withdraw. Consent is to be asked throughout experiment not just in the beginning, children should feel comfortable. It is advised to refrain from research based upon observation of public behaviour to those situations in which persons being studied might expect to be it can’t be said that children would think they would be as they are young.

Question 2

In studying children’s play behaviour, it would be wise to contact a local preschool teacher and get consent approval not only from the teacher but also the parents and children, as well approval from ethics committee. Importantly a CRB would be required. After consent has been granted, and all parties have been briefed and given the okay to video record and observe the research would be carried out on a daily basis recording the children in their natural environment over a period of time. On a regular basis right to withdraw would be reminded, and an assurance that everybody is comfortable. The children would be recorded throughout the day whilst they are engaging in playtime to see how they interact with one another. In this environment if anything gets out of hand, the teacher is present and therefore the investigator does not need to get involved, or refrain from resulting in putting anybody in danger.

Scenario 2

Question 1

She could have asked the group of people for their consent to participate in the experiment. Make them aware of the nature, purpose and anticipation and their right to withdraw. Keep an adequate record of when, and how and from whom consent was obtained. Ask if they wish to disclose their identity or remain anonymous. She should ask for permission to record the participants. Verify they are competent and are not under the age of 16 otherwise permission from a parent or guardian may be required.

Question 2

The researcher might have to be careful if the participant has asked to remain anonymous and be careful whilst quoting as it may threaten to reveal their identity. Another reason might be that the participant never gave consent to be recorded and or quoted which is against the ethics as consent is required, or participant may have withdrawn therefore evidence needs to be destroyed.

Question 3

The researcher could make a semi structured interview, and that includes eating disorder questions and other topics to prevent realisation. In this form they can try to find young students who would be willing to participate, and be told their opinion is required on various topics. They would be asked permission for audio recording, and quoting, also debriefed and told of their right to withdraw, and whether or not they like to remain anonymous. Perhaps once the data has been compiled they can be told of the full intentions of the experiment, as the specifics of finding opinions towards eating disorders, and then to be again asked whether or not they would like to withdraw, if they do so the data has to be destroyed.

Scenario 3

Question 1

The most relevant is the ethical principle respect, because in this section it asked to respect cultural, religious, and race therefore that relates to the experiment as it is based on religious identity. It is an opinionated questionnaire and this ethics principal asked to respect participant’s knowledge, insight, experience and expertise. As this experiment will be recorded this principle also states that the proper procedure in regards with audio recording, and in regards with consent, right to withdraw. The participant isn’t clearly told that opinion is only needed on subject rather than a number of, this section states that withholding information from clients is only exceptional to preserve the integrity of research, and this was the case it was to reduce sociably desirable responses.

Question 2

I would rather gather a random group of young teens and inform them that their valuable opinion is required regarding several topics. They would be debriefed with the experiment, asked whether or not they wish to withhold their identity, consent would be needed regarding audio recording and quoting participants. Their rights to withdraw would also be made clear. They would be reassured this is not a test.

Question 3

I would fully provide my intentions behind the experiment, that it was a focus topic I was researching on. I would give this additional information because I would have gotten answers from the participant without a cofounding variable, then knowing the intentions behind it, and to avoid any further deception I would make my intentions known, and gives them the right to withdraw if they wish, and if they do so I would then destroy any gathered data including audio recordings.