Psychology is simply defined as the study of the behavior of human Psychology is simply defined as the study of the human behavior and mind. Research in this area is geared towards explaining behavior, thoughts and emotions. Human identity is one of the major components of behavioral psychology. This forms the core of discussion in this article.
Identity is one of the key issues dealt with in the study of psychology. Behavioral scientists have developed several approaches to the study of identity. This article discusses two f the major theories of psychological approaches to identity and their contributions to the understanding of identity. These are the social identity theory and the social construction theory.
These two theories have been quite influential in the in the current understanding of human identity. In their attempt to explain the dynamics surrounding individual and social identity, the two theories have taken different perspectives and also arrived at divergent findings.
Henry Tajfel, an ancient behavioral scientist developed the current social identity theory in his attempt to analyze the processes that are involved in the relationships between associations and the consequences of prejudice. In his theory, he divided identity into different subsystems: social identity and personal identity.
Social identity theory is majorly focused on social identity and particular group formations and dissociations from such groups. The major belief in the theory is based on the premise that if a social group membership is deemed important to an individual, its internalized as part of their self concept and makes such an individual strive to get a positive sense of self worth in that group membership. This is done by the construction of a view that their group is better than others in aspects either factual or perceived.
In a study carried out by Tajfel and some of his colleagues where they set up experiments assess favoritism in groups and the discrimination of out-groups. Their findings accurately indicated that prejudice against an outside group and favoritism amongst same group members was apparently quite existent. Such favoritism was also found to exist even in smallest of groups.
These findings were interpreted with a suggestion that the attitude and prejudice towards outside groups was employed to boost the individuals self esteem by making other groups appear inferior. They created such an atmosphere to scare the other groups in their perceived superiority. This often ended up in conflicts amongst the groups especially where there are results to be shared amongst the group members.
This theory has been employed by many researchers to in their attempts to understand social behaviors and their interrelation with both personal and social identity. Behavioral scientists have also used this theory to predict social phenomena in governments. The findings have been generalized and a conclusion drawn that the desire for a satisfying social identity is the main cause for injustices and social discriminations witnessed in the world today.
There are many other theories that have been developed to study how personal and social identity is created and developed. The other major theory is the social construction theory. Unlike the social identity theory this theory doesn’t make a clear distinction between social and personal identity. It’s believed that individual’s posses a number of that are generated or constructed through individuals every day interactions.
The major focus of this theory is to develop an understanding of the ways in which groups and individuals contribute to the creation and perception of their social reality. ( Arthur and colons 1997)
This theory also lays more emphasis on language, which is seen as the basic mode of interaction. The idea of social construction can be observed in a number of ways: for instance, in observing how our identities change, with time, changes in society and relationships or even the construction of different identities in different cultures.
It’s believed that the way we construct our identities is depended upon the available identities in our societies and historical characteristics of these societies (Lawrence and Davis 2001). It has been identified that identities are constructions in our social set up that are dynamics and never achieved but can effectively be changed. This means that identities are not fixed and will change from time to time and also depending on the prevailing circumstances. In our social and political set ups, we take different opinions on certain issues only to change these views later. Although we remain ourselves, our identities have effectively changed ones we have changed the way we perceived issues previously.
Both the social identity theory and the social construction theories have been quite helpful in the creation and development of identity. The social identity theory for instance is a very important tool in the understanding of social and political phenomena. Its scope includes international conflicts, electoral processes, and political issues, religious and social crime. This means that this theory is not only an area of academic interest. Most of the principles in this theory have been employed in education, policy making and the furtherance of societal change as a result of a deeper understanding of identity (Iris 2010)
Despite the above contributions of this theory to humanity, it has been criticized on a number of issues. Tajfel and his colleagues are said to have paid more attention only to the observable characteristics and behavior of individuals and thus completely ignored the individual’s personal sense of identity. The method used in the social identity theory did not allow the application of new ideas and issues that are not directly quantifiable so many important aspects of identity may have been ignored. Its also argued that the social identity theory is not as social since it assumes that groups are individuals.( Lawrence and Davis 2001)) participants are assumed to react as individuals and not groups so the behavior observed may be as a result of other factors and necessarily the group membership.
In its hermeneutic approach, the social construction theory considers the peoples diversity of experience in their identities. This has been found to be quite an important element in the building of an all encompassing theory of identity.
Answers to the attached questions
According to the principles of carrying out an investigation with human participants, there are several ethical issues that the investigator must put into consideration as explained under.
In accordance with these principles consent is a critical ethical issue in any investigations involving humans. Whenever possible the participants should be informed of all the aspects of the study and the interventions that may be expected to interfere with their willingness to participate in the study. The researchers in the above case did not give the participants the opportunity to understand the nature and purpose of the study, for them to decide the appropriateness of the study and their willingness to participate. Ethically, this calls for additional safeguards to offer protection to the dignity and welfare of the participants.
Right to withdraw from an investigation
The right to withdraw from an investigation is fundamental in any form of research involving human participants. Investigators should make it clear from the onset that participants are free to withdraw from the study at any time irrespective of any inducements that they may have received.
Although this may sometimes ne difficult due to organizational settings, the researchers must nevertheless, ensure that the participants are aware of their rights of withdrawal. In the light of the above case, the investigators did not brief the participants of their rights of withdrawal from the study. This may however have been necessitated by the nature of the study. It must however, be understood that the ethical requirements allow participants to withdraw from the research and even request for their data to be destroyed.
Protection from physical and mental harm
Researchers are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring the safety and protection of the participants from any physical or mental harm. In a normal research, the risks of harm must not be more than those in normal lifestyles. Participants must be requested to state whether they have any medical or other condition that may deter them from participating in a research. We are not told of any incident where the researchers in the above case requested such information from the participants. The investigator actually stresses the students with urgent issues and does not mind of their safety as they struggle out of the room to the next building.
Maintenance of confidentiality/ anonymity of the participants
In this case, the students were expected to give lectures to their fellow students from the same university. We however, do not see any attempts by the investigators to address the issues of confidentiality. The divinity students who were expected to give a lecture on the good Samaritan but did not help the needy man must have felt embarrassed before their colleagues.
Subject to legal provisions and the Data Protection Act, all the information about participants in a study must be kept confidential unless agreed otherwise. Although it may not have been possible for confidentiality to be guaranteed, never the less, the investigators should have forewarned the participants in advance for them to decide whether they should participate or not.
This involves the supply of information about the nature and objective of the investigation and probably the use of the research findings to the participants, usually after the research is completed. This is done by the investigators so as to reduce any negative effects or unforeseen misconceptions. Debriefing also helps build an understanding between the researchers and the participants. We are told that the researchers in the above case took time to give an extensive debriefing on the nature and purpose of the study including deception in the investigation. The effectiveness of the debriefing is witnessed by the reaction of the participants who as we learnt did not show resentment despite the deception.
Research studies and investigations involving human participation are required to adhere to a number of ethical issues. This is based on the realization that humans, unlike the other objects of research are affected by both physical and psychological interferences during the research. According to the standards committee on ethics, there are several issues that must be addressed when dealing with human beings in a research. These issues are outlined above, and others such as deception and implementation of the research recommendations. In the above case, the researchers did not seem to take into consideration the welfare of the participants. The participants’ consent to participate in the investigation was not sought. The rights to withdrawal were not articulated and from the nature of the study, most of the participants would have withdrawn from the investigation.
The principles of research with human participants required the investigators to treat the participants with care and ensure that al the above issues are observed for unbiased results. This analysis clearly indicates that the case presented did not meet ethical requirements pertaining to human participation in a study as stipulated in the Act.
Arthur W. Collins (1997). Personal identity and the coherence of memory. Philosophical quarterly
Darley, J.M and Batson C.D (1973) “from Jerusalem to Jericho”: a study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior, journal of personal and social psychology.
Iris A. et al (2010) Identity formation, learning styles and trust in virtual worlds: University of Houston, Loughlin publisher
Lawrence H. Davis (2001) functionalism, the brain and personal identity. Philosophical studies