Psychological foundations behind Personal Identity

analytical Essay
1057 words
1057 words

As a question, ‘who am I?’ poses many complications. Each of us are aware of being someone “with a past, a present and a future…” however, it is the fact that we are not “only aware of inhabiting a distinct personal world, but also…social and cultural…” which leads to confusion. This essay will therefore explore the Psychological foundations behind the question, in regards to evidence provided by the ‘Twenty Statement Test’. Analysis of this study made it apparent that ‘the self’ could be classified into three main groups; social, relational and personal selves, with each of these being readily related to the various theoretical assumptions. This essay will examine how each of these categories seek to answer the question ‘who am I?’, as well as briefly discussing how cultural variation may influence both social and individualistic approaches to the self.

The Social Identity Theory views the self as a social being, assuming that group membership and social relations play a big part in a persons individual identity. Individuals, therefore, have not just one ‘personal self’ but many ‘social selves’. It is suggested that persons behave “in terms of desire to be in groups”, as groups are “valued positively compared to non-groups”. Turner and Tajfel provide further evidence of this through their “minimal group studies” in which participants showed “in group favouritism”, deviating from fair strategies and favouring members of their own group, even in the most minimal conditions. Hence, it appears group membership is regarded very highly in terms of ones own identity and well being.

However, whilst Tajfel’s study highlights social categorisation as a “distinct social identity”, it also shows a weakness in the Social Identity Theor...

... middle of paper ...

... rather than the one they suggest.


Cousins,S.D. (1989). Culture and self-perception in Japan and the United States. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 56 (1),124-131

Haslam, S.A. (2004). Social Identity Approach . In: Psychology in organizations . 2nd ed. London: SAGE publications. 17-30.

Parfit, D. (1987). Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons. In: Blakemore, C and Greenfield, S Mindwaves: Thoughts on Intelligence, Identity and Consciousness. Oxford: Basil Blakewell,. 18-26.

Rodgers, W,S. (2003). Selves and Identities. In: Social Psychology: Experimental and critical approaches. Maidenhead,GB: Open University Press/McGraw Hill. 229-240.

Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of inter-group behavior. In S. Worchel and L. W. Austin (eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chigago: Nelson-Hall

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes the psychological foundations behind the question, in regards to evidence provided by the ‘twenty statement test’.
  • Explains that the social identity theory views the self as a social being, assuming that group membership and social relations play an important role in one's individual identity.
  • Argues that tajfel's study highlights social categorisation as a "distinct social identity", but it also shows weakness in the social identity theory.
  • Explains the social categorisation theory, which suggests that the self is actually an outcome of our cognitive processes.
  • Analyzes how cousins showed the influence of culture on self perception by replicating the tst. american and japanese students based their understanding of the self around more personal psychological attributes.
  • Explains that parfit suggested two theories about what persons are, namely the ‘ego theory’ and ‘bundle theory.’ the bundle theory denies the existence of the self as a separate entity.
  • Analyzes how reid links in with the opposing viewpoint of ego theorists, who adopt a more cartesian view of the self.
  • Concludes that the question of ‘who am i?’ is open to interpretation. split brain cases provide irrevocable evidence for the bundle theory.
  • Cites cousins,s.d., haslam, s.a. and parfit, d.
Get Access