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As originally formulated by social psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner in the 1970s and the 1980s, social identity theory introduced the concept of a social identity as a way in which to explain intergroup behaviour. "Social identity theory explores the phenomenon of the 'ingroup' and 'outgroup', and is based on the view that identities are constituted through a process of difference defined in a relative or flexible way depends on the activities in which one engages" This theory is described as a theory that predicts certain intergroup behaviours on the basis of perceived group status differences, the perceived legitimacy and stability of those status differences, and the perceived ability to move from one group to another. This contrasts with occasions where the term "social identity theory" is used to refer to general theorizing about human social selves. Moreover, and although some researchers have treated it as such, social identity theory was never intended to be a general theory of social categorization. It was awareness of the limited scope of social identity theory that led John Turner and colleagues to develop a cousin theory in the form of self-categorization theory, which built on the insights of social identity theory to produce a more general account of self and group processes.
The term social identity approach, or social identity perspective, is suggested for describing the joint contributions of both social identity theory and self-categorization theory. Social identity theory suggests that an organization can change individual behaviours if it can modify their self-identity or part of their self-concept that derives from the knowledge of, and emotional attachment to the group.