Seeking one's identity


Identity (social science)


In psychology, identity is the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person (self-identity) or group (particular social category or social group).[citation needed] Categorizing identity can be positive or destructive.[1]

A psychological identity relates to self-image (one's mental model of oneself), self-esteem, and individuality. Consequently, Weinreich gives the definition:

"A person's identity is defined as the totality of one's self-construal, in which how one construes oneself in the present expresses the continuity between how one construes oneself as one was in the past and how one construes oneself as one aspires to be in the future"; this allows for definitions of aspects of identity, such as: "One's ethnic identity is defined as that part of the totality of one's self-construal made up of those dimensions that express the continuity between one's construal of past ancestry and one's future aspirations in relation to ethnicity".


Gender identity forms an important part of identity in psychology, as it dictates to a significant[quantify] degree how one views oneself both as a person and in relation to other people, ideas and nature. Other aspects of identity, such as racial, religious, ethnic, occupational… etc. may also be more or less significant – or significant in some situations but not in others (Weinreich & Saunderson 2003 pp 26–34). In cognitive psychology, the term "identity" refers to the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self (Leary & Tangney 2003, p. 3).

Sociology places some explanatory weight on the concept of role-behavior. The notion of identity negotiation may arise from the learning of social roles through personal experience. Identity negotiation is a process in which a person negotiates with society at large regarding the meaning of his or her identity.


Identity formation strategies[edit]

Another issue of interest in social psychology is related to the notion that there are certain identity formation strategies which a person may use to adapt to the social world. (Cote & Levine 2002, pp. 3–5) developed a typology which investigated the different manners of behavior that individuals may have. (3) Their typology includes:

Psychological symptoms Personality symptoms Social symptoms
Refuser Develops cognitive blocks that prevent adoption of adult role-schemas Engages in childlike behavior Shows extensive dependency upon others and no meaningful engagement with the community of adults
Drifter Possesses greater psychological resources than the Refuser (i.e., intelligence, charisma) Is apathetic toward application of psychological resources Has no meaningful engagement with or commitment to adult communities
Searcher Has a sense of dissatisfaction due to high personal and social expectations Shows disdain for imperfections within the community Interacts to some degree with role-models, but ultimately these relationships are abandoned
Guardian Possesses clear personal values and attitudes, but also a deep fear of change Sense of personal identity is almost exhausted by sense of social identity Has an extremely rigid sense of social identity and strong identification with adult communities
Resolver Consciously desires self-growth Accepts personal skills and competencies and uses them actively Is responsive to communities that provide opportunity for self-growth

Kenneth Gergen formulated additional classifications, which include the strategic manipulator, the pastiche personality, and the relational self. The strategic manipulator is a person who begins to regard all senses of identity merely as role-playing exercises, and who gradually becomes alienated from his or her social "self". The pastiche personality abandons all aspirations toward a true or "essential" identity, instead viewing social interactions as opportunities to play out, and hence become, the roles they play. Finally, the relational self is a perspective by which persons abandon all sense of exclusive self, and view all sense of identity in terms of social engagement with others. For Gergen, these strategies follow one another in phases, and they are linked to the increase in popularity of postmodern culture and the rise of telecommunications technology.