Discussion Of Social Identity Theory And The Theory Of Acculturation

Baron, Byrne and Suls (1989) define social psychology as “the scientific field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual behaviour in social situations”. Social psychology has developed several different theories overtime that support social phenomenon. Within this essay, we will discuss the social phenomenon of discrimination while critically evaluating the social identity theory and using it understand this issue. This essay will also discuss the theory of acculturation, with an in-depth and critical analysis of the Interactive Acculturation Model (IAM). These theories will also be linked to a recent newspaper article about a German footballer Mesut Ozil, and how he faced ‘racial abuse’ which led to his decision to retire from international football.

Discrimination can take the form of being blatant (being called a derogatory name) or subtle behaviours that pervade the lives of individuals. To explain this phenomenon of discrimination, Tajfel and Turner (1979) created the Social Identity Theory (SIT). SIT focusses on social factors in perception of social belief aspects of racism, prejudice, and discrimination. The idea of social identity involves individuals feeling part of a group. A social category is created in which someone falls into and what that they feel they belong to, provides the individual with a definition of who they are in terms of the characteristics of that social group. This membership is stored and represented in the individual’s mind regarding the social group they belong to, and they therefore understand how they believe they should think, feel, and behave. Identifying with a specific ‘in-group’ to improve self-esteem can lead to competition and intolerance against an ‘out-group’, potentially leading to discrimination against the ‘outgroup’. In a minimal group study conducted by Tajfel and Turner (1979), he recruited schoolboys aged between 14-15. These boys completed an activity to be assigned to the group, however, they were assigned randomly to their group. As they were put into groups with individuals they believed they shared attributes with, this created their ‘ingroup’. The boys then had to complete a matrices task; results found that an ingroup favouritism was created. Tajfel concluded that outgroup discrimination was easily triggered, by perceiving someone else as in an outgroup this was enough to do it.

Mesut Ozil faced discrimination that can be explained through Social Identity Theory. Ozil was considered an ‘outgroup’ member by the German citizens. He stated, “When high-ranking DFB officials treat me as they did, disrespect my Turkish roots and selfishly turn me into political propaganda” (MetinOzil1088, 2018). Ozil experienced forms of discrimination due to his dual-heritage, certain German newspapers used a photo of him with the Turkish president Erogan for propaganda purposes. As Mesut Ozil was photographed with a leader from an “outgroup” of the German people, this resulted in racial discrimination against him and derogatory names like “goat f*ker” (Arseblog, 2018). It can be noticed that SIT is an appropriate way for understanding human behaviour and is effective as it assumes intergroup conflict is not required for discrimination to occur. However, it can be argued that this approach cannot account for extreme cases of discrimination. It can be thought that Tajfel also used artificial tasks that lacked ecological validity and used tasks that were much less important than discriminatory events that happen within society.

Culture is recognised as a set of behaviours, attitudes and traditions that exist among a large group of people, usually of the same religion or country. One of the major sources of development and display of human behaviour is the contact between cultural populations known as acculturation. Intercultural contact results in both cultural and psychological changes. The Interaction Acculturation Model (IAM) conducted by Bourhis (1997) explains culture in an in-depth form, the goal of the model is to produce a more dynamic account of immigrant and host community acculturation in multicultural settings. It is the interpersonal and intergroup relational outcomes that are the product of combinations of immigrant and host acculturation strategies and therefore provides us a greater insight into how well those relationships are. Central to the framework there are three components: (1) acculturation orientations adopted by immigrant groups, (2) acculturation orientations adopted by the dominant culture towards specific groups of immigrants; and (3) interpersonal and intergroup relational outcomes that represent combinations of immigrants’ and the dominant culture’s acculturation orientations (Ngo, 2008). This model is conducted by using a four-way classification of native citizens in regard to their acculturation orientation towards immigrants, this four way classification includes: integration, assimilation, segregation, and exclusion.

Relating acculturation to the article about Mesut Ozil, he considered himself to be from two different cultures. He stated “Whilst I grew up in Germany my family background has its roots firmly based in Turkey. I have two hearts, one German and one Turkish” (Arseblog, 2018), therefore Ozil had to experience acculturation due to his dual heritage. Ozil was placed in the exclusion category of this model as the German citizens didn’t agree with his dual heritage, and he was told by the Chief of the German Theatre to “p*ss off back to Anatolia” (Arseblog, 2018) as this was a place in Turkey where many immigrants live. This clearly shows that Ozil was being treated as an ‘unwanted immigrant’. This theory is effective as it promises innovation, rather than only examining immigrant’s acculturation. This theory looks at interaction between the dominant culture and immigrants. However, it neglects to cross examine the function of the predominant structures in the development of socioeconomic factors and stays focussed on the failure of these immigrants.

In conclusion, both Social Identity Theory and the Acculturation Theory prove to be useful theories in describing and researching areas within social psychology. Using both theories for research has both its advantages and disadvantages. Overall, I believe the Interactive Acculturation model fails to interrogate the role of dominant structures and therefore may not be an effective theory. However, I believe that SIT can be extremely useful as this theory shows that conflict is not necessary, and discrimination can occur without this.  

16 December 2021
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