2 SOCIAL IDENTITY AND COMMUNITY TIES THEORIES AS THE BASIS FOR UNDERSTANDING MINORITY GROUP INTERACTION WITH THE MAINSTREAM
Two theoretical viewpoints will be introduced in this chapter as a means of understanding the theoretical base for the study. The subject of this research is how religious minorities use the newspaper. Issues related to minority group status are explored in Chapter 2. An explanation of “uses and gratifications” theory is offered in Chapter 3.
This chapter offers an explanation of “social identity” theory first, positing why it is important but could not be used in place of the “community ties” tradition. The material on “community ties” research includes information on “secularization” theory.
The reason this research was undertaken is twofold:
• To determine whether religious minorities view the media, particularly the newspaper, differently from majority groups and have different “uses and gratifications”; and • To determine whether different patterns exist within the heavy churchgoing-heavy civic participation-heavy newspaper use linkage when applied to “closed communities,” tightly knit religious groups, compared to the more open, mainstream USA society. The benefits of reaching these goals through invocation of “social identity” versus “community ties” theories will be analyzed. A discussion of “social identity”
theory posits its concepts, but it is put forth more as exposition and literature review, and to set the stage for why the other approach was more useful.
Each theoretical viewpoint will be explained in terms of its key concepts and its potential to be a bridge toward understanding whether religious minorities will use media differently and have different gratifications.
Social Identity Theory
“Social identity” theory seeks to explain the interplay between the individual and the various membership groups to which he belongs (Tajfel, 1981). These groups can be religious, political, ideological or racial, and the individual can affiliate with varying degrees of intensity: their communality is that they all contribute to a sense of self-definition, place and “identity” in society.
This theory seeks to explain modes of selfclassification, cleavage to one’s group (whether a majority or minority group) and feelings of superiority or inferiority associated with ingroup membership compared to outgroups (Tajfel, 1978, 1981). At the individual level, it focuses on a person’s need to rate highly the groups to which he belongs above the other groups, reducing “cognitive dissonance,” reflecting Festinger’s (1957) theories (Tajfel, 1981:27).
At the communal level, “social identity” theory examines the relationship between groups, probing into status hierarchies and means of resolving conflict. From there, it can be expanded to broaden one’s perspective on general social behavior (Abrams & Hogg, 1990:1-3).
Framework of Social Identity Theory
“Social identity” theory focuses on the interrelationships between various groups, and how individuals view others in different subcultures and segments of society. It offers insights on the juxtaposition of various religious, ethnic and gender minorities in a complex society from a structural viewpoint (Tajfel, 1979, 1981). This is particularly useful in understanding multicultural societies (e.g., South Africa, USA, Australia).
Tajfel (1981:223) notes that very disparate groups with unique viewpoints are “shackled together (in the sense that the fate of each of them depends, to a large extent, upon the nature of its relations with the others).” He develops levels of theory to explain the complexity of these interrelationships.
Many of these disparate groups are religious, selfsegregating to maintain unique ideologies in a world they perceive undervalues the religious lifestyle and point of view (Armfield, 2003). Some of these groups are extreme minorities in multicultural societies, compared to European societies of the past, such as France, where most individuals were Catholics.
Since so many societies are multicultural, one could invoke “social identity” theory to explain extreme minorities’ media behavior, which could differ from that of majority groups. Since one could posit that members of extreme religious minorities are apt to participate less in the broader society (Buddenbaum: 1992, 1994) and coalesce more at a homogeneous house of worship, one could deduce that they would rate their ingroup higher and maintain some distance from society as a whole, a generalized outgroup, avoiding mass media messages.
Tajfel (1981:xii-7) maintains that it is “large-scale processes” that channel behavior into negative modes such as prejudice, rather than inter-individual conflict or intrapersonal malaise. Thus, “social identity” theory examines the make-up of society and its institutions as a totality, rather than casting blame on unique individuals and their personality structure, for catastrophic world events such as the Holocaust.
Following this line of argument, “social identity” theory would look at how the German body politic has viewed “outsiders” historically as the roots of prejudice, Aryan supremacy movements and the Holocaust, rather than at Hitler’s personality or economic events. In Tajfel’s terms (1978, 1981), the ingroup would be the Aryan majority and the outgroup the Jewish minority, creating an “us” and “them” mentality that sparked the Holocaust.
He writes (1981:7): “Nearly forty years later, we have seen many new massacres and also some new holocausts.” His personal experience as a World War II refugee became the driving force behind his academic interpretation of history (1981:1-6) and his pivotal role in shaping “social identity” theory.
The theory could be summarized as a web of interlocking ideas regarding “self-conception as a group member” (Abrams & Hogg, 1990:2) “Social identity” theory assigns a central role to the process of categorization which partitions the world into comprehensible units and hence contributes to an orderly understanding of self and society.
Ingroup versus Outgroup Derogation
Those studying intergroup relations analyze behaviors that result whenever “individuals belonging to one group interact, collectively or individually, with another group or its members in terms of their group identification” (Sherif & Sherif, 1953:69).
When two groups interact, the group to which a given individual belongs is designated by psychologists as that person’s ingroup, while those outside the group are part of the outgroup (Brown, 1998).
“Ingroup favoritism” exists when individuals rate highly their ingroups and maintain neutrality to outgroups. Group members become ethnocentric and overestimate the achievements of their ingroup. This favoritism can be “unconscious” and automatic (Brown, 1998:44-45).
Ingroup favoritism can be broken down into three forms (Brown, 1998:43):
• “Ingroup overevaluation,”
• “Intergroup differentiation” and
• “Outgroup derogation.” The first, “ingroup overevaluation,” has been tested empirically by giving subjects in experiments lists of ingroup associated words and outgroup-associated words and asked to rate these words as positive or negative in association. Unconsciously, subjects rated the words connected to their group as positive in connotation (without the association being made conscious) and the words connected to the “outgroup” as negative in feeling (Brown, 1998:44).
“Intergroup differentiation” occurs when individuals rate their ingroups highly and are slightly derogatory to outgroups. When psychologists conducted experiments with high- and low-status participants, however, they found a result that surprised them: subordinate groups exhibit more hostility and bias than higher-level groups. This can be due to their difficulty maintaining a positive self-concept in their situation and a higher need for bonding in the subservient position (Brown, 1998).
“Outgroup derogation” occurs when individuals remain neutral to their ingroup while acting in a highly derogatory way to outgroups. It is not that they have such a positive opinion of their own group; rather they hold to insular feelings (without a positive selfconcept connected to their group) and act negatively toward others. This behavior often involves active hostility. It is especially likely when the ingroup is threatened (Branscombe & Wann, 1994:643-645).
Link with Dissonance Theory
“Dissonance” theory is important to “social identity” theory because it strives to relate individual functioning to group functioning. In order to feel better about oneself, it is necessary to elevate the groups to which one belongs, to avoid “cognitive dissonance” (Festinger, 1957).
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“Cognitive dissonance” is a theory of “attitude formation and behavior describing a motivational state that exists when an individual’s cognitive elements (attitudes, perceived behaviors, etc.) are inconsistent with each other, such as the espousal of the Ten Commandments concurrent with the belief that it is all right to cheat on one’s taxes; a test which indicates that persons try to achieve consistency (consonance) and avoid dissonance which, when it arises, may be coped with by changing one’s attitudes, rationalizing, selective perception, and other means” (Psybox.com Dictionary, 2003).
Wanting to maintain a positive self-identity, the individual deduces, “If I think highly of myself, and I belong to a group, therefore the group must be highlyrated” (Puddifoot, 1997).
The link between the two theories is that healthy individuals, those with a positive self-concept, will participate in groups of many types and think highly of those groups, in order not to experience discord with their self-concept. The group could be as value-neutral as membership in a health club; if the individual belongs, he rates it highly. It need not have superior moral status or beliefs: avoiding discrepancy is simply a part of positive self-concept.
“Social identity” theory reflects upon Festinger’s (1957) “social comparison” theory and unites it with work on self-categorization, comparing particular groups with other identifiable social groups (Puddifoot, 1997:2).
Festinger’s notion of social comparison (1957) is that a positive self-concept is critical to psychological integrity. Avoiding isolation, the individual joins social groups, integrating his personal identity with that of the group (Tajfel & Turner, 1986:40). Identity ebbs and flows: at some times, the individual sees himself as unique; at other times, he sees himself as a member of a group, and both are equally valid to selfconstruct (Abrams & Hogg, 1990).
However, an interplay exists, since the healthy individual with a positive self-concept tends to rank the groups to which he belongs disproportionately higher to avoid cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). He does not want to see himself as a “loser” and acts to maintain a roseate self-concept. The same individual will assign a lower status to groups other than his own to maintain overarching distinctions and enhance selfworth (Puddifoot, 1997:342-343).
Festinger’s dissonance theory (1957) addresses the idea of individuals’ filtering information to comport with pre-established attitudes, ideas supported by their group. His theory states that individuals tend to avoid information that is dissonant or opposed to their own point of view and seek out information consonant with, or in support of, their own attitudes.
An interpretation of how individuals read newspapers in close-knit religious communities could draw on Festinger’s (1957) dissonance theory. Wanting to maintain a compatibility with group ideology, they could simply screen out the articles that disagree with their groups’ viewpoints, so as not to have to reassess their own positions. Using Festinger’s theory, it is possible to deduce that ingroup identification and loyalty could lead to non-purchase of newspapers, avoiding discordant truths through non-reading rather than having to screen out divergent information using a perceptual filter on-the-spot.
Behavior comes to reflect an individual’s membership in a self-reference group and that group’s position in the panoply of other groups that interact regularly in a carefully defined social space (Tajfel, 1981). Each group strives to maintain a distinctive identity and place for itself within the social and political system of a country. Members locate themselves within the norms, boundaries, goals, purposes and social contexts of the groups to which they belong.
Subgroup Status Hierarchy
Fletcher and Fitness (1996) note that individuals bias both attributions and evaluations in ways that favor relationship partners or ingroup members above or close to them. Indeed, a blurring of boundaries seems to occur between the self and ones with whom they most belong. The most significant ingroups and dyads become incorporated into the representation of the self (Brewer & Gardner, 1996:85-87). Individuals assign a status to the groups and dyads to which they belong compared to other units.
An individual belongs to both membership groups and reference groups. A membership group is a group to which a person actually belongs (i.e. Kiwanis, religious organization), but a reference group is that group which is employed as a standard for evaluation of a person’s own position (e.g., social class rank). People may use their own membership group as their reference group (e.g., “Methodist Church,” “Mormon Church”) compared to socioeconomic status (e.g., salary, education level). Research has found that people are satisfied or dissatisfied with their lot in relation to a reference group (Kidder & Stewart, 1975). If the reference group is reading newspapers avidly, it could then be viewed as a desired behavior and acted upon favorably, or the reverse situation could materialize.
Hornsey & Hogg (2002:203) conducted experiments which found that the higher ranked subjects’ ingroup, the more apt they were to identify with it, when offered the option of non-identification. While a fundamental human drive is to see the ingroup as positively distinct from other groups, it is not blind, mechanistic or irrational, but affected by reality constraints and status. Since individuals belong to multiple groups whereby they can differentiate themselves, they are likely to cognitively switch their basis of differentiation depending upon the comparative context.
However, Hornsey & Hogg (2002:204) caution that if boundaries are relatively open (as with religion compared to race) those seeking identity enhancement and social mobility might choose to exit their ingroup psychologically and seek membership in a higher-status outgroup. If boundaries are closed, group members have little alternative but to accept low-status group membership.
Vanbeselaere & Boen (2001:765) also discuss the permeability of boundaries and possibility of individuals moving out of low-status into higher-status groups. In keeping with theorists Taylor & McKirnan (1984), they believe that perceived permeability of boundaries leads to preference for individual mobility over collective action. If individuals can escape their group, they have less incentive to work to change social conditions surrounding the group.
Doosje, Spears & Ellemers (2002:57) also emphasize the dynamic nature of group identification, changing over time with environmental situations. Anticipation of a better future for the self and fellow group members is apt to increase the sense of group affiliation, while a view of a dim future might extinguish affiliative ties. Identity-threats increase the salience of the intergroup context and the need to respond to threats at an intergroup level. On the other hand, when loyalties are not fixed and boundaries are permeable the individual has a choice whether to fight with the group or change sides in the battle.
Groups attribute different social status to one another based on their position in society. Membership in highstatus groups usually contributes to a positive social identity, whereas a negative social identity is generally associated with membership in low-status groups (Rosenthal & Hrynevich, 1985:725).
A need exists to be accepted by membership and reference groups. Individuals often process information and give out social cues about themselves, so as not to face social rejection or find themselves excluded from their group (Gardner, Pickett, & Brewer, 2000:490).
After reviewing the literature, it seems that while the need to be accepted in a membership group is important, there is no reason to believe that it affects newspaper purchase and use. Members of majority or minority groups could find reasons to use or avoid a newspaper based on other identities, such as needs of their profession,
Roots in the Minimal Groups Paradigm
The genesis of “social identity” theory springs from experiments with the “minimal groups” paradigm, whereby subjects are randomly assigned to groups, yet rate their ingroup higher in all categories than relevant outgroups to maintain a favorable self-concept (Vanbeselaere, 2000:516-518). Categorical memberships, albeit arbitrary in the experiments, get internalized, become integrated into participants’ self-concepts, causing them to rate themselves and their group higher than other groups, while no objective difference exists.
The “minimal groups” paradigm’s tenets have been substantiated in studies with both adults and children (Puddifoot, 1997). When there is no apparent distinction between groups and subjects have been situated in groups with no apparent rationale, they still state that their group is superior. When this concept is applied to religious or ethnic minority groups, the majority or plurality group thereby can always find some reason why it is better or superior to the minority and act upon it politically (Tajfel, 1981).
Diehl (1990) & Turner (1981) conducted experiments whereby groups were formed on relatively trivial criteria to test the efficacy of the Minimal Groups paradigm in specific settings. Upon assignment to a group, people appear to think automatically of that group as better for them than any alternative outgroup. This is due to their desire to keep a positive self image. Puddifoot (1997:343) maintains that there is a tendency to distort perceptions of the outgroup, in line with self-image management.
Hartstone & Augoustinos (1995) believe that the “minimal groups” paradigm results in ingroup bias when two groups are involved, yet not when three minimal groups are involved. The prejudice and distinctions that result from a two-group design diminish when more groups are involved. Moving along this dimension, it could be maintained that prejudice is higher in a society obviously split along two categorical lines than in a multi-ethnic or multi-racial society in which polarization of the two groups is less likely.
Applying the “minimal groups” paradigm to the New York City area, this researcher speculates that there is less intergroup hostility because the society is inherently multi-racial, multi-ethnic, almost more so than in any other place in the nation.
A situation does not exist where only one or two groups predominate, as expressed by Harstone & Augoustinos (1995). There would therefore be less propensity to rate other groups lower than one’s own, since there are so many ratings that would have to be assigned to develop a pecking-order for one’s own and other groups. This could be contrasted with a bipolar society such as Québec in Canada, where the English and French have maintained a lifelong hostility, or Northern Ireland with the Protestant/Catholic feud.
Brewer (1979) investigated the “minimal groups” paradigm through experiments whereby participants were categorized randomly and anonymously, without having face-contact with other groups or prior experience with their categorizations. In these experiments, participants always rated their groups higher, whether in intelligence or other positive attributes, even though they knew nothing about the people in the other groups, their backgrounds or abilities.
Brewer concluded (1979:318-320) that mere categorization elicits behavior that favors ingroup members relative to outgroup members. Tajfel & Turner (1978, 1986) incorporated this thinking into their theories on social categorization, viewing groups as striving for positive ingroup distinctiveness and identity based on their own needs rather than rational competencies.
The “minimal groups” paradigm became the conceptual springboard against which Tajfel (1978) developed his theories on group behavior. He created a new gestalt in psychology that shifted worldwide attention away from pre-existent individualistic explanations for prejudicial behavior toward social-causality modes.
Growing out of the “minimal groups” paradigm tradition and moving toward a broader-based “social identity” theory, Tajfel (1978, 1981) posited that participants identify with minimal groups and compare them with relevant outgroups to protect or enhance self-esteem. He then made a case for focusing attention on the group as the unit of analysis, while previous scholars had looked to individual prejudice as the root cause of negative attitudes towards other ethnic and religious groups.
Tajfel & Turner (1986) popularized the notion that ingroup favoritism at the cognitive level results from an individual’s need to have a positive self-concept.
This prompts the person to seek and maintain some kind of distinctiveness from the outgroup by promoting the ingroup to which he belongs.
“Social identity” theory, linked integrally with Tajfel’s work, maintains that social identity is clarified through social comparison, but generally it is between ingroups and outgroups. Accentuation of differences occurs between ingroups (e.g., “ours” is smarter or more hard-working) compared to the outgroup which is disparaged (Abrams & Hogg, 1990:3)
Tajfel (1981:255) defines social identity as referring to “that part of the individual’s self-concept which derives from their knowledge of membership in a social group or groups, together with the value and emotional significance of that membership.” Individuals will characteristically categorize people in such a way as to favor members of the group to which they themselves feel they belong compared to other group, maintaining positive self-identity at all costs.
Berger (1966:106-107) wrote: “Society not only defines but creates psychological reality. The individual realizes himself in society — that is, he recognizes his identity in socially defined terms and these definitions become reality as he lives in society.” In other words, people will view themselves as defined by others. If others view their religious or racial group negatively, they are apt to adopt the oppressors’ view of themselves, unless events happen at the individual level to boost their self-concept (e.g., they are appointed to a court or Cabinet position, despite their circumstances of birth).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES
1 BACKGROUND AND AIMS OF THE STUDY
1.2 The Examination of Religion in Other Studies
1.3 Focus on Orthodox Jews and Mormons as Minorities
1.4 Creating New Linkages based on Past Literature
1.5 Research Problem
1.6 Groups of Literature that Address the Problem
1.7 Using Prior Studies to Enlighten the Research
1.8 Research Subproblems
1.9 Research Methodology
1.10 Constructs That Form the Basis of the Hypotheses and Key Concepts
1.11 Chapter Organization and Key Points
2 SOCIAL IDENTITY A ND COMMUNITY TIES THEORIES AS THE BASIS FOR UNDERSTANDING MINORITY GROUP INTERACTION WITH THE MAINSTREAM
2.2 Social Identity Theory
2.3 Community Ties Theories
2.4 Link Between Community and Religious Involvement
2.5 Other Important Linkages
2.6 Introduction to Secularization Theory
3 NEEDS ANALYSIS OF MEDIA USAGE PATTERNS OF RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES: THE USES AND GRATIFICATIONS THEORY
3.2 Reasons for Invoking Uses and Gratifications Theory
3.3 Historical Development of Uses and Gratifications Theory
3.4 Uses and Gratifications Theory: Basic Assumptions
3.5 Application of Uses and Gratifications Theory to News Consumption
3.6 The Uses and Gratifications Theory and the Internet
3.7 Media Substitution Effects
3.8 Links Between Uses and Gratifications, Social Networks and Closed Communities
3.9 Critical Evaluation of Uses and Gratifications Theory
4 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
4.2 Link with Theories under Investigation
4.3 Overview of Research and Link with Research Problem
4.4 The Questionnaire
4.5 Selection of Scale Type
4.6 The Population
4.7 The Sample
4.8 Data Collection Process
4.9 Selection of Method for Respondent Contact
4.10 Results of the Pilot Study
4.11 Threats to Validity in the Study
4.12 Factor Analysis and Identification of Final Constructs
4.13 Principal Components Factor Analysis
4.14 Data Reduction
4.15 Summary of Each Factor
4.16 Carryover of Original Concepts
5 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
5.2 General Characteristics of the Group Surveyed
5.3 Critical Points that Emerged from Examination of Original Hypotheses
5.4 Information Resulting from the study: The Questor Mentality at the Heart
5.5 Ingroup Identification Provides Scant Evidence of Relationship with Newspaper Reading
7 WORKS CITED SOURCES CONSULTED
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
RELIGION AND INGROUP IDENTIFICATION AS VARIABLES IMPACTING SECULAR NEWSPAPER CONSUMPTION: MORMONS AND ORTHODOX JEWS COMPARED TO MAINSTREAM PROTESTANTS