How Successful is Social Identity Theory in Explaining Stigma and Prejudice

Prejudice has been defined as unfounded negative, or positive thoughts and feelings towards a person founded exclusively on that person’s membership to a social group (Worchel et al, 1988). Consequently, if a person is prejudiced towards that social group, or a member of that social group, it is because the individual is perceived as being a member of a social group which has been defined by that culture to be of lower value than their own group membership, such as a racial sexual or political group to name just a few (Pennington, 2000). Stigma has been defined as a feature that can be negative and destroy confidence in the person (Goffman, 1963). In addition, Goffman (1963) puts forward that if another individual’s responses manipulate their actions and form their identities, then the individual tries to be in command of how others see them by manipulating what they disclose about themselves. Johnstone (2001) suggests that stigma within society considerably restricts prospects that should be accessible for every individual in that society. Traditionally, the meaning of stigma has been derived from the Greek word stigma, which refers to a ‘mark of shame or discredits. a stain or an identification mark or characteristic’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1990, p. 506).
Social identity theory proposes that that social group membership, also known as collective identity, can produce a big impact on an individual’s self-esteem. Therefore, the individual will try to preserve their self-esteem by having a positive view of the social group to which they belong. In addition, it has been shown that if the individual increases their understanding and awareness of their collective identity then their self-esteem may arise, however, this can be hard to do if the social group the individual belongs to&nbsp.is a marginalized group that encounters prejudice from other social groups (Aviram &amp. Rosenfeld, 2002), such as a racial minority or a mental disability. &nbsp.