The term “identity” is used to describe two separate concepts.

The first meaning of “identity” is metacognitive awareness of one’s own preference schedule. Educators often encourage “identity” (that is, better metacognitive knowledge). The purpose of this is emphasized by, and the ability to do this is questioned by, the people’s lack of introspection. Additionally, Catholic theology questions the desirability of “discovering” one’s own identity. Human nature may be sinful, but sin (which accounts for much of the natural preference schedule) does not “name” man. That is, wrong preference schedules cannot be used in describing one’s true preference schedules.

Another use of “identity” is as an in-group/out-group marker. Typically, this occurs when there are rival political coalitions that can affect an individual’s standing. For instance, the famous “erasing racism” study was able to override implicit racist identity by mixing the racial composition of competing groups of males. Similarly, the early “identity” of Catholic Bosnians as “Christian” (in the early part of the Bosnian War, when they were attempted to form ethnically homogenous regions of that state) quickly gave way to an “identity” as non-Serb, as both Bosnian Muslims and Bosian Croats (catholics) united to drive the Orthodox Christian Serbs from their territory.

3 thoughts on “Identity”

  1. Given your first meaning, where does that leave academic identity? This question for me is important because of data from the 2007 Freshman Attitudes Report by Noel Levitz that suggests that females have developed a slightly stronger academic identity (most likely due to the early successes of feminism) than males (linked to loss of manufacturing jobs coupled with growing extrinsic pressure to attain a college degree).

  2. Yes. That is the study. Identity is not mentioned by name — only in spirit.

    * More women are attending college than men.

    * When seeking a college degree, men report being less invested in their education than women.

    — “I can think of things I would rather do.”
    –“I wish there was less pressure to go to college.”
    –“Books have never gotten me excited.”

    * Men are less likely than women to take careful notes, study regularly, and keep up their schoolwork.

    As a result, men underperform women both in terms of college GPA and persistence to degree.

  3. It might also indicate that interpersonal socialization is leading women to value the academy and its concurrent identity more than men. The function college serves fulfills a socially-prescribed role to compete in a world of male social dominance and control. On the other hand, the social qualities valued by men (independence, instinct, competitive success) imply less value for the acedemy relative to other occupations – which yield more immediate and concrete benefits – and their identities.

  4. Dan,

    By identity, I mean the dominant social categorization individuals in social interaction find to be most useful and appropriate to social circumstances. In the comment I meant that the social values and beliefs passed onto men and women lead them to value education differently, as well as its concurrent academic identity. I may have been wrong when I initially said that women value an academic identity more than men. I base that on observations of performance in grade school and undergraduate course work. In [sic] 'Honors' classes in grade school, girls tend to be more prevalent than boys, and the same I believe may be true in the undergraduate experience. But in graduate school, this might not necessarily be true, and this is where I might have erred in the initial comment. What I was referring to though is how education is perceived differently by women than men; because of the rise of feminism and movements for gender equality, women often perceive education as a means to ensure independence and freedom in a male-dominated society (I have a younger sister, and my parents are adamant about her going to college so that monetary security can come from a source other than marriage). It's certaintly not so for men. The quotes cited by David show that men have a different idea about the value of education, and what its social benefits are.

    While I would argue that these views are arrived at from social experience and learning to adopt them, could it be possible that its actually genetic? Something about how men and women approach learning differently?

  5. What is meant by “dominant social categorization”?

    I ask because I am unsure how dsc relates to actual academic achievement, implicit motivation for academics, explicit motivation for academics, etc.

  6. I didn't mean 'dominant social categorization' as a concept necessarily, but actually as a facet of one's socially-derived identity. We can assume different ideas about who one is are 'floating' in the ideational world, but the ones people 'pick', or value enough to emulate and identify themselves with, are derived from their external environment. The ideas that are dominant are those that 'make sense' given a specific categorization of the world, and that resonate with the dimensions of one's identity. The one that is chosen – in this case, not academic – appears because it provides the most certainty in the world, compared to others.
    Of course, an individual 'knows' to choose this one identity because of observations made in the world, about its costs, benefits, possibilities, desirabilities, etc. One also as ideas about the above perceptive variables for other identities, and for males, its possible that the costs of being an academic are too high, the benefits are too low, its very competitive and requies a lot of studying. Judging identities based on those categories leads to specific chocies in the world.

    I should note that many of my ideas about identity are derived from constructivism, Alexander Wendt, and David Rousseau. Roussau in particular discusses the dimensions of an identity as choices among different categorizations of Self and Other. Although the process of identity formation is discussed in terms of how it constructs threat perception, it more broadly encapsulates how individuals deal with uncertainty. And have others like Boyd have noted, categorizations, mental models, and schemata are all used to reduce uncertainty in the world. The 'dominant' categories are those which individuals apply to problems they encounter in the world and 'fit' with their desires, wants, and needs. Certaintly this can change over time as present categorizations become less useful and new ones are adopted, but this requires environmental or situational changes that lead to different interpretations of 'fit'.

    If this is still a bit fuzzy, please say so. I'm also trying to think about this in terms of the implicit and explicit knowledge you discuss in the paper on learning; they may (or may not?) be complementary ways of thinking about this.

  7. Steve,

    I think I agree… but this is also why I shy away from the term identity. If one wants to say that one doesn't want to be a geek, that's straightforward. Phrasing it as avoiding an overly intellectual dominant social categorization seems cumbersome.

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