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THE MEANING OF GROUPS: THE IMPORTANCE AND ROLE OF THE CONTENT OF SOCIAL IDENTITIES FOR COGNITION AND BEHAVIOUR Andrew L. Evans January 2014 A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement of Staffordshire University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Evans, Andrew L (2014) THE MEANING OF GROUPS: THE IMPORTANCE AND ROLE OF THE CONTENT OF SOCIAL IDENTITIES FOR COGNITION AND BEHAVIOUR Andrew L. Evans January 2014 A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement of Staffordshire University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

ABSTRACT

The main purpose of the current thesis was to explore the importance and role of social identity
content. The current thesis began by exploring relationships between aspects of social identity
content and outcome variables pertinent to a performance domain (see chapter two). Using a
cross-sectional design, 151 rugby league athletes completed measures of social identity, social
identity content, in-group cohesion, general self efficacy, general collective efficacy, subjective
team performance, and preferred leadership style. Data indicated that social identity significantly
and positively explained general self efficacy, general collective efficacy, and subjective team
performance above and beyond in-group cohesion. Data also revealed that a content focused highly on
results or lowly on friendships meant that higher levels of social identity were associated with
higher levels of general self efficacy, general collective efficacy, subjective team performance,
and a preference for autocratic leadership. Given the limitations of cross-sectional research and
the lack of longitudinal research within social identity literature, chapter three focused on the
relationships between aspects of social identity content and outcomes variables over time. Using a
longitudinal design, 167 rugby league athletes competing across eight teams in one Division
completed measures of social identity, social identity content, in-group cohesion, general self
efficacy, general collective efficacy, and subjective team performance at the beginning, middle,
and end of their nine- week season. League position was also tracked over the season as a marker of
objective team performance. Multilevel modelling analyses found that between-person differences in
social identity significantly and positively explained in-group cohesion and within-person changes
in social identity significantly and positively explained general self efficacy and general
collective efficacy. Generally, the between-person differences and within-person changes in
identities focused on results or friendships failed to explain outcome variables. However, athletes
changed the importance placed on friendships over time. Correlation analyses found

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that social identity and friendships identity content were positively associated with objective
team performance over time. Given that athletes changed their social identity content over time,
chapter four examined the effects of social identity content threat to provide an explanation for
the equivocal social identity content findings. In an experimental design, 40 students were
randomly assigned to a results content, threat condition (N = 20) or a support content, no threat
condition (N = 20). In groups of five, participants watched five sporting clips and answered
questions on each clip in turn. Participants were presented with bogus performance feedback after
each trial which threatened results content only. At the end of trial five, participants completed
measures of social identity, in-group prototypicality, out- group prototypicality, and social
mobility. Objective performance was also measured for each trial. Data indicated that receiving
relevant threat to an in-group identity focused on one specific content will harm in-group
functioning. On the other hand, in-group functioning in the support, no threat condition was
unaffected by the performance feedback presented. Therefore, chapter five investigated whether
having an alternative, unthreatened component of social identity content available could have
protected in-group functioning in chapter four. In an experimental design, 40 students were
randomly assigned to a dual content, results threat condition (N = 20) or a dual content, support
threat condition (N = 20). The protocol used in chapter four was replicated. However, participants
indicated their willingness to support their group at the end of each trial. Group members received
either false performance or supportive feedback depending on the aspect of social identity content
threatened. Data revealed that in-group members were socially creative with their dual content.
Behavioural outcomes aligned to the threatened component of social identity content were either
poor or reduced over time. Trends in behavioural outcomes aligned to the unthreatened aspect of
social identity content were less conclusive. Whilst in-group members in each condition reported
similar levels of psychological outcomes, being socially creative with social identity

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content generally failed to explain outcome data. Overall, the findings of the current thesis
suggest that creating and building social identities and social identity content (to some extent)
are important for in-group functioning. Data imply that drawing on a threatened aspect of social
identity content will have negative repercussions for in-group functioning. Finally, data suggest
that having an alternative and unthreatened aspect of social identity content available can (in
some instances) protect in-group functioning. Further implications for theory, applied practice,
and future research are discussed throughout the thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L300 Sociology
Depositing User: Linda FRADLEY
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2015 11:02
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2015 11:02
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/1989

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