Nine Ways to Respond To Social Identity Threats


By Oscar Holmes IV, PhD

We’ve all experienced social identity threats. And if we are honest, sometimes we are the ones who perpetrate them.  Social identities are categories that we place ourselves in that are shared with others such as race, sex, religion, and sexual orientation to name a few. 

People experience social identity threats when they are confronted with situations in which they perceive one or more of their social identities are attacked.  While the effects of some identity threats are fleeting, other times, the effects can be pernicious and long-lasting. 

For example, research shows that identity threats can result in performance decrements, antisocial behavior, and in-group denigration. While research has mainly examined the antecedents and outcomes of identity threats, until recently, few studies have examined how people actually respond to them. 

In her paper, Jennifer Petriglieri theorized six responses that people can have toward identity threats: derogation, concealment, positive distinctiveness, identity exit, meaning change, and importance change.  Using her work as a starting point, our research uncovered three additional identity threat responses: constructive action, ignore, and seeking assistance. 

To read the entire article, please click here to visit WHConsulting Firm’s Research Blog.

WHConsulting Firm LLC offers management and diversity consulting and training services to individuals and organizations. It also produces Diversity Matters, a podcast that explores all things diversity and inclusion-related which is set to premiere

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