➊ Is Identity Fixed

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Is Identity Fixed



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Personal Identity: Crash Course Philosophy #19

The Eriksonian framework rests upon a distinction among the psychological sense of continuity, known as the ego identity sometimes identified simply as "the self" ; the personal idiosyncrasies that separate one person from the next, known as the personal identity ; and the collection of social roles that a person might play, known as either the social identity or the cultural identity. Erikson's work, in the psychodynamic tradition, aimed to investigate the process of identity formation across a lifespan. Progressive strength in the ego identity, for example, can be charted in terms of a series of stages in which identity is formed in response to increasingly sophisticated challenges. On some readings of Erikson, the development of a strong ego identity, along with the proper integration into a stable society and culture, lead to a stronger sense of identity in general.

From the vantage point of self-psychology, there are two areas of interest: the processes by which a self is formed the "I" , and the actual content of the schemata which compose the self-concept the "Me". The "Neo-Eriksonian" identity status paradigm emerged in later years [ when? This paradigm focuses upon the twin concepts of exploration and commitment. The central idea is that any individual's sense of identity is determined in large part by the explorations and commitments that he or she makes regarding certain personal and social traits. It follows that the core of the research in this paradigm investigates the degrees to which a person has made certain explorations, and the degree to which he or she displays a commitment to those explorations.

A person may display either relative weakness or relative strength in terms of both exploration and commitments. When assigned categories, four possible permutations result: identity diffusion, identity foreclosure, identity moratorium, and identity achievement. Diffusion is when a person lacks both exploration in life and interest in committing even to those unchosen roles that he or she occupies. Foreclosure is when a person has not chosen extensively in the past, but seems willing to commit to some relevant values, goals, or roles in the future. A moratorium is when a person displays a kind of flightiness, ready to make choices but unable to commit to them.

Finally, an achievement is when a person makes identity choices and commits to them. Weinreich's identity variant similarly includes the categories of identity diffusion, foreclosure and crisis, but with a somewhat different emphasis. Here, with respect to identity diffusion for example, an optimal level is interpreted as the norm, as it is unrealistic to expect an individual to resolve all their conflicted identifications with others; therefore we should be alert to individuals with levels which are much higher or lower than the norm — highly diffused individuals are classified as diffused, and those with low levels as foreclosed or defensive.

Weinreich applies the identity variant in a framework which also allows for the transition from one to another by way of biographical experiences and resolution of conflicted identifications situated in various contexts — for example, an adolescent going through family break-up may be in one state, whereas later in a stable marriage with a secure professional role may be in another. Hence, though there is continuity, there is also development and change. Laing's definition of identity closely follows Erikson's, in emphasising the past, present and future components of the experienced self. He also develops the concept of the "metaperspective of self", i.

Saunderson and O'Kane, At a general level, self-psychology is compelled to investigate the question of how the personal self relates to the social environment. To the extent that these theories place themselves in the tradition of "psychological" social psychology , they focus on explaining an individual's actions within a group in terms of mental events and states. However, some "sociological" social psychology theories go further by attempting to deal with the issue of identity at both the levels of individual cognition and of collective behaviour.

Many people gain a sense of positive self-esteem from their identity groups, which furthers a sense of community and belonging. Another issue that researchers have attempted to address is the question of why people engage in discrimination , i. Both questions have been given extensive attention by researchers working in the social identity tradition. Different social situations also compel people to attach themselves to different self-identities which may cause some to feel marginalized, switch between different groups and self-identifications, [17] or reinterpret certain identity components. Educational background and occupational status and roles significantly influence identity formation in this regard.

Another issue of interest in social psychology is related to the notion that there are certain identity formation strategies which a person may use to adapt to the social world. Kenneth Gergen formulated additional classifications, which include the strategic manipulator , the pastiche personality , and the relational self. The strategic manipulator is a person who begins to regard all senses of identity merely as role-playing exercises, and who gradually becomes alienated from his or her social "self". The pastiche personality abandons all aspirations toward a true or "essential" identity, instead viewing social interactions as opportunities to play out, and hence become, the roles they play.

Finally, the relational self is a perspective by which persons abandon all sense of exclusive self, and view all sense of identity in terms of social engagement with others. For Gergen, these strategies follow one another in phases, and they are linked to the increase in popularity of postmodern culture and the rise of telecommunications technology. Anthropologists have most frequently employed the term 'identity' to refer to this idea of selfhood in a loosely Eriksonian way Erikson properties based on the uniqueness and individuality which makes a person distinct from others.

Identity became of more interest to anthropologists with the emergence of modern concerns with ethnicity and social movements in the s. This was reinforced by an appreciation, following the trend in sociological thought, of the manner in which the individual is affected by and contributes to the overall social context. At the same time, the Eriksonian approach to identity remained in force, with the result that identity has continued until recently to be used in a largely socio-historical way to refer to qualities of sameness in relation to a person's connection to others and to a particular group of people.

The first favours a primordialist approach which takes the sense of self and belonging to a collective group as a fixed thing, defined by objective criteria such as common ancestry and common biological characteristics. The second, rooted in social constructionist theory, takes the view that identity is formed by a predominantly political choice of certain characteristics. In so doing, it questions the idea that identity is a natural given, characterised by fixed, supposedly objective criteria. Both approaches need to be understood in their respective political and historical contexts, characterised by debate on issues of class, race and ethnicity.

While they have been criticized, they continue to exert an influence on approaches to the conceptualisation of identity today. These different explorations of 'identity' demonstrate how difficult a concept it is to pin down. Since identity is a virtual thing, it is impossible to define it empirically. Discussions of identity use the term with different meanings, from fundamental and abiding sameness, to fluidity, contingency, negotiated and so on.

Indeed, many scholars demonstrate a tendency to follow their own preconceptions of identity, following more or less the frameworks listed above, rather than taking into account the mechanisms by which the concept is crystallised as reality. Others, by contrast, have sought to introduce alternative concepts in an attempt to capture the dynamic and fluid qualities of human social self-expression. Hall , , for example, suggests treating identity as a process, to take into account the reality of diverse and ever-changing social experience. Some scholars have introduced the idea of identification, whereby identity is perceived as made up of different components that are 'identified' and interpreted by individuals.

The construction of an individual sense of self is achieved by personal choices regarding who and what to associate with. Such approaches are liberating in their recognition of the role of the individual in social interaction and the construction of identity. Anthropologists have contributed to the debate by shifting the focus of research: One of the first challenges for the researcher wishing to carry out empirical research in this area is to identify an appropriate analytical tool. The concept of boundaries is useful here for demonstrating how identity works.

In the same way as Barth, in his approach to ethnicity, advocated the critical focus for investigation as being "the ethnic boundary that defines the group rather than the cultural stuff that it encloses" , social anthropologists such as Cohen and Bray have shifted the focus of analytical study from identity to the boundaries that are used for purposes of identification. If identity is a kind of virtual site in which the dynamic processes and markers used for identification are made apparent, boundaries provide the framework on which this virtual site is built. They concentrated on how the idea of community belonging is differently constructed by individual members and how individuals within the group conceive ethnic boundaries. As a non-directive and flexible analytical tool, the concept of boundaries helps both to map and to define the changeability and mutability that are characteristic of people's experiences of the self in society.

While identity is a volatile, flexible and abstract 'thing', its manifestations and the ways in which it is exercised are often open to view. Identity is made evident through the use of markers such as language , dress, behaviour and choice of space, whose effect depends on their recognition by other social beings. Markers help to create the boundaries that define similarities or differences between the marker wearer and the marker perceivers, their effectiveness depends on a shared understanding of their meaning.

In a social context, misunderstandings can arise due to a misinterpretation of the significance of specific markers. Equally, an individual can use markers of identity to exert influence on other people without necessarily fulfilling all the criteria that an external observer might typically associate with such an abstract identity. Boundaries can be inclusive or exclusive depending on how they are perceived by other people. An exclusive boundary arises, for example, when a person adopts a marker that imposes restrictions on the behaviour of others. An inclusive boundary is created, by contrast, by the use of a marker with which other people are ready and able to associate. At the same time, however, an inclusive boundary will also impose restrictions on the people it has included by limiting their inclusion within other boundaries.

An example of this is the use of a particular language by a newcomer in a room full of people speaking various languages. Some people may understand the language used by this person while others may not. Those who do not understand it might take the newcomer's use of this particular language merely as a neutral sign of identity. But they might also perceive it as imposing an exclusive boundary that is meant to mark them off from the person.

On the other hand, those who do understand the newcomer's language could take it as an inclusive boundary, through which the newcomer associates themself with them to the exclusion of the other people present. Equally, however, it is possible that people who do understand the newcomer but who also speak another language may not want to speak the newcomer's language and so see their marker as an imposition and a negative boundary. It is possible that the newcomer is either aware or unaware of this, depending on whether they themself knows other languages or is conscious of the plurilingual quality of the people there and is respectful of it or not. Hegel rejects Cartesian philosophy, supposing that we do not always doubt and that we do not always have consciousness.

In his famous Master-Slave Dialectic Hegel attempts to show that the mind Geist only become conscious when it encounters another mind. One Geist attempts to control the other, since up until that point it has only encountered tools for its use. A struggle for domination ensues, leading to Lordship and Bondage. Nietzsche , who was influenced by Hegel in some ways but rejected him in others, called for a rejection of "Soul Atomism" in The Gay Science. Nietzsche supposed that the Soul was an interaction of forces, an ever-changing thing far from the immortal soul posited by both Descartes and the Christian tradition. His "Construction of the Soul" in many ways resembles modern social constructivism. Heidegger , following Nietzsche, did work on identity.

For Heidegger, people only really form an identity after facing death. It's death that allows people to choose from the social constructed meanings in their world, and assemble a finite identity out of seemingly infinite meanings. For Heidegger, most people never escape the "they", a socially constructed identity of "how one ought to be" created mostly to try to escape death through ambiguity. Many philosophical schools derive from rejecting Hegel, and diverse traditions of acceptance and rejection have developed. Ricoeur has introduced the distinction between the ipse identity selfhood , 'who am I? The implications are multiple as various research traditions are now [ when?

This becomes increasing challenging in stigmatized jobs or "dirty work" Hughes, Some jobs carry different stigmas or acclaims. People in these types of jobs are forced to find ways in order to create an identity they can live with. Rodrigues and Boeving wondered whether chimps and bonobos living at zoos would show the same grooming patterns. To investigate this, they observed chimpanzees and bonobos at the North Carolina Zoo and Columbus Zoo, respectively, paying special attention to grooming networks. This is solid evidence that certain sex roles are at least partly environmentally determined in these species. But is environmental determination the same as social or cultural determination? Not exactly. Social learning could be responsible for the flexibility we see in chimpanzee and bonobo sex roles.

In this hypothetical scenario, wild female chimpanzees groom less than males because growing up, they receive less grooming from other females, and they witness little, if any, female-female grooming. They are socialized in these ways not to spend as much time grooming. However, an equally plausible but not mutually exclusive possibility is that sex-based behavioral differences in the wild are simply the result of individuals finding ways of coping with their environment: Females in the wild have the responsibility of infant care. As a result, they are too busy foraging to spend much time socializing. At the zoo, with humans providing food, females groom more simply because they have the extra time—no social learning of sex roles is required.

Again, these two explanations are not mutually exclusive. Both could play a part. I spoke with Rodrigues about what evidence would be necessary to conclude that chimpanzee or bonobo sex roles were socially determined. Even so, this observation is consistent with the idea of social determination of at least some, but probably not all , sex roles in chimps. Flexibility in chimpanzee sex roles is not limited to the grooming patterns discussed earlier. Likewise, some males seem to prefer ranging with smaller groups of mostly females, or they spend more time interacting with infants than is typical for males.

I think one of the challenges in interpreting behavior is that our own social constructions color how we theorize and interpret data. That said, despite their many differences in behavior, chimpanzees and bonobos are still very closely related, and their cognitive capacities are likely very similar. If one species has something like gender, the other probably does too. How, if at all, do nonhuman animals think about sex and social roles? Round shapes vs. For example, an animal might see a sample image of a female, then be rewarded for choosing a subsequently presented image of a female from alongside an image of a male. In a few studies like this one , this one , and this one using this technique, monkeys have displayed concepts of male and female.

Just as a sommelier learns to recognize different wines based on tannins, sweetness, and mouthfeel, subjects might be learning to recognize images of males and females based on depicted genitals, face shape, and body size rather than any social concept of the sexes. Do our closest relatives do this? As you might guess, chimpanzees and bonobos along with other apes, dolphins, elephants, and some other nonhumans show this ability, quickly realizing that the image in the mirror is a reflection of themselves and using the mirror to inspect their appearance.

Scientists view this as evidence that an individual possesses an understanding of itself as an entity separate from the rest of the world. This understanding can be regarded as the foundation of a potential sense of gender identity. Again, because chimpanzees and bonobos are so closely related and have shown no major differences in cognitive abilities, we can assume the same is true of bonobos. So, chimpanzees and bonobos possess a sense of self and seem to understand that others, like them, have internal mental lives. If you ask me, that sounds a lot like gender. It bears repeating that we lack direct evidence of an internal gender identity in chimpanzees, bonobos, and other nonhuman animals.

But the question of gender in a nonhuman species has yet to be tackled in a comprehensive way, so perhaps a license to speculate a bit is warranted. If nothing else, it seems clear that gender in other species is entirely possible. The more closely related two species are, the more likely it is that they share cognitive processes. And since chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest evolutionary cousins, the most scientifically sound approach may actually be to interpret ambiguous data as supporting, rather than challenging, the idea of human-like gender in our closest relatives.

History has seen plenty of human-exceptionalist claims refuted. Much more research needs to be done, but in time, gender may turn out to be just one in a long list of attributes once thought to make humans unique. Jay Schwartz is a Ph. The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Participate Newsletter Donate. GLP Annual Report. The GLP is committed to full transparency. Download our Annual Report. GLP Annual Reports. Global Gene Editing Regulation Tracker. This GLP project maps contributions by foundations to anti-biotech activists and compares it to pro-GMO industry spending. Is gender identity fluid or fixed?

What we know about other animals might help inform the debate. Jay Schwartz February 20, Twitter LinkedIn Facebook Reddit. Male and female Mandarin ducks. Bonobos groom each other at the Columbus Zoo. Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter. It is easier than ever for advocacy groups to spread disinformation on pressing science issues, such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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