Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 9 Issue 5 (September/October 1999), Pages 321-394

The role of the ‘other’ in national identity: exploring the context‐dependence of the national ingroup stereotype (pages 321-338)


Analysts from a range of disciplines (especially sociology and social anthropology) highlight the role of the ‘other’ in the construction and definition of national identity. Recently some social psychologists have come to emphasize the inherently relational nature of identity. Drawing upon these recent investigations, the present paper reports a field study investigating the context‐dependent nature of group identity. Using a modified version of the Katz–Braly task, British subjects (n=240) stereotyped two national groups: Americans and British. They did so in two conditions. In the ‘one‐group’ conditions, subjects rated either of the two groups. In the ‘two‐group’ conditions, they rated one whilst also considering the other. Following Oakes, Haslam and Turner (1994) we predicted that whereas subjects' stereotypes of the national outgroup (the Americans) would be unaffected by this manipulation, their stereotype of the national ingroup (the British) would be affected. This prediction was confirmed. We also predicted that the national ingroup stereotype obtained in the ‘two‐group’ condition would be one which was defined in contrast to the American ‘other’ which constituted the comparative context. Using a measure which takes into account the applicability of ingroup‐defining terms to both the ingroup and the outgroup (the diagnosticity measure of stereotyping proposed by McCauley and Stitt, 1978) we show that the ingroup identity definition produced in this condition did indeed differentiate the British from the Americans. The significance of these data for those concerned with the application of social psychological theory to real‐life social problems is discussed. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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