Posts Tagged ‘identity’

Five Functions of Identity

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

A great deal of discussion about identity at a-level can be fairly abstract and concerned with the mechanics of construction – how and why, for example, certain identities are created and assumed. In the midst of all this some relatively simple questions sometimes get obscured – an idea addressed by Adams and Marshall (1996) when they suggest five functions of identity; here the focus on what identity does for the individual and, by extension, society, ‘rather than how identity is constructed’ – and we can use a relatively simple education example to illustrate these functions:

  1. Structure: Identities provide a ‘framework of rules’, used to guide behaviour when playing certain roles, that helps us understand our relationship to others.
  2. Goals: We develop a sense of purpose by setting goals for our behaviour. A ‘student identity’, for example, involves the desire to achieve goals like educational qualifications.
  3. Personal control: Identities provide a measure of ‘active self-regulation’ in terms of deciding what we want to achieve and how we plan to achieve it. An A-level student, for example, understands the need to take notes to help them remember the things they might be tested on in an exam.
  4. Harmony: When adopting a particular identity (such as teacher or student) we have to ensure the commitments we make (the things others expect from us) are consistent with our personal values and beliefs. A teacher or student who sees education as a waste of time is unlikely to be able to successfully perform this particular role.
  5. Futures: Identities allow us to ‘see where we are going’ in terms of likely or hoped-for outcomes (what we want to achieve). A student identity, for example, has a future orientation: the role may be performed to achieve the goal of going to university, which requires the passing of A-level exams.


Beyond Milgram: Obedience and Identity

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Association for the Teaching of Psychology review of our new film by Punam Farmah

So you think you know Milgram and his experiments, inside and out? Well, the chances are this film will get you thinking again.

Written by Steve Taylor and presented by Clare Parsons, this twenty-minute film is based around the original, re-interpretation of Milgram’s findings according to social psychology professors Alex Haslam and Steve Reicher. There is always a debate as to how dated much of the research on the specifications is, and how it can remain relevant to those studying. Milgram’s research has celebrated many anniversaries, and even now the hard hitting results cause questions and a pursuit of answers as to why we, as humans do some of the things we do. This film goes some way towards answering that with a contained unit of learning that will support and reinforce material that is delivered to students by making the study relevant and pertinent. Helpfully, the film is broken up into 3 parts which can be watched and discussed all together or shown over a number of lessons.



Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Although the distinction (and relationship) between personal and social identities is an important way of understanding this concept in A-level Sociology, if you want to take your understanding a little further you need to think about two additional, complementary, ideas:

  1. Being: This way of thinking about identity focuses on how social identities, considered in terms of ideas like class, age, gender and ethnicity, are lived in terms of the meanings they are given in various cultures. “To be” male or female, young or old, middle class or lower class” and so forth involves understanding the various cultural characteristics and expectations associated with these identities. Having been given socially-ascribed statuses such as “young male” or “young female” you might want to reflect on the cultural associations and meanings they hold.
  2. Doing: A second, more-nuanced, dimension to identity is the work we have to do in order to maintain such identities – both on a personal level (how do I interpret my identity as a young male or female?) and a social level (what do others expect from me once they understand this particular aspect of my identity?). Think about the work you have to do, as a young male or female, to maintain this particular identity. It might also be helpful to compare your ideas with your male and female classmates.


7 days of social science research

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

This ESRC YouTube page contains 7 short (5 – 6 minute) introductory films covering a range of topics that can be used to introduce, highlight and illustrate various aspects of the mainly AS Specification:

  • Image and identity
  • Charity
  • Poverty and inequality
  • Migration
  • Family and relationships
  • Work and employment
  • Happiness and wellbeing


Monday, July 28th, 2014

Set of free films from the University of Manchester with the focus on ethnicity.

These short – 3 – 4 minute – films currently focus on two aspects of ethnicity – it’s relationship to inequality (employment and health) and identity – examining different ways to talk about ethnic identity.

National Identity

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

The British Social Attitudes survey is useful in the context of defining national identity because it reflects how individuals themselves define their identity. This has two useful dimensions:

Firstly. it gives a broad insight into the different meanings involved in the conceptualisation of identity.

Secondly, it gives students a lot of scope for practical evaluations of this type of definition.

The data is available:


Download (select “National Identity” then “Download separate chapters” if you just want the Identity data).

New Media: The Rise of the Selfie

Friday, June 6th, 2014

With the greater emphasis on New Media in the new 2015 Sociology Specs, what better time to examine the rise of the Selfie?

Research Methods: Experiments

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

If you’re looking for contemporary examples of experiments with sociological applications, this recent study might be useful at both AS (Culture and Identity) and A2 (Differentiation) levels.