University of Sussex
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Putting the person in their place: effects of physical and social contexts on identity, affiliation, and well-being

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posted on 2023-06-08, 14:52 authored by Matthew EasterbrookMatthew Easterbrook
This thesis investigates how particular psychological motivations operate in different social and physical contexts. Through a series of four papers, it both extends and empirically tests some of the theoretical claims made by motivated identity construction theory (MICT, Vignoles, 2011), which proposes that people construct their identities in ways to maximise or maintain the satisfaction of identity motives for self-esteem, continuity, distinctiveness, belonging, efficacy, and meaning. Although these identity motives been found to influence identity construction at individual, relational and collective levels of self-representation (e.g. Vignoles, Regalia, Manzi, Golledge, & Scabini, 2006), Paper 1 extends this by showing not only that identification with novel groups tracks the satisfaction of identity motives over time, but also, crucially, that different motives are related to identification with different types of groups. MICT further proposes that each of the motives can be satisfied in various ways, and that particular contexts promote and emphasise certain ways over others. Paper 2 extends this theorising to the belonging motive, showing that there are different ways that people can gain feelings of belonging from their group memberships, and that this depends on the type of groups involved. Paper 3 examines the effects of the built environment on the belonging motive, showing that physical features within flats that encourage the use of common areas increase the frequency with which flatmates coincidently meet each other. This increases their feelings of belonging associated with the group, leading, in turn, to increases in well-being. Paper 4 focuses on the distinctiveness motive and, using a large cross-cultural dataset, finds support for MICT’s claims that the way the distinctiveness motive is satisfied varies according to the level of urbanisation in an individual's surrounding environment, in addition to their cultural context. The importance of incorporating social and physical contexts into psychological theories is discussed.


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