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June 25, 2012 / C H Thompson

Different types of identity

Sociologists have identified 5 different types of identity. I’ve selected several video clips to helps us understand what these 5 approaches are.

What is the above clip focusing on? after you’ve watched it make a list of the things concerned with individual identity. In other words identify the things that make you, you!

The first type of identity is individual identity. This approach looks at the things which give you a sense of who you are. You might have selected any of the following:

  1. National Insurance Number
  2. Finger prints
  3. Passport
  4. Birth certificate
  5. Personal history
  6. Friends
  7. Family
  8. Relationships

The next video will give you a clue to the next type of identity…..

If you’re a little uncertain the following clip might help you more.

This second type of identity is known as a social identity. How might this form of identity differ to the previous one? The next clip will help you answer this question.

This type of identity offers little choice because it’s imposed through the concept of social roles. Social roles are best understood as a way of behaving which is imposed on a social group. For example boys should behave in a specific way.

To gain an understanding of the third type of identity we’ll watch the clip below.

What are the collective characteristics of Hells Angels? How do they differ to those of the next clip? After watching the second clip come up with a term which describes this form of identity.

Collective identity is the term which describes any identity which is shared by social groups such as Hells Angels and Trade Unionists. Which of the above do two do collective identities use? Are collective identities freely given or are they imposed in the same way social identities are?

Maybe the above three types are too simplistic. Could there be a more fluid type of identity?

Some sociologists argue that people have more complex identities, these are known as multiple identities. Those sociologists who prefer this explanation of identity argue that the formation of identity is far more complex as issues surrounding things like social-class, gender, ethnicity age, nationality are all very influential. More importantly it’s not just one of the above but it could be a combination of factors.

To understand better create an imaginary person using the influences I’ve identified.

Finally look at the next clip. This video will give you a clue as to what the final identity is. This form of identity is far more negative than the previous four.

What word best describes the man’s identity? Not sure? Watch the clip below, but while you watch it think about what you notice first and foremost? Does it taint your view of him in any way?

Goffman (1990) said what you’re noticing first is how the person in the clips are different to ‘normal’ people. He termed this as having a stigmatized identity. A stigma is any undesirable physical or social charateristic. Disabled people are stigmatised because they their disability is seen first and foremost. Like the guy in the clip said, who wants to employ a disabled person when you can employ an able-bodied person. Consquently people treat people with a stigmatized identities with contempt by poking fun at them, ignoring them or refusing to employ them.

Before we go any further we need to know what we have or haven’t remembered. Can we answer the first 10 questions on this test?

Now it’s important that we assess which (if any) are the most powerful forms of identity? Once you’ve addressed this question you need to consider the relationship between socialization and identity. For example is a persons identity given to them by their biology or the society they live in?



Leave a Comment
  1. Izzy Garratt / Mar 13 2013 8:37 am

    I was reading through your article and I’ve found it fascinating- so I decided to do some more research… however I couldn’t find any other articles that identify these five different forms of identity: individual, social, collective, multiple, and stigmatized identity. I was wondering if you could let me know which theorist created this hypothesis, namely who actually came up with these different forms!

    Thank you very much!

    • Jaaaaaa / Jan 5 2016 8:16 am


      • C H Thompson / Jan 5 2016 8:49 am

        Many thanks for the positive feedback 🙂

  2. Jaaaaaa / Jan 5 2016 8:16 am


    • C H Thompson / Jan 5 2016 8:50 am

      Many thanks for the positive feedback 🙂

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