There is a study conducted by psychologist Henri Tajfel in which he showed how boys from the same school would, when randomly placed into groups, discriminate against the boys in the “out-group” and favor those in the “in-group” because they believed there was a reason for the separation. His conclusion: the Social Identity Theory. Comprised of three stages- categorization, identification, and comparison- it explains how people instinctively put themselves into groups and discriminate against others for “flimsy” reasons.
Is this, perhaps, an explanation for the phenomenon of “identity”? Or does it seem too reductionist to say it is just “in our nature”?
Why do people categorize differences and why do we take pride in our own differences but judge others for theirs?
My own theory (which I am now going to call the “Fear-of-the-Lonely Identity Theory”) is that we feel the need to categorize people in order to believe we understand them, and that we place ourselves into those groups to feel that we are not alone.
In reality, though, we all know that those labels we place on people do not really define who they are, so why do we go against our logic and convince ourselves to believe it is true?
Surely the comfort gained is not worth the cost.