“Dynamic Identities: From Brain to Behavior”
Dominic Packer [+]
There is substantial evidence that contextual changes in identity underlie a great deal of human social behavior. Major theories of group behavior and human relationships posit that the self is contextually variable, such that when people perceive themselves as part of a group, the selfconcept shifts from an individual to a collective level (i.e., I is redefined as We). Indeed, even when people are randomly assigned to novel and arbitrary groups, they rapidly orient attention to ingroup members and start to preference ingroup outcomes. Some of our research indicates that key limbic and visual brain regions, including fusiform gyrus, amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, are recruited to track, encode and evaluate in-group members and other group-relevant stimuli. These processes are highly dynamic, consistent with the hypothesis that they enable people to take advantage of specific coalitional and cooperative opportunities present in different contexts. As such, dynamic identities appear to be fundamental to human psychology. Critically, however, asymmetrical expectations regarding whose identities should shift, as well as barriers to the adoption of dynamic identities can have disproportionately negative effects on members of minority and stigmatized groups. As a result, members of disadvantaged groups often carry an additional ‘identity burden’ that may ultimately contribute to the perpetuation of societal disparities.