Retrieval processes in social identification
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The utility of selective retrieval processes in our everyday lives is evident across the varied contexts we are subjected to as human beings. Memory is characterised by an unlimited storage capacity, but limited retrieval capacity. Subsequently, we are selective in what we remember in a given context in order to use memory in an adaptive manner. Previous theory places memory at the centre of deriving and maintaining a sense of self and personal identity. In contrast however, the extent to which memory serves the representation of social identities and the groups to which they are linked is unclear. As social identities are said to be the extension of the self to the social context, the present empirical investigation examined the role of selective processes of retrieval and forgetting on the remembrance of social identity and group-based information in the areas of gender, religious, partisan, and ideological identity. Findings illustrated that we implicitly preserve and retrieve information that is relevant to our sense of social identity, whilst forgetting and implicitly diminishing information that is irrelevant. The findings also established that information retrieved not only pertains to the in-groups in which we seek membership, but also of opposing out-groups that seek to contrast and potentially challenge our in-group’s worldview. Furthermore, mechanisms and structures that support the representation of self were extended to the findings, delineating how processes of organisational and distinctive processing support the retrieval of social identity-based information of relevance and importance. The thesis concludes with the assertion that memory is not only the looking glass through which we see the reflection of the self, but also serves to act as the reflection through which we acquaint ourselves with, and relate ourselves to, our significant others in the social context.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-05-08
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 8th May 2025.