Who Are We? Who Am I?! Ingroup Prototype Ambiguity and Self-prototypicality, Uncertainty, and Ingroup Identification

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Groups offer powerful prescriptions for identity, provided that the groups provide clear and well-established definitions from which to construct self-identity. People reference the group prototype to define the self in a social context and to determine how to think, act, and behave as an ideal group member. Groups vary in prototype clarity—some groups offer clear and explicit descriptions of what it means to be a group member, whereas other groups may have high ambiguity surrounding the prototype for group membership. Groups with high prototype ambiguity do not provide members with clear prescriptions for group membership and may thus hinder the construction a prototype-referenced self-identity, increasing self-uncertainty. For important groups, people may be motivated to strengthen ingroup identification and engage in group behavior to redefine the ingroup prototype and reduce self-uncertainty. This dissertation predicted that high ambiguity surrounding the ingroup prototype will lower group members’ perceptions of self-prototypicality, producing self-uncertainty and increased identification with the ingroup, moderated by ingroup importance. Results are generally supportive of the hypotheses; however self-uncertainty was found to negatively relate to ingroup identification. Exploratory analyses suggest that uncertainty resulting from a threat to the clarity of an ingroup quality may motivate different uncertainty reduction responses, such as extreme intergroup behavior. The findings advance previous work that has separately investigated the impacts of high prototype ambiguity on self-prototypicality and of self-prototypicality threats on self-uncertainty, to demonstrate how ambiguity at the group-level impacts individual-level identity-definition and motivates pro-ingroup behavior.

uncertainty, group prototype, self-prototypicality, self-uncertainty, self-identity, prototype ambiguity, identification, prototype, ingroup identification