Methodological questions about the measurement of social identification

Methodological questions about the measurement of social identification

Autor: Juan_Jose Villalon_Ogayar

The main problem when dealing with the research about the social identification is the difficulty to develop an appropriate and standardised tool for the study of social identification and the social experiences that affect it. To date, we can find qualitative and quantitative tools that have been partially used in this study from perspectives set some point along the process. Specifically, in Sociology, most research studies have normally focused on studying any of the forms of social identification, such as social class, nationality, gender or generational identity, but they have not paid attention to the relative importance of each of said forms in relation with other specific forms, to the point that only a handful of research studies have been conducted along these lines to date. Out of over 100 international surveys conducted since the seventies, only one was found to include tools for gathering this kind of data: the 2003 ISSP survey. Other surveys were conducted in Spain by the GETS (Study Group on Social Trends) since 1995. Another was found in the UK: the Social Attitude Survey (2001, 2003 and 2005). However, all these surveys focused only on a few aspects of the identification process.

In a nutshell, it can be stated that the identification process has three analytical dimensions or phases that have already been partially studied in past surveys: Position (scalar and horizontal); Valuation (absolute, interconnected and extra-connected); and Significance (observed, expected, experienced and performed).

The study of position seeks to determine the ways in which society or its members understand how the structure of social relationships is formed, and how members regard themselves individually under said structure. This type of research deals with two types of generic questions regarding status-conscious hierarchy, and a horizontal type of belonging such as religion.

A further analytical dimension along position is the valuation of consensual traits. Appraisal is an analytical dimension that implies each consensual trait has a different level of relevance for each individual. The study of appraisal is complex and the measures are very varied. This study involves asking questions regarding the sense of closeness to a type of group or its relative importance in relation to others.

Research on relative valuation of social identities has also developed its own survey-based measurement tools. These questions measure the relative importance attached to each identification trait as compared to the other traits. This has been studied on the basis that subjects can self-position as dissimilar entities but which can include each other (as it occurs with regions in the town – world continuum) —but new research is currently focusing on the entire set of possible basic social identities.

Finally, the third dimension is significance. This dimension studies the sense a specific form of social distinction has for individuals. It assesses, above all, whether the differences implied by a specific trait leads those who apply this trait to acknowledge the occurrence of inequalities between those types of social sectors or groups. Or whether some people are discriminated or rejected by others positioned in the other sectors.