The Significance of the Superordinate: Linking (Dis-)Embedded Identity to Non-Normative Ends and Means


  • Julian Paffrath Institute of Psychology, Kiel University
  • Bernd Simon


Dis-Embeddedness, Identity, Norms, Politicization, Radicalization


In this article, we examine the significance of a superordinate identity of citizens in plural democratic societies with a focus on the combinations of the identification with a particular societal subgroup and the (dis-)identification with society as the superordinate group. We develop these combinations into the conceptions of embedded identity and dis-embedded identity. Embedded identity derives from the acknowledgment that one´s particular ingroup membership at a given level of ingroup-outgroup categorization is embedded in a higher-level group membership. In contrast, dis-embedded identity derives from the accentuation and prioritization of one’s particular ingroup membership at the expense of one’s membership in the superordinate group. Articulating Turner´s self-categorization theory with theoretical reasoning about normative frameworks, we hypothesized that embedded identity diminishes sympathy for non-normative ends and means, whereas dis-embedded identity fosters sympathy for non-normative ends and means. Two experiments, conducted with young people in Germany as research participants, supported these hypotheses: Embedded identity was unrelated or even negatively related to sympathy for non-normative ends and means, whereas dis-embedded identity was positively related to sympathy for non-normative ends and means. We highlight the contribution of our present research and that of social psychological research, more generally, to the understanding of (de)radicalization processes in plural democratic societies.


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