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

Julian Paffrath, Bernd Simon


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.


Dis-Embeddedness; Identity; Norms; Politicization; Radicalization

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