A Social-Cognitive Perspective on Identity Construction

  • Michael D. Berzonsky


This chapter examines identity formation in terms of a social-cognitive model. Identity is conceptualized as a cognitive structure or self-theory, which provides a personal frame of reference for interpreting self-relevant information, solving problems, and making decisions. Identity is also viewed as a process that governs and regulates the social-cognitive strategies used to construct, maintain, and/or reconstruct a sense of personal identity. Three different identity-processing orientations or styles are explicated: Informational, normative, and diffuse-avoidant. Individuals with an informational processing style are skeptical of their own self-views and they intentionally seek out, process, and utilize identity-relevant information to personally resolve identity conflicts. In contrast, individuals with a normative processing style more automatically adopt a collective sense of identity by internalizing the standards and prescriptions of significant others and referent groups. Those with a diffuse-avoidant processing style are reluctant to confront and face up to identity conflicts; they procrastinate and delay as long as possible. Their actions tend to be influenced more by immediate situational rewards and demands than personally informed decisions or normative standards. Empirical evidence from several lines of research on identity-processing style is reviewed including linkages between identity style and a number of identity and cognitive processes; developmental changes in identity styles; and factors that may contribute to individual differences in identity styles such as gender, culture, parental processes, and personality traits. The role that identity-processing styles may play in effective and ineffective self-regulation and in maintaining a coherent sense of self-continuity is considered.


Psychosocial Resource Identity Style Depressive Reaction High Normative Score Intuitive Processing 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyState University of New YorkCortlandUSA

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