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Uncertainty-Identity Theory hypothesizes that the more uncertain people are about themselves, the more likely they are to identify with groups as a way to define themselves and guide their behavior. Research has shown that this identification can happen to an extreme level when the group is highly entitative, or provides clear expectations for how group members should behave, think and feel, thereby resolving their uncertainty. Adolescence is a development period defined by self-uncertainty, and therefore also heightened vulnerability to highly entitative, extremist groups. This experiment tests the prediction that adolescents who are experiencing high self-uncertainty will be more likely to report wanting to join a college with characteristics of high entitativity. After being primed to feel either self-certainty or self-uncertainty, participants in both conditions were asked to rate how much they would like to attend two different college options, where one was described with items reflecting low-entitativity and the other with items reflecting high-entitativity. Then, participants were asked to rate various college characteristics, reflecting either high or low entitativity, on how important each is at their “ideal college”. Results did not support the hypothesis, yielding no significant differences between any of the ratings of participants in the self-uncertainty and self-certainty conditions. The limitations of this study design are considered and suggestions are made for further research. The implications of these results regarding adolescent vulnerability to social extremism and radicalization are also discussed.
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Cruz-Vespa, Isabela Ixchel, "Fitting In: A Study on Adolescent Identity-Uncertainty and Group Entitativity" (2021). Senior Projects Spring 2021. 238.
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