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Br J Soc Psychol. 1986 Sep;25 ( Pt 3):219-30.

The significance of social identities.


Common-sense meanings of the 'individual' and the 'social' are examined emphasizing the fallacy of viewing them as denoting separate entities given in nature. The concept of social representations is used to explain the construction of these categories in terms of the particular systems of values, ideas and practices of different societies. The concept of social identity marks the individual-social interface interpreted as the construction of individuals in relation to the social representations of significant groups in their society. The earliest constructions of a social identity are traced in the domain of gender because this is a ubiquitous feature of social life, involving the differentiation of only two groups; they are obligatory and use physical differences to provide the signifiers in a semiotic system of social representations. Empirical evidence is reviewed showing that the development of a social gender identity is a complex process and involves many aspects of children's activity slowly coming to be regulated by the particular social representation of gender dominant in their society.

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