Monday, April 3, 2017

The Psychological Impact of Identity

Who do you think you are? Know it or not, you have an internal picture of yourself, and you regard this personalized picture as your identity. You feel good (and validated) when you live out your identity. In short, if you have the identity of “host” you maximize your utility (to put it economically) by serving drinks and pretzels. And if you have the identity of “life of the party,” you maximize your utility by entertaining the crowd.

You act according to your identity or you pay a cost in utility. The life of the party doesn't feel good about just serving drinks and pretzels to party-goers.

The stronger the identity, the higher the cost of acting contrary to it. For example, once the Army builds into recruits the identity of combat soldier, any soldier refusing to charge a machine gun nest would pay a dear price in identity –- in fact, a cost dear enough to outweigh the physical danger of charging.

The Psychological impact of Identity may provide a window to understanding why high school graduates make decisions. If we try to use the identity concept like a mathematical tool, solving for n variables, there's a chance a solution might pop up. Here are some identities high schoolers might be aspiring to:
  • Sports hero
  • Knight in shining armor character
  • Academic dean's list ace
  • Be like dad (or role model)
  • Robin Hood character
  • Man of power and glory
  • Miss America
  • Wealthy beyond belief
  • Mother Teresa character
There may be some high schoolers who believe their identities are of limited fame or fortune, like:
  • Worker
  • Team member
  • Home maker
  • Park ranger
  • Truck driver
And, others may think their identities are stuck with descriptions of victim, unworthy, failure, etc.

Act according to your identity or pay a cost in utility. It might become psychologically or economically rational to act according to this identity rather than paying an identity cost for abstaining. Consider how you can change your picture of yourself or adapt to fit an identity you'd like to aspire to.

Inspiration from Garth Sundem
Image Elinor Joseph (pinterest)
Edited by Ed Slater

1 comment:

d'Fetz said...

Is this related to esteem?