Champ or chump: strategic utilization of dual social identities of others



The Jamaican-born, Canadian sprinter, Ben Johnson, won the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics, but afterward was disqualified for steroid use. At the time Johnson's identity in the Canadian media appeared to shift—he was ‘Canadian’ after winning the gold medal but ‘Jamaican’ after disqualification. We tested this hypothesis via an archival study of a newspaper database of Canadian newspapers. The results confirmed the speculation. In the second study with Canadian research participants, the nationality of a fictional athlete was experimentally manipulated. He either possessed Canadian- American (shared) or Belgian-American (non-shared) identity. The athlete's performance outcome at an Olympic event was also manipulated. In the shared identity condition the athlete was perceived as more Canadian when he won than when he lost. There were no significant differences in nationality judgment when neither of the athlete's dual nationalities was Canadian. Results regarding perceptions of similarity paralleled the nationality-ratings results. Findings from these two studies illustrate an interesting extension of BIRGing and CORFing strategies in which multiple social identities of others are used strategically to include or exclude others from the in-group. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.