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Keywords:

  • common bond group;
  • common identity group;
  • independent–interdependent self-construal;
  • in-group social value;
  • strategic use of in-group identification;
  • threat to self-esteem

Individuals with independent self-construals identify with their in-group in order to buffer threats to self-esteem to a greater degree than do those with interdependent self-construals. This study focused on the effect of the in-group's social value and representation on this identification process among individuals who reported various real-world threats to their self-esteem. We conducted a questionnaire survey for university students and we examined how self-construal, the in-group social value, and the in-group representation either moderate or mediate the relationship between threat to self-esteem and identification with their academic departments. The results of multiple-group analyses of structural equation modelling showed that independents who reported more threats to their self-esteem identified with the in-group when it was high in social value. In contrast, they did not exhibit in-group identification when it was low in social value. Interdependents showed less in-group identification regardless of the in-group's social value. The representation of the in-group as a common identity group mediated the relationship between threat to self-esteem and in-group identification for independents, whereas the representation of a common bond group played the same role for interdependents. These findings suggest the importance of considering the role of self-construal and the in-group social value, along with the representation of in-group, in understanding in-group identification in situations of threat to self-esteem.