The Beneficial Effects of Social Identity Protection on the Performance Motivation of Members of Devalued Groups


  • This project was financed by a grant from the Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO): grant nr. 261-98-906.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Belle Derks, Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, the Netherlands [e-mail:].


For members of socially devalued or stigmatized groups, work and educational settings can threaten social identity, inducing the use of coping strategies that lower their motivation (e.g., self-segregation, domain disengagement) rather than improving their position in the social hierarchy. We review a recent research program on women and ethnic minorities to show that members of these stigmatized groups can maintain their motivation in threatening work and educational contexts when they are offered ways to protect their social identity. For example, organizations that communicate value for the social identities of women and ethnic minorities allow members of these groups to focus on success and motivate them to improve their performance on dimensions that increase their social status. Furthermore, social identity protection has important benefits over more individualistic forms of identity protection because it maintains group members' concern for their group's plight, increasing opportunities for successful collective action. The practical implications of this work are discussed.