Get access

Uncertainty–Identity Theory: Extreme Groups, Radical Behavior, and Authoritarian Leadership


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michael Hogg, School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, Claremont Graduate University, 123 East 8th Street, Claremont, CA 91711 [e-mail:].


This article describes uncertainty–identity theory's analysis of how self-uncertainty may lead, through social identity and self-categorization processes, to group and societal extremism. We provide details of empirical evidence from direct tests of the theory that focus on four aspects of extremism: (1) studies of self-uncertainty and student support for extreme campus protest groups that promote a radical agenda; (2) studies of uncertainty, identity centrality, and support for violent group action in the context of the Israel–Palestine conflict; (3) studies of the role played by self-uncertainty in support for leadership per se and for authoritarian leadership in particular; and (4) studies of the conjunction of group-membership factors that lead specific individuals within a group to go to greater extremes than others on behalf of the group. The article ends with a discussion of policy implications and principles that might help prevent uncertainty leading, through group identity processes, to societal extremism.