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Implicit Self and Identity


  • This article was first published in 2003 in the Handbook of Self and Identity (pp. 153–175), edited by M.R. Leary and J.P. Tangney, and published by the Guilford Press, by whose permission it is reprinted here.

Address for correspondence: Mahzarin R. Banaji, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138. Voice: 617-384-9203; fax: 617-495-3728.


Abstract: Recent advances in research on implicit social cognition offer an opportunity to challenge common assumptions about self and identity. In the present article, we critically review a burgeoning line of research on self-related processes known to occur outside conscious awareness or conscious control. Our discussion focuses on these implicit self-related processes as they unfold in the context of social group memberships. That is, we show that group memberships can shape thoughts, preferences, motives, goals, or behaviors without the actor's being aware of such an influence or having control over such expressions. As such, this research brings to the fore facets of the self that often contrast with experiences of reflexive consciousness and introspection. Far from being rigid or monolithic, these processes are highly flexible, context-sensitive, and deeply rooted in socio-structural realities. As such, work on implicit self and identity renew thinking about the interplay between the individual and the collective.