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Optimal Distinctiveness Theory

  • In: Encyclopedia of Identity
  • Edited by: Ronald L. Jackson II & Michael A. Hogg
  • Subject:Self & Identity, Identity, Self & Identity

“Everyone needs to belong.” “Everyone needs to be unique.” That both of these statements are true is the basis for the theory of optimal distinctiveness, which helps explain why we join social groups and become so attached to the social categories we are part of. Optimal distinctiveness theory is about social identity—how we come to define ourselves in terms of our social group memberships.

According to the optimal distinctiveness model, social identities derive from a fundamental tension between two competing social needs—the need for inclusion and ...

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