Research Explains Important Effects of COVID-19 on Identity and Intergroup Relations

July 14, 2021by Natalie Davis0

Summary of:

Abrams, D., Lalot, F., Hogg, M.A. (2021). Intergroup and intragroup dimensions of COVID-19: A social identity perspective on social fragmentation and unity. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 24(2), 201-209.

Background & Theory

This article discusses how COVID-19 has impacted our identity, both in terms of self identity and group identity, and the resulting implications. Further discussed are intergroup relations and the ways that social identity through the pandemic may have created some levels of unity, but also further division.

Research Questions

Abrams, Lalot, and Hogg, in “Intergroup and intragroup dimensions of COVID-19: A social identity perspective on social fragmentation and unity” (2021), seek to address the following questions:

    1. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected our identity?
    2. What effects have we seen on intergroup and intragroup relations?


The authors explore this topic and create an argumentative paper by first discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways that it has impacted identity. Evaluated are social identity theory, optimal distinctiveness theory, uncertainty-identity theory, leadership through the pandemic, how groups have sought to maintain norms, and the effects that we have seen as the pandemic continues on in all of these areas. Many areas were evaluated, such as how some groups experienced prejudice this past year and how some leaders took advantage of uncertainty to gain support. Numerous examples are used from events in the past year to help bring their points to life.


The authors show that many of us around the world have been affected in the way we see our self and social identities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, many may have seen the goal in all “working together” and sharing a superordinate identity and goal (i.e. to safely get through the pandemic), but this has affected many in terms of losing their distinct self identity. Additionally, while many intergroup relationships the past year have improved, some have been greatly damaged; for instance, the polarization that occurred in the U.S. over various policies and laws implemented through the course of the pandemic. The authors conclude that positive, unbiased leadership that can help us find shared identity without losing our self identity will help improve not only intergroup relations but the current state of the world. Additionally, they argue that this proves the importance of groups needing to adapt and at times challenge norms in order to survive.

What This Means

  • As the many various theories above suggest, there are very important benefits in humans having both a shared identity and a self identity. We need to feel like we matter as an individual, but also understand and recognize where we fit into society at large.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the world in many ways, and while we think of our physical health first, our psychological and emotional wellbeing matters too, including how we see ourselves fitting into society.
  • Improving intergroup and intragroup relations can help us more positively come out on the other side of COVID-19. Where there is tension and polarization, there is less collaboration and agreement of how to work together to overcome the issues the pandemic has caused. Understanding and addressing some of the issues at hand can also reduce conflict in many other areas potentially affected, such as at work or within the family, which is helpful in numerous ways.

Final Takeaway

For Consultants: COVID-19 has touched us all in one way or another. Taking this into consideration in our work can be very important as we move through the pandemic and understand the potential harm it has caused related to conflict, tension, identity, and intergroup relationships.

For Everyone: Take care of yourself! Make sure you have a good support system around you, and see what you can do to improve harmed relationships or issues within your own community that may have been caused by the pandemic.

Natalie Davis

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