Developing Identity Theory: Lessons Learned from COVID-19
The Department of Sociology is excited to host Dr. Jan Stets on February 6 for the 2024 Martha Foschi Honorary Lecture
Dr. Stets, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Riverside, will present a lecture titled “Developing Identity Theory: Lessons Learned from COVID-19.”
Having spent the last 30 years studying identities, in this presentation, I summarize several papers in progress based on data collected during COVID-19 that reveal what the pandemic has taught us about identities, such as the worker, friend, romantic, and family identities.
First, important identities, and identities that people spent a lot of time in (salient identities) moderated the negative feelings people experienced when their identities were not verified during the pandemic (Burke and Stets 2023). In response to identity nonverification, important identities increased feeling bad and salient identities decreased feeling bad. I will explain these countervailing effects.
I also find that in response to identity nonverification, specific negative emotions prompted negative coping behaviors (such as disengagement), while specific positive emotions were associated with positive coping behaviors, such as active coping and support coping (Stets and Burke 2023). This supports recent theorizing that emotions guide the selection of behaviors to deal with identity nonverification.
Finally, greater exposure to the pandemic increased anxiety and depression and increased problems in enacting and verifying identities (Stets, Angelo, Fields, and Burke 2023). Identity enactment and verification problems, in turn, increased anxiety and depression, revealing how identity problems can exacerbate the effects of stressful situations, such as a pandemic.
More generally, the pandemic taught us how identity nonverification is affected by characteristics of identities (its prominence and salience), how emotions that follow from identity nonverification relate to coping, and how mental health is affected by identity nonverification.
Jan E. Stets is a sociological social psychologist. She is Director of the Social Psychology Research Laboratory. She is past Director of the Sociology Program at the National Science Foundation, and past Editor of the ASA journal, Social Psychology Quarterly.
Professor Stets is a micro-theorist. She works in the areas of self and identity, emotions, and morality. She uses identity theory to understand individuals’ self-views, emotions, and moral sensibilities within and across situations. Her research primarily employs experimental and survey designs, and her analytic approach is quantitative.
She is the recipient of NSF grants, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, and a member of the Sociological Research Association. She is past chair of the ASA Section on Social Psychology, the ASA Section on Emotions, and the ASA Section on Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity.
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