When individuals aggregate into groups, the challenge of bridging distances becomes even more central. Because they extend across time, space, and disparate individuals, groups need ways to articulate and maintain a stable identity that can bridge across these gaps. In a second line of research, we study group symbols, such as monuments, flags, and logos, as tools that people use to communicate group identity to others and to maintain it across time.
Despite the fundamental importance of symbols to group life, very little is known about the social psychological processes that govern this aspect of group identity. One key question that our lab has sought to address is when and why individuals place value on group symbols. Our research on this topic has shown that the value placed on material symbols of group identity (e.g., a building in Jerusalem) reflects the extent to which it can serve as an effective means in pursuing a desired group identity, as well as the extent to which that identity goal is activated and important for a given person in a given situation. For instance, people value and defend a group-owned building more strongly when they are highly committed to their group identity, when desired group identity is threatened, and when the building’s symbolic relation to group history and identity is publicly recognized.
Current projects focus on elucidating the basic motivational processes that govern people’s attachment to group symbols, as well as investigating when and why conflicts over group symbols arise and escalate, and what might be done to ameliorate them.
Callahan, S. P., & Ledgerwood, A. (in press). The symbolic importance of group property: Implications for intergroup conflict and terrorism. In T. Walters, R. Monaghan, & J. M. Ramirez (Eds.), Radicalization, Terrorism, and Conflict. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Ledgerwood, A., & Liviatan, I. (2010). The price of a shared vision: Group identity goals and the social creation of value. Social Cognition: Special Issue on Shared Reality, 28, 401-421.
Ledgerwood, A., Liviatan, I., & Carnevale, P. J. (2007). Group identity completion and the symbolic value of property. Psychological Science, 18, 873-878.