Studying Situations and Identities Using Experiential Sampling Methodology
American Sociological Association
American Sociological Review
This paper explores a central question in social psychology: How are particular meanings of particular identities selected in a situation? This question was examined in a field setting, using experiential sampling techniques in which participants carried an electronic timer for two days as they engaged in their normal activities on a college campus. When the timer signalled them, participants responded to a questionnaire concerning who they were with, what they were doing, what identities and roles they were involved in at the time, and what their perceptions were of the situation. From the work of Burke and Reitzes, which postulates that people behave in ways that conform to the meanings of their identities (the principle of semantic congruity), we hypothesized that the particular meaning of respondents' identities in situations would conform to the meaning of the situations in which the identity was held. Analyses of the data indicated strong support for this hypothesis. How people view themselves depends on how they view the situation they are in, and how they behave depends on how they view themselves.