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Identification is a psychological process in which a person identifies with the characteristics or properties of another person or group. It plays an important role in the development of personality structure and social identity. Identification can occur on various levels, such as personal, social, or cultural levels. It is a fundamental component of socialization and contributes to the formation of norms, values, and behaviors.


Identification is a central concept in psychology and sociology, referring to the process by which individuals or groups adopt and internalize the characteristics, values, and norms of other persons or groups. It is a fundamental mechanism of socialization and personality development and influences our thinking, feeling, and acting in various ways.

Types of Identification

There are different forms of identification that occur on different levels:

  • Primary Identification: This is the first and fundamental form of identification, which occurs in early childhood. It involves identification with primary caregivers, usually the parents. Primary identification forms the basis for the development of personality structure and emotional bonds.
  • Social Identification: Social identification refers to identification with a social group or category, such as gender, nationality, religion, or profession. It is a significant factor in the formation of group memberships, social roles, and norms.
  • Cultural Identification: Cultural identification refers to identification with a particular culture or society and its values, norms, and traditions. It is closely linked to social identity and contributes to the development of cultural awareness and competence.
  • Identification with Role Models: Identification with role models, such as famous personalities, heroes, or fictional characters, can play an important role in personality development and the formation of values and goals.

Processes of Identification

Identification occurs through a series of psychological, social, and cultural processes:

  • Imitation: Imitation is a fundamental process of identification, where individuals mimic the behavior, attitudes, or emotions of others. It is especially a central element of personality development and socialization in early childhood.
  • Empathy: Empathy refers to the ability to put oneself into the feelings, thoughts, and perspectives of other people and to sympathize with them. It is an important prerequisite for identifying with other individuals and groups and contributes to the development of social competencies and emotional intelligence.
  • Internalization: Internalization is the process by which external norms, values, and behaviors are integrated into a person's self-concept and personality structure. It is a central mechanism of identification and socialization.
  • Projection: Projection is a psychological mechanism where one's own desires, fears, or conflicts are transferred onto other people or groups. It can play a role both in the identification with positive role models and in the differentiation from negative identification objects.

The Role of Identification in Personality Development and Socialization

Identification is a fundamental process of personality development and socialization that significantly contributes to the formation of self-image, self-esteem, and social identity. It enables the adoption of norms, values, and behaviors from the social environment and promotes adaptation to societal demands and expectations.Identification is also a central element in the development of social competencies, such as empathy, communication skills, or conflict resolution strategies. It contributes to the formation of group memberships and the emergence of social roles and influences the shaping of social relationships and interactions.

Identity Crises and Identity Conflicts

Identification can also lead to identity crises and identity conflicts, especially during periods of personal or societal change. Identity crises can manifest as role conflicts, value conflicts, or uncertainties about one's social or cultural belonging.However, such crises can also be seen as opportunities for personal growth and the development of a differentiated and reflective identity. In this sense, identification is not only a process of adaptation and conformity but also a process of confrontation, differentiation, and self-definition.