Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Identity


We often identify people using face images. This is true in occupational settings such as passport control as well as in everyday social environments. Mapping between images and identities assumes that facial appearance is stable within certain bounds. For example, a person’s apparent age, gender and ethnicity change slowly, if at all. It also assumes that deliberate changes beyond these bounds (i.e., disguises) would be easy to spot. Hyper-realistic face masks overturn these assumptions by allowing the wearer to look like an entirely different person. If unnoticed, these masks break the link between facial appearance and personal identity, with clear implications for applied face recognition. However, to date, no one has assessed the realism of these masks, or specified conditions under which they may be accepted as real faces. Herein, we examined incidental detection of unexpected but attended hyper-realistic masks in both photographic and live presentations. Experiment 1 (UK; n = 60) revealed no evidence for overt detection of hyper-realistic masks among real face photos, and little evidence of covert detection. Experiment 2 (Japan; n = 60) extended these findings to different masks, mask-wearers and participant pools. In Experiment 3 (UK and Japan; n = 407), passers-by failed to notice that a live confederate was wearing a hyper-realistic mask and showed limited evidence of covert detection, even at close viewing distance (5 vs. 20 m). Across all of these studies, viewers accepted hyper-realistic masks as real faces. Specific countermeasures will be required if detection rates are to be improved.

Concepts: Face transplant, Identity, Mask


Cultural products such as song lyrics, television shows, and books reveal cultural differences, including cultural change over time. Two studies examine changes in the use of individualistic words (Study 1) and phrases (Study 2) in the Google Books Ngram corpus of millions of books in American English. Current samples from the general population generated and rated lists of individualistic words and phrases (e.g., “unique,” “personalize,” “self,” “all about me,” “I am special,” “I’m the best”). Individualistic words and phrases increased in use between 1960 and 2008, even when controlling for changes in communal words and phrases. Language in American books has become increasingly focused on the self and uniqueness in the decades since 1960.

Concepts: Culture, Word, English language, Cultural studies, Individual, Identity, Uniqueness quantification


Membership in important social groups can promote a positive identity. We propose and test an identity resource model in which personal self-esteem is boosted by membership in additional important social groups. Belonging to multiple important group memberships predicts personal self-esteem in children (Study 1a), older adults (Study 1b), and former residents of a homeless shelter (Study 1c). Study 2 shows that the effects of multiple important group memberships on personal self-esteem are not reducible to number of interpersonal ties. Studies 3a and 3b provide longitudinal evidence that multiple important group memberships predict personal self-esteem over time. Studies 4 and 5 show that collective self-esteem mediates this effect, suggesting that membership in multiple important groups boosts personal self-esteem because people take pride in, and derive meaning from, important group memberships. Discussion focuses on when and why important group memberships act as a social resource that fuels personal self-esteem.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Identity, Interpersonal relationships


Transmasculine youth, who are assigned female at birth but have a gender identity along the masculine spectrum, often report considerable distress after breast development (chest dysphoria). Professional guidelines lack clarity regarding referring minors (defined as people younger than 18 years) for chest surgery because there are no data documenting the effect of chest surgery on minors.

Concepts: Male, Gender, Gender role, Gender identity, Man, Masculinity, Identity, Gender studies


Autobiographical memories are a key component of our identity. Here, in the light of Cuervo-Lombard and colleagues' paper in this issue, we review impairments in autobiographical memory in schizophrenia and the association between autobiographical memory and outcome in the disorder. We also discuss whether these deficits are specific to schizophrenia and a possible link with traumatic events.

Concepts: Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, The Association, Episodic memory, Identity, Key, Autobiographical memory


The social identity of an individual is defined by the recognition they make which belongs to a particular group (Tajfel, 1984). In this sense, will doctors and nurses, when together in the surgical team, recognize themselves as its members, thus leaving the background identities associated with their own professions? Using social identity theory of Tajfel (1984), this study explored the extent that profession-specific identity, present in the surgical team, acting as a barrier to a shared team identity. A case study design was adopted, and structured interviews were gathered from 20 clinicians based in a surgical unit in a single Portuguese hospital. The results indicated that the profession-specific identifies acted as a barrier to the surgical team identity as the participants defined themselves as its members of their profession, and not as surgical team members. Therefore, based on the results of this small study, there is a tendency of surgical clinicians to maintain the distinction between “us” (their own profession) and “others” (the other individuals in the surgical team).

Concepts: Scientific method, Hospital, Physician, Nursing, Social psychology, Identity, Social identity, Henri Tajfel


This study examined a three-step adaptation of the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) applied to the intention of consumers to purchase sustainably sourced food. The sample consisted of 137 participants, of which 109 were female, who were recruited through a farmers market and an organic produce outlet in an Australian capital city. Participants completed an online questionnaire containing the TPB scales of attitude, subjective norms, perceived behavioural control and intention; measures of positive moral attitude and ethical self identity; and food choice motives. Hierarchical multiple regression was used to examine the predictive utility of the TPB in isolation (step 1) and the TPB expanded to include the constructs of moral attitude and ethical self-identity (step 2). The results indicated the expansion of the TPB to include these constructs added significantly to the predictive model measuring intention to purchase sustainably sourced food. The third step in the adaptation utilised this expanded TPB model and added a measure of retail channel (where consumers reported buying fresh produce) and 9 food choice motives, in order to assess the predictive utility of the inclusion of choice motivations in this context. Of the 8 food choice motives examined, only health and ethical values significantly predicted intention to purchase sustainably sourced food. However, with the addition of food choice motives, ethical self-identity was no longer a significant predictor of intention to purchase sustainably sourced food. Overall the adapted TPB model explained 76% of the variance in intention to purchase sustainably sourced food.

Concepts: Scientific method, Regression analysis, Concepts in metaphysics, Philosophy of life, Morality, Identity, Self, Self-concept


Social interactions are often characterized by cooperation within groups and conflict or competition between groups. In certain circumstances, however, cooperation can arise between social groups. Here, we examine the circumstances under which inter-group cooperation is expected to emerge and present examples with particular focus on groups in two well-studied but dissimilar taxa: humans and ants. Drivers for the evolution of inter-group cooperation include overarching threats from predators, competitors or adverse conditions, and group-level resource asymmetries. Resources can differ between groups in both quantity and type. Where the difference is in type, inequalities can lead to specialization and division of labour between groups, a phenomenon characteristic of human societies, but rarely seen in other animals. The ability to identify members of one’s own group is essential for social coherence; we consider the proximate roles of identity effects in shaping inter-group cooperation and allowing membership of multiple groups. Finally, we identify numerous valuable avenues for future research that will improve our understanding of the processes shaping inter-group cooperation.

Concepts: Time, Human, Competition, Sociology, Science, Religion, Society, Identity


The current study explores disidentification. Ethnic/racial disidentification is defined as psychological distancing from a threatened social identity to preserve a positive sense of self. The first study goal was to explore how daily ethnic/racial stereotype appraisal is related to ethnic/racial disidentification. The second goal was explore the association between disidentification and psychological mood. In both cases, centrality and private regard were considered individual differences that might moderate daily associations.

Concepts: The Association, Emotion, Social psychology, Identity, Self, Self-concept


This article examines Canadian policy governing the ethics of research involving Indigenous communities. Academics and community members collaborated in research to examine how best to apply the Tri-Council Policy Statement guidelines in a community with complex and multiple political and cultural jurisdictions. We examined issues of NunatuKavut (Southern Inuit) authority and representation in relation to governance of research in a context where community identity is complex and shifting, and new provincial legislation mandates centralized ethics review. We describe the politics of risk-the ways in which collective identity and research risks are co-constructed. Our case study illustrates that collective consent to research must emphasize shifting identity construction in relation to the particular risks and benefits invoked by the research question, to ascertain with which groups or individuals the negotiation of risk should take place in the first place. We conclude by describing a necessary re-imagining of policy governing research ethics involving Indigenous communities.

Concepts: Decision theory, Social sciences, Community, Political philosophy, Aristotle, Identity, Political science, Indigenous peoples