New Master Thesis Assignments

What is this social segregation people are talking about?


Many Western societies—including the Netherlands—face the crucial challenge of preventing or reducing inequality and social exclusion. Dutch government has a tradition of actively stimulating contact between different social classes, by subsidizing formal structures such as public broadcasting channels, public parks, and public schools. However, in the past decades the decline of such formal structures and increase of informal groups have resulted in more social segregation (Bovens, Dekker, Tiemeijer, 2014). Signs of such segregation have become manifest along various social-cultural divides, such as education, globalization, and political-moral issues.

An important part of people’s identities is based on the groups they belong to: their “social identity”. As a consequence, people’s self-esteem is closely tied to these social identities (Social Identity Theory; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). A central psychological mechanism to maintain or increase self-esteem is to positively distinguish one’s social group from relevant other groups (see also Abrams & Hogg, 2010). These fundamental psychological processes form the basis for phenomena such as “us” versus “them” categorization, ingroup favoritism, and outgroup derogation, which foster discrimination and inequality.

Thus far, social identity research has largely neglected the role of social class in identity formation and consolidation. It thus remains unstudied whether and how social class identities could be a fundament for polarization. For instance, social class in itself is not a category label people from different classes will use for categorization. Instead members of both classes may identify with more concrete categories such as “support staff” vs. “professors” or “public house renters” vs. “private house owners”. These social categories in turn may act as concrete labels for a latent class categorization.

The aim of the current project is to assess the type and frequency of people’s natural occurring social identities, and to determine how these patterns differ depending on (perceived) social status, using a experience sampling approach (Mehl & Conner, 2012).



We will start with an exploration of recent relevant literature on social class and categorization processes and discuss how we can use this to further understand these processes. Most likely the research will be based on cross-sectional data collection in the field, which will be analyzed quantitatively—but we will select the best research approach together.


Bovens, M., Dekker, P., & Tiemeijer, W. L. (2014). Gescheiden werelden?: een verkenning van sociaal-culturele tegenstellingen in Nederland. [available in Dutch only]

Dietze, P., & Knowles, E. D. (2016). Social class and the motivational relevance of other human beings: Evidence from visual attention. Psychological Science, 1–38.

Hogg, M. A., & Terry, D. I. (2000). Social Identity and Self-Categorization Processes in Organizational Contexts. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 121–140. doi:10.5465/AMR.2000.2791606


Interested in this assignment? Please contact coordinator Sven Zebel (