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Identity and Place: A Critical Comparison of Three Identity Theories1



This review article discusses and critically analyses three theories used to explain how architecture and the natural and builtphysical environment influence a person's identity. These theories are (1) place-identity theory, (2) social identity theory, and (3) identity process theory. The place-identity theory has provided important contributions to the field of psychology and to the social sciences of architecture, emphasizing the influence of the physical environment on identity and self-perception. However, there is little empirical research to support the theory and its specific contributions in relation to other identity theories have not been clarified. Despite the lack of awareness in mainstream psychology regarding the built environment, the processes described in social identity theory and identity process theory have been shown to be useful when explaining the relationship between identity and place. Nevertheless, as terminology, “place-identity” may be relevant, if seen as a part of other identity categories. Identity manifests itself on many levels, one of which is place. A new integrative model of place in built and natural environments is proposed.
Abstract: This review article discusses and critically analyses three theories used to
explain how architecture and the natural and built-physical environment influence a
person's identity. These theories are (1) place-identity theory, (2) social identity theory,
and (3) identity process theory. The place-identity theory has provided important
contributions to the field of psychology and to the social sciences of architecture,
emphasizing the influence of the physical environment on identity and self-perception.
However, there is little empirical research to support the theory and its specific
contributions in relation to other identity theories have not been clarified. Despite the lack
of awareness in mainstream psychology regarding the built environment, the processes
described in social identity theory and identity process theory have been shown to be
useful when explaining the relationship between identity and place. Nevertheless, as
terminology, "place-identity" may be relevant, if seen as a part of other identity
categories. Identity manifests itself on many levels, one of which is place. A new
integrative model of place in built and natural environments is proposed.
Keywords: Place-identity, Social identity, Identity process, Theory
Does place--the built environment with its connotative meanings--have any particular
effect on a person's identity? If so, what kind of effect, and by which mechanisms? Many
factors--genetic, social, and cultural as well as the built environment--combine to shape
identity. The physical built environment is just one among others. When attachment to
place grows, we start to identify ourselves with these places, both at a larger scale
(nation, city, etc.) and at a smaller scale (neighborhood, workplaces, homes, rooms;
Giuliani, 2003). This results in self-concepts that are based in part on place. For
example, people may refer to themselves by describing what country they live in, what
city or town they come from, or if they are a "country" or a "city person." These are more
than social references; they refer to physical places where people live. The places in
which people have lived also influence their environmental preferences and affect the
kind of environment they may seek out or prefer. However, the converse is also true:
places are also influenced by people's identities. People personalize their homes and
workplaces with decorations, so that their houses and gardens reflect and communicate
who they are (Despres, 1991; Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Halton, 1981; Nasar &
Kang, 1999; Rapoport, 1982).
Home and dwelling are very important in most people's lives, and consequently, they are
significant in influencing identity (Relph, 1976). "Home" has therefore been the focus of
important research projects. There has been, however, a tendency to categorize,
describe and explain the same home- and identity-related phenomena in different terms.
"Place attachment" is defined as the feelin
s we develo
laces that are hi
Identity and place: a critical comparison of three
identity theories.
Article from: Architectural Science Review Article date: March 1, 2007 Author:
Hauge, Ashild Lappegard
Page 1 of 15HighBeam Research
familiar to us, ie, places we belong to (Altman & Low, 1992; Gifford, 2002). Giuliani
(2003) has stressed the difficulty of deciding exactly when place attachment becomes
strong enough to be defined as an aspect of identity or "place-identity." Concepts like
"place attachment," "place-identity," and "place identification" are theoretically and
empirically difficult to separate (Speller, 2000). Identity is also a complex term, especially
in interdisciplinary fields. Each discipline has its own definitions, and uses the term
differently according to its own traditions. Even within the same discipline, "identity" may
be seen as a term with indistinct borders (Breakwell, 1986). The identity term may thus
be avoided. Environmental researchers have employed other terms, such as "lifestyle,"
"values" (Ozaki, 2005), "self," "personality" (Sadalla & Sheets, 1993), "social
attributions" (Wilson & MacKenzie, 2000), or "social status" (Nasar, 1989). Sometimes
these terms might be more precise. However, does "identity" include factors like these,
and would it benefit empirical research and theoretical considerations to have a common
term expressing these personal and social aspects? Additionally, what identity theories
might be most suitable to explain the impact of the built and natural environment on
The influence place has on identity in this article is seen as a result of a holistic and
reciprocal interaction between people and their physical environment; people affect
places, and places (and the way places are affected) influence how people see
themselves. While identity theories are the focus of this work, perspectives on place will
be described briefly to introduce the discussion.
In environment-behaviour studies, three identity theories have been used in recent
decades to explain the impact of place on identity: (1) place-identity theory, (2) social
identity theory, and (3) identity process theory. These theories will be described in
relation to place. A discussion of whether "place-identity" is a relevant theory and
concept, and a suggestion for an integrating model follows.
The way the interaction between people and place is understood has implications not
only for the explanation of the environment's influence on identity, but also for the
definition of the interdisciplinary fields of environmental psychology and the
interdisciplinary social sciences of the built environment, for research methods, and for
the development of theories within the field. At the same time, some of the different
theoretical perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and the use of theory
depends on the type of research (Bell, Greene, Fisher & Baum, 2001; cf. Moore, 1997a).
Environmental psychology has been through a series of developments regarding
different perspectives of place. Theories have been criticized, leading to further research
and development of new theories. Perspectives on place have gone from "physical
determinism", where the environment, dimensions, colors, and shapes were seen as
having direct effects on behavior, to a view of the people-environment relationship as
dynamic and interactive (Franck, 1984). A dynamic and interactive perspective on the
environment includes the social, cultural and psychological meanings of a place, which
can also be expressed in philosophical and poetic forms.
The word "place" does not sound like a typical research term, but instead sounds more
philosophic or poetic (Speller, 2000). This might be a reason why some environment-
behavior researchers have tried to create other terms defining place in their empirical
research, especially when employing quantitative research methods. Barker (1968) uses
the term "behavior settings," described as bounded standing patterns of human and
nonhuman activit
. This theor
has been criti
ued and further develo
ed b
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(1979), who described behavior settings as social constructs developed over time.
Canter (1977, 1997) was inspired by both the theory of behavior settings and
phenomenology when he employed place as a term, and developed his "psychology of
place." In Canter's terms, place is seen as product of physical attributes, human
conceptions, and activities.
In comparison with Canter's (1977) "psychology of place," Stokols and Shumaker's
(1981) "transactional view of settings" can be seen as a view further emphasizing the
interdependent relationship between people and environment. It describes people and
place as a unit, highlighting the reciprocal influence between people and places.
Transactionalism is based upon the philosophical works of Dewey and Bentley (1949)
and Pepper (1967). A transactional view of the relationship between an individual and
the environment can be seen as unique because it focuses on the interface between
people and environments. It does not focus solely on either the person (perception,
cognition, personality) or the environment (e.g., behavior settings in, say, high-rise
buildings; Aitken, 1992). This article will use the word "place" based on the transactional
view of settings, as Speller (2000) defines it: place is a geographical space that has
acquired meaning as a result of a person's interaction with the space.
The term "place" also has been essential in geography since the 1970s (Easthope,
2004), after a humanistic critique in geography in the late 1960s (Patterson & Williams,
2005). Phenomenology, initiated by Husserl at the beginning of the twentieth century,
focuses on the subjective experience and perception of a person's life world (Giorgi &
Giorgi, 2004; Husserl, 1970). Phenomenology is especially concerned with place and
home due to the centrality of these topics in everyday life. "To dwell" has been described
as the process of making a place a home (Heidegger, 1962). "Place" gained prominence
in phenomenological research, architecture and geography through Norberg-Schulz's
(1980, 1971) work on the existence of a "genius loci", meaning the spirit of a place,
Relph's (1976) work on "sense of place" and "placelessness", and Tuan's (1974, 1977)
work on positive affective ties to place described as "topophilia". Relph (1976) and Tuan
(1974, 1977) used the terms "insideness" and "outsideness" to describe people's feelings
of being part of a place. Tuan (1974, 1977) separated between "sense of place" and
"rootedness," where sense of place is described as an awareness of a positive feeling for
a place, and rootedness as a feeling of being home. Place has also been explored in
works by Seamon (1979), Buttimer and Seamon (1980), and Hart (1979). Canter's
(1977) work on place, Proshansky et al.'s (1978, 1983, 1987) work on place-identity, and
Altman and Low's (1992) work on place attachment are other important milestones in the
research literature on place. All of the different concepts that have been used in relation
to place, such as "sense of place", "place attachment", "place-identity", "place
dependence" etc., are difficult to separate, and might have parallel definitions
representing mainly positive affective ties to a place. However, the lack of conceptual
clarity can be seen as a reflection of the interdisciplinary work on place with different
epistemological traditions and focus (Patterson & Williams, 2005). Interdisciplinary work
requires openness and dialog regarding concept definitions, and if some concepts are
used interchangeably, over time redundant concepts will lose territory. One could argue
that the concept of place is vague, and encourage the use of more precise words like
"dwelling," "landscape," "city," or "neighborhood." However, there seems to be a need for
a common term for the physical environment in relation to the social, psychological and
cultural meanings attached to it. It might be harder to see common features in research
on different kinds of environments if an umbrella term has not been identified. "Place" is
a term that is difficult to replace.
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One of the most notable things about human beings that distinguish us from other
species is our self-awareness and ability to self-reflect. Many psychological theories in
some way or another deal with self(-perception) and identity, but their focus of interest
tends to be different, which thereby results in different definitions of "identity," "self" or
"personality." Psychological literature that tries to introduce perspectives on self often
categorizes theories by their focus of interest, and whether that focus is more or less
detailed. One way of doing this is to divide the literature into five broad categories. The
most well known psychological identity theories among the public at large are
psychodynamic theories (with Freud's psychoanalysis as one of the main origins).
However, these theories are often seen as the most controversial in academic
psychology (see for example Frosh, 2006). Psychodynamic theories focus on
unconscious conflicts and motivation, inferiority feelings, defense mechanisms, and
psychosocial crisis. Cognitive theories focus on how self-relevant information is stored,
structured and retrieved (Leary & Tangney, 2003). Social learning theories focus on
agency, self-efficacy, locus of control, and self-regulation. Humanistic/existential theories
focus on self-actualization, personal constructs, meaning, responsibility, and personal
myths (McMartin, 1995). The last main group of identity theories focuses on the
interpersonal aspects of identity, the social and cultural influence on how we see
ourselves (Leary & Tangney, 2003). The borders between these rather broad categories
are vague, and there are many common features across the groups. The theories that
will be described in this article belong to this last category. Social identity theory (Tajfel,
1981, 1982) is perhaps the most significant of the interpersonal identity theories.
Breakwell's (1983, 1986) identity process theory also draws upon important aspects from
cognitive and social learning theories. Lalli (1992) recognizes the influence of cognitive
identity theories in Proshansky et al.'s (1978, 1983, 1987) place-identity theory.
"Identity" can be described as the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.
"Self" is a concept often used in a more abstract and global context, whereas "identity" is
linked to specific aspects of self-definition (Deaux, 1992). However, others believe that
personality and self are synonymous (McMartin, 1995). The unity of a person is not a
natural given. Based on personal temperament, personhood is formed in relationship
with other people. It has to be attained psychologically (by identification) and maintained
(as identity) in a continuous and often conflictive process of socialization (Grauman,
1983). Identification is a process, and identity is a condition (Lalli, 1992). How broadly
identity is defined depends on theory. This concept will be further explored when the
three identity theories are discussed in the following sections. All identity theories are not
necessarily mutually exclusive, and may be chosen according to the interests of a
particular research endeavor. The interest of research in this article is place. Casey
(2001) states that identity is created both internally in the mind, and through the body's
interaction with the outside world--there is no place without self, and no self without
place. The question is, can well known psychological identity theories cover this aspect
of identity, or do we need to create identity theories solely to explain the place aspects of
Theories of Identity and the Built Environment
Place Identity
Aspects of identity linked to place can be described as "place-identity." The term has
been in use since the late 1970s (Proshansky, 1978), and is here, as originally, typed
with a hyphen. Place-identity has been described as the individual's incorporation of
place into the larger concept of self (Proshansky, Fabian & Kaminoff, 1983), defined as a
ourri of memories, conce
tions, inter
retations, ideas, and related feelin
s about
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specific physical settings, as well as types of settings" (1983, p. 60). Place attachment is
considered a part of place-identity, but place-identity is more than attachment. Place-
identity is a substructure of self-identity, much like gender and social class, and is
comprised of perceptions and comprehensions regarding the environment. These
perceptions and conceptions can be organized into two types of clusters; one type
consists of memories, thoughts, values and settings, and the second type consists of the
relationship among different settings (home, school, and neighborhood; Proshansky &
Fabian, 1987).
Identity develops as children learn to differentiate themselves from people around them,
and in the same way, place-identity develops as a child learns to see her or himself as
distinct from, but related to, the physical environment. Among the first identity
determinants are those rooted in the child's experience with toys, clothes and rooms. The
home is the environment of primary importance, followed by the neighborhood and the
school. Here, social and environmental skills and relationships are learned, and the
"lenses" are formed through which the child later will recognize, evaluate and create
places. Place-identity changes occur throughout a person's lifetime (Proshansky &
Fabian, 1987). Five central functions of place-identity have been depicted; recognition,
meaning, expressive-requirement, mediating change, and anxiety and defense function.
Place-identity becomes a cognitive "database" against which every physical setting is
experienced (Proshansky et al., 1983).
In the time since the term "place-identity" was introduced, the theory has been the model
for identity that has dominated environmental psychology. Place-identity theory does not
provide much detail regarding structure and process (Twigger-Ross, Bonaiuto &
Breakwell, 2003), but refers to "schemata" that Neisser (1976) and Piaget (1954)
describe as perceptions and ideas that also concern the physical environment. The
cognitive structures tend to be remote from the awareness of the individual, even more
than social and personal cognitive structures, because physical settings are "backdrops"
against which events occur (Proshansky et al., 1983).
Social Identity Theory
The phrase "self concept" is often used when referring to the answer to "who am I?" Our
"self concepts" contain both statements about what makes us similar to other people,
and what makes us dissimilar. People construct a perception of themselves and others
by means of abstract social categories, and these perceptions become part of people's
self-concepts. We define ourselves with qualities that characterize the groups to which
we belong. Tajfel (1972, cf. Hogg & Abrams, 1995; Tajfel, 1982) explains "social identity"
as the individual's knowledge of belonging to certain social groups, as well as the
emotions and values this conveys to him or her. Social identity therefore depends on the
quality of the groups or entities we belong to or have as a positive reference, such as
nationality, culture, religion, family, neighborhood etc. The social identity we acquire as a
member of social groups might produce group behavior. In any given situation, different
combinations of the self-concept will be central to the individual, producing different self-
images. Some parts of our identity will then be silent. In some contexts our cognition or
behavior is more influenced by group membership than in other contexts, for instance
when experiencing inter-group conflicts or discrimination (Turner, 1982).
Social comparison theory assumes that people see themselves and their group in a
positive rather than a negative light. Positive characteristics are more likely than negative
characteristics to be perceived as in-group attributes. This occurs because we are
motivated to win and
reserve a
ositive self-esteem. Peo
le will
oin other
s if
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positive self-esteem is not preserved. If people cannot leave a group, they will deny the
negative characteristics of the group, or reinterpret them as positive self-concepts (Tajfel,
1981; Turner, 1982).
Within the field of social psychology, theories on identity have been constructed, tested
and modified, but the element of the physical environment has largely been neglected.
Twigger-Ross et al. (2003), however, found that social identity theory is easily
transferable, and can be further developed to include aspects of place. A place can be
defined as a social entity or "membership group" providing identity. A place is often
associated with a certain group of people, a certain lifestyle and social status. In relation
to maintaining a positive self-esteem, this means that people will prefer places that
contain physical symbols that maintain and enhance positive self-esteem, and, if they
can, they will avoid places that have negative impacts on their self-esteem (Twigger-
Ross et al., 2003).
Identity Process Theory
Breakwell (1983, 1986) formulated an identity process theory that has been useful for
research on identity with respect to the built environment (cf. also Speller, 2000). Identity
in this view is seen as a dynamic, social product of the interaction of the capacities for
memory, consciousness and organized construal. Identity can thus be seen as both a
structure and a process. The structure of the identity is manifested through thought,
action and affect. This model does not make any distinctions between personal and
social identity, but differentiates between the content dimension and the value
dimension. The content dimension contains both personal and social identity, and the
value dimension contains the positive or negative value of these categories. The
organization of the content dimension is hierarchical, but not static. The organization of
elements changes according to inputs and demands from the social context. The identity
structure is also regulated by an accommodation-assimilation process, absorption of new
components, and adjustments in the existing identity structure.
The formation processes of identity are guided by different principles according to
culture, and within a culture, these principles will vary over time and across situations. In
Western industrialized cultures, Breakwell (1986, Twigger-Ross et al., 2003) sees the
current guiding principles as continuity, distinctiveness, self-efficacy and self-esteem.
Korpela (1989) argues that in much of the research literature on identity and place there
are implicit principles that fit with Breakwell's theory. These principles are in general well
documented in cognitive and social learning psychology (Korpela, 1989).
Breakwell (1983, 1986; Twigger-Ross et al., 2003) argues that places are important
sources of identity elements. Aspects of identity derived from places we belong to arise
because places have symbols that have meaning and significance to us. Places
represent personal memories, and because places are located in the socio-historical
matrix of intergroup relations, they represent social memories (shared histories). Places
do not have permanent meaning; their meaning is renegotiated continually and therefore
their contribution to identity is never the same. Breakwell (1996, see Twigger-Ross et al.,
2003) also argues that being in new and different places affects identity through
attenuation/accentuation, threat and dislocation. She also emphasizes that places are
nested (from room to country). The nesting may be defined as a product of social and
personal meanings, not necessarily as a product of geographical hierarchy.
The theor
was established because mainstream
Page 6 of 15HighBeam Research
ignored the physical built environment as a factor of importance in identity development.
The theory has been analyzed, discussed, and critiqued since the late 1970s when it was
first introduced (for example Dixon & Durrheim, 2000; Korpela, 1989; Manzo, 2003;
Speller et al. 2002; Twigger-Ross & Uzzel, 1996; Twigger-Ross et al., 2003). The
critiques have mainly focused on the weak empirical and theoretical foundation for the
place-identity construction.
Empirical and Theoretical Foundations
The construct of place-identity (Proshansky and colleagues, eg., 1978, 1983, 1987) is
less well developed than the two other identity theories, from both an empirical and
theoretical point of view (Bonaiuto et al., 1996; Speller et al., 2002). The hypotheses
have not been adequately theorized to fit with general psychological theories of identity,
nor do they describe the guiding principles for developing a place-identity. The five
functions of place-identity described by Proshansky (1978) are not defined in relation to
other identity categories, or other identity theories. It is not clear if these functions are
seen as unique to place-identity theory or not. There has been a lack of empirical
documentation to validate the theory. Empirical work has not yet been described in
relation to place-identity, nor has empirical work been used to modify the concept
(Twigger-Ross et al., 2003). This might be due to the difficulties posed by making the
term operational. Research on identity and place has often used the place-identity theory
as a heuristic starting point rather than a theoretical framework. Examples of this are
Feldman's (1990, 1996) work on settlement identity, and Lalli's (1992) work on urban
identity. Lalli (1992) also gives a critical review of psychological research on the "place-
identity" concept, and describes the scarcity of empirical work and the problems with
fragmented formulations, and lack of adequate instruments for measuring the concept.
He also criticizes the place-identity theory for neglecting the social dimensions of identity.
Even if the term "place-identity" is used (now mostly without a hyphen), it generally does
not refer to the theory by Proshansky et al. (1978, 1983, 1987). Hull et al., (1994)
examine the contribution of place to identity by using the term "place-identity" without
Proshansky's theoretical constructions. "Place-identity" refers here to the contribution of
place to one's identity through the meanings and values symbolized by place features.
"Place-identity" seems to be used in general to describe a subjective feeling of
identification with home and neighborhood (Twigger-Ross et al., 2003). The widespread
use of the concept demonstrates, however, that there has been a need for such a term to
describe the dimensions of identity with reference to the physical environment, but not
necessarily a need for a theory that only explains the relationship between place and
Social identity theory has traditionally treated place as neutral context. If place is in
focus, it is treated either as social marker (a label providing group identity), or as symbol
of an ideology or group (Speller et al., 2002). Spencer (2002) argues that the focus on
place in environmental psychology should be seen as complementary and not in
opposition to the standard social psychology approach to self and identity. If place is
seen as a social category providing identity, social identity theory can easily include
aspects of the physical environment and the meanings attached to it as well. Place-
related functions can be mobilized to achieve positive self-esteem and place can also act
as a trigger for identities to emerge (Twigger-Ross et al., 2003). Identity principles and
coping strategies operating in the case of social identification with a group can be similar
to those processes operating in relation to identification with place (Bonaiuto, Breakwell,
& Cano, 1996; Dixon & Durrheim, 2000). Bonaiuto et al., (1996) used social identity
theory to examine attitudes towards polluted beaches compared to place attachment.
Denial of
ollution was inter
reted as a strate
used to co
e with a threat to identit
Page 7 of 15HighBeam Research
from an out-group. The stronger attachment people had to a place, the less they thought
about the negative aspects of the place (Bonaiuto et al., 1996). Social identity theory has
also been used to explain "sense of place" (Stedman, 2002), the symbolic meaning of
buildings (Sadalla & Sheets, 1993), attitudes towards environmental sustainability
(Carrus et al., 2006), and identification with place (Uzzel et al., 2002). However, not
enough research has been done to clarify whether identification with places always
happens in the same way as identification with groups. However, as early as 1950,
physical proximity had already been identified as a component supporting social
cohesion generating shared social identity (Festinger, Schacter & Back, 1950). For
example, social relationships in residential areas are seen as important for developing a
sense of belonging to a place (Gerson, Stueve & Fisher, 1977), illustrating that the link
between social cohesion and the place-aspects of identity is strong (Uzzel et al., 2002).
Place-identity theory (Proshansky et al., 1978, 1983, 1987) sees place as a part of self-
identity, a sub-identity together with categories like gender and social class. However,
Proshansky (1978) also realizes that some sub-identity categories have "physical world
dimensions" that help to define that identity. He sees the different self-identities that
characterize the various roles people play as a part of the total place-identity of each
individual. Breakwell's identity process theory sees place as part of many different
identity categories, because places contain symbols of class, gender, family and other
social roles. In other words, Breakwell's identity process theory consequently suggests
that we do not need a special identity theory to explain the influence place has on
identity. Place is a component of different sub-identity categories, and can be
incorporated in other psychological identity theories (Twigger-Ross et al., 2003).
Proshansky's place-identity theory would probably have accommodated research on
place in relation to identity more easily than other identity theories, but the theory would
have provided a less structured tool to examine the results than identity process theory
(Moore, 2002). In recent years, Breakwell's identity process theory has been developed
to examine the place aspects of identity. Speller et al., (2002) used Breakwell's identity
process theory to examine if changes in a spatial environment affected the process of
identity among residents in a community in transition. Breakwell's principles of
distinctiveness and continuity were documented in relation to place. Evidence was found
for the important role of place in maintaining and enhancing the principles of identity.
Other studies proving the relevance of Breakwell's identity process theory in relation to
place are Korpela (1989) and Devine-Wright & Lyons (1997). Breakwell's identity theory
has made social psychologists aware of the strong influence place has on identity
(Spencer, 2002; Moore, 2002).
Research on place and identity with a focus on home as a symbol of self has also been
conducted in accordance with psychoanalytic theories inspired by Freud and Jung
(examples are Arie & Hava, 1999; Marcus, 1995). The results have often been
overlooked among researchers in environmental psychology, due to environmental
psychology's origins in social psychology, where psychodynamic theories have little
space. As described in the introduction to this paper, these theories are often seen as
speculative, particularly in relation to research on place and identity (Pratt, 1981).
An Integrative Model--Place-identity as One of Many Identity Manifestations
The term "place-identity" has become popular and has clearly filled a gap in
environmental theory and research. The term is still used in the literature to emphasize
the physical environment's impact on identity, referring to a high degree of "place
attachment." As a theoretical framework, however, the place-identity theory (Proshansky
et al. 1978, 1983, 1987
is weak. Accordin
to Moore
1997a, 1997b
, a theor
is an
Page 8 of 15HighBeam Research
intellectual construction that is explanatory and testable. A theory can be verified and
demonstrated to be useful only through empirical and practical use over time. It is difficult
to translate the place-identity theory into a clear research agenda (Speller et al., 2002).
Place is not a category of identity next to gender, social class, or family. Rather than
being a separate element of identity, all aspects of identity will, to a greater or lesser
extent, have place-related implications (Twigger-Ross & Uzzell, 1996). Places contain
symbols of different social categories and personal meanings, and represent and
maintain identity on different levels and dimensions. There is no social identity that is not
also place-related and thing-related (Grauman, 1983). However, instead of defining
place-identity as an identity category equal to gender, ethnicity, or social class on a
vertical level as Proshansky et al. do, it is possible to think of place-identity as a
dimension on a horizontal level, across other identity categories. How we communicate
and read information about others and ourselves through environmental clues is only one
aspect of how identity expresses itself. Identity communication is done both consciously
and subconsciously on many levels. Identity might be examined in relation to how it is
manifested through places and objects, in addition to how it is manifested through
aspects such as behavior and dialect. Thinking of place-identity as a horizontal line in a
matrix of identity manifestations and identity categories makes the term relevant. An
example might be how social class is manifested through neighborhood and interior on a
"place-level," and language and activities on other levels. However, to make a distinction
between place (with both its physical and social meanings) and other dimensions of
identity (verbal, behavioral, social) is not an easy assignment, and requires well-prepared
analytical clarifications, as well as sophisticated empirical designs. If and how identity
manifestations are separated, and the level of detail if they are separated, will be
dependent on the focus of research (an example is shown in Figure 1). The
categorization of "identity manifestations" is in addition dependent on a selected
definition of place. According to a transactional view of settings, it is in any case essential
to see the different factors in their mutual relation to each other.
To summarize, Proshansky and colleagues (eg, 1978, 1983, 1987) made an important
contribution to the environment-behavior field with their theory on place-identity. They
stressed the physical environment as an important factor for identity and raised new
questions (Dixon & Durrheim, 2000). Nevertheless, it is also relevant to see the theory in
relation to other identity theories with stronger theoretical and empirical founding. Even if
place is not emphasized in identity theories in mainstream psychology, the constructions
and models that are found in social identity theory (Tajfel, 1981, 1982) and identity
process theory (Breakwell, 1983, 1986) can, as has been shown, also illuminate the
relationship between place and identity. The "place-identity" term may nevertheless be
relevant and seen as a part of other identity categories. Identity manifests itself on many
levels, one of which is place.
Decades of theoretical debate in the field of environment-behaviour studies, the
interrelation between the interdisciplinary social sciences and the built environment, has
resulted in complex models and theories of the people-place relationship (Moore, 1997a,
2002). The use of identity theories that have been well tested in other psychological
disciplines will narrow the gap between environmental and mainstream psychology, and
research on environmental issues can compliment psychological identity theories with
their focus on place. The social sciences of environment and architecture can benefit
from research and theories on identit
that have been established in other social
Page 9 of 15HighBeam Research
sciences. Identity has been particularly well explored in some of the social sciences, in
particular psychology and sociology.
If the "identity" term is avoided in environmental studies, the same phenomena will be
conceptualized in different terms. The connection between similar topics may thus be
overlooked. If the relationship between identity and place is better understood and
clarified, it may be easier to use the word "identity" in environmental research areas
touching on this topic. It will benefit the field, both in a theoretical and practical manner,
to have a framework for identity that has proven to be useful for research on place.
Identity theories might be used to explain parts of research that pertain to the meaning of
home, residential satisfaction, place attachment, territorial behavior, privacy and related
topics. All disciplines were once new, and most disciplines have been influenced by and
borrowed theoretical approaches and research methods from other disciplines. Over
time, these theories and methods become integrated in the composition of a discipline.
This is a slow, but natural process. "Interdisciplinary" and "transdisciplinary" are words
that are fashionable in the academic world today. The hope is that researchers will be
more interested in learning from other disciplines than in adhering to the boundaries of
their own fields.
Because place has been ignored in psychological identity theories, and because studies
based on Proshansky's place-identity theory have been few, there is a need for research
that explores details related to place and identity. How well do social identity theory and
identity process theory explain the influences place has on identity? Speller et al. (2002)
argue that some of the deeper aspects of the function of place are left out if place is seen
only as a social category. Places are not only contexts or backdrops, but also an integral
part of identity. Even small architectural changes affect how a place facilitates different
uses or attributes, such as social interaction, which thereby can also alter the meaning of
a place. To different degrees, places can be nurturing or challenging in terms of personal
and social identity (Speller et al., 2002). In what ways do social identity theory (Tajfel,
1981, 1982) or identity process theory (Breakwell, 1983, 1986) need to be developed
further? Answering these questions will both broaden general psychological identity
theories, and expand our knowledge of the meaning of place in the social sciences of
architecture and environment.
I would like to thank Arnulf Kolstad, Gerda Speller, and two anonymous reviewers for
comments on earlier drafts of this article.
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Ashild Lappegard Hauge
Department of Architectural Design and Management, Faculty of Architecture and Fine
Art, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Tel: 47 73 55 12 58; Fax: 47 73 59 53 59; Email:
Received 23 March 2006; accepted 10 October 2006
(1) [The founding editor, Professor HJ Cowan, announced two innovations in editorial
policy in the September 2005 issue (Vol 48.3). The first is based on an increase since
the third quartile of the 20th Century in the study of the social aspects of architecture and
therefore the openness of this journal to the submission of papers on the social sciences
of architecture. The second is the publication of articles systematically reviewing recent
work in a particular subfield of the journal's coverage. This current article stretches the
boundaries of ASR in both regards. Like all other submissions, the manuscript was blind
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Board, both of whom initially recommended changes and, after the changes were made,
recommended the paper be published. We invite our readers and subscribers to
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... Informed by urban identity theory, the construction of urban identity is largely determined by the interaction between person and urban environment (Lalli, 1988). This theory believes the formation of urban identity is based on the process of subjective reconstruction (Hauge, 2007;Lewicka, 2011). Thus, not only the city provides a necessary environment for individuals to identify with, but also the geographical, cultural, and institutional borders of the city convey the ingroup-outgroup distinctions (Hauge, 2007). ...
... This theory believes the formation of urban identity is based on the process of subjective reconstruction (Hauge, 2007;Lewicka, 2011). Thus, not only the city provides a necessary environment for individuals to identify with, but also the geographical, cultural, and institutional borders of the city convey the ingroup-outgroup distinctions (Hauge, 2007). This theoretical perspective suggests that individuals' identity can be viewed as a result of boundary formation (Barth, 1998). ...
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China's in-situ urbanization implies a phenomenon where rural populations become new urbanites as their land was reclassified as urban. While studies have suggested that social insurance may play a role in encouraging urban identification, empirical evidence in this field remains scarce. Highlighting the identity construction experience of in-situ urbanized residents, this study assesses the efficacy of major health and pension insurance in promoting a sense of urban identity in the context of China's rapid urbanization. We analyze data from the 2018 Urbanization and Quality of Life Survey (N = 3,229) conducted in 40 localities that undergo in-situ urbanization. Results of multi-level modelling show that those participating in urban insurance schemes such as the Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI) are more likely to identify as urban. Enrollment in the New Rural Social Pension Scheme (NRSPS), however, is negatively associated with urban identification. There are also variations associated with the interaction of social insurance and hukou status. To promote future urban integration of in-situ urbanized residents, it is vital to build an equitable, efficient, and equal-access social insurance system in urbanizing China.
... In the last 40 years, the theory of identity has been developed by many research experts, including (Carrus et al., 2005;Eben Saleh, 1998;P. Groote & Haartsen, 2008;Hauge, 2007;Huigen & Meijering, 2005;Peterson, 1988;Relph, 1976;Tuan, 1977;Twiggwe-Ross et al., 2003;White et al., 2008) to date. ...
... It still has successor students, including in Rokan Hulu itself. Unlike gender, race, or nationality, which are one identity category, places contain symbols of many different social classes and personal meanings and represent and sustain identity on different levels and dimensions (Hauge, 2007). ...
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... To further refine categorisation Narrative was included as an additional category as descriptions of narrative-identity in the literature span all three categories (Smith & Sparkes, 2008). A further category, Environmental, was devised to accommodate a novel perspective of identity in the health professions literature which emphasizes the influence of the physical environment on identity (Hauge, 2007). Where a study did not explicitly state a theory or develop an identity framework, the authors closely examined the text to in an attempt to infer categories of identity or professional identity used in the research. ...
... Combinations of theories and theories developed through the research were also categorised. As described above, the categories narrative, spanning all three main categories (Smith & Sparkes, 2008), and environmental, accommodating a novel perspective of identity (Hauge, 2007), were included. ...
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Professional identity impacts the workforce at personal, interpersonal and profession levels however there is a lack of reviews of professional identity research across practising health professionals. To summarise professional identity research in the health professions literature and explore how professional identity is described a scoping review was conducted by searching Medline, Psycinfo, Embase, Scopus, CINAHL, and Business Source Complete using “professional identity” and related terms for 32 health professions. Empirical studies of professional identity in post-registration health professionals were examined with health profession, career stage, background to research, theoretical underpinnings and constructs of professional identity being extracted, charted and analysed using content analysis where relevant. From 9941 studies, 160 studies across 17 health professions were identified, with nursing and medicine most common. Twenty studies focussed on professional identity in the five years post-entry to the workforce and 56 studies did not state career stage. The most common background for the research was the impact of political, social and healthcare reforms and advances. Thirty five percent of studies (n = 57) stated the use of a theory or framework of identity, the most common being classified as social theories. Individual constructs of professional identity across the research were categorised into five themes—The Lived Experience of Professional Identity; The World Around Me; Belonging; Me; and Learning and Qualifications. Descriptions of professional identity are broad, varied, rich and multi-layered however the literature is under theorised with current theories potentially inadequate to capture its complexity and make meaningful contributions to the allied health professions.
... In essence, the experiential context in a physical setting generates a "sense of life" [6], realized through people's actions [7], and is integral to our existence in the world [8]. Recent studies outline the people-place connections transcending beyond physical determinism by exploring a multiplicity of social, cultural and psychological place dimensions [9]. The quality of making sense of place, or what Carmona refers to as "placefulness" [3], has been explored through functional concern or place dependence [10], rootedness or place attachment [11], nostalgia or place memory [12], physical/social association or place identity [13], quality of place or place value [14] and social capital or sense of community [15]. ...
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In recent years, urban regeneration strategic plans have been implemented across South Korea to curb the negative impacts of depopulation, physical deterioration and economic decline. By adopting a people-centered regeneration process, context-sensitive plans are formulated by integrating local people’s perceptions and expectations. This paper examines urban regeneration plans implemented in Ami-dong Tombstone Cultural Village, a declining hillside village in Busan, using “people–place–process framework of place attachment” to analyze the process of articulating “sense of place” through community-driven approaches. Based on archival research, site investigations, secondary data and semi-structured interviews, the paper explores the revival of social capital, integration of place-sensitivity and improvement of everyday landscapes through affective, behavioral and cognitive responses of urban professionals and community members involved in the project. Findings of the study show that place attachment, sense of community and community participation in regeneration can help in re-creating meaningful places. Lessons from Ami-dong offer insights on ways to strengthen people–people and people–place relationships through design and planning processes in a declining context with an aging population.
... Other research by Refaeli (2017: 8), using case study narrative, found higher rates of later life loneliness and mental health problems amongst children who had lived in a child care setting; he identified and separated these individuals into two distinct groups, which he termed those 'struggling to survive and surviving through struggle'. Hauge (2007) research on identity formation, emphasised the complex interaction of external and internal variables, responsible for identity formation; they stressed the impact and influence of place, environment and stage of life. As reported by Weich et al. (2002), detrimental health occurrences are most prevalent for those residing in penurious spaces and environments. ...
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This study reports the findings of a three-year investigation, which documented the learning experiences of former offenders. My research is informed by a concern about different perceptions of what counts as appropriate provision for Education, Training and Employment (ETE hereafter) offender initiatives that show a tendency to treat ex-offenders in an unhelpful and unproductive manner. Drawing on my own experiences as a former offender, and in later years as a practitioner, mentor and teacher working in numerous provisions since 2004, I contend that the current system of ETE initiatives are, in the main, failing to address the complex and non-conventional learning requirements of those who struggle to adapt to traditional modes of learning. My inspiration for this thesis was grounded in the belief that for some offenders, including those with substance misuse problems, education can help support and foster a more contented and fulfilled way of living. My aim was to explore with the men other ways of teaching, learning and service user engagement. I describe how my complicated life history became a valuable pedagogical resource, which enabled me to work in ways that were shown to enrich the life chances and perspectives of other former offenders. My research explores the educational benefits of working in a more caring, compassionate and trusting manner, freed from traditional time restraints. During the previous fourteen years, the people with whom I have worked have highlighted my capacity to connect through authentic communication, as perhaps the most fundamentally compelling aspect of my pedagogy. Rogers (1961) theorised that when positive regards between persons is unconditional, the human condition is more likely to flourish, as is client growth and development through the quality of relationships. However, the magnitude of this change, if any, cannot be predicted; personal growth and achievement are unique to the person.
... The modern definition of identity first started to be used in social sciences in the middle of the 20th century. This concept was related to the interpretation of personality identity and described different social groups distinguished by certain featuresbelonging to ethnic, political, cultural and similar groups [10]. The importance of identity was soon realized not only in social but also in other sciences and the importance of the physical environment for the perception of identity of a person started to be discussed [5]. ...
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The article discusses the preservation of urban peculiarity, visual uniqueness and cultural identity in the world affected by globalisation processes. First of all, the urban identity as such is discussed, a study of literary sources helps identify factors that shape urban identity. Tangible and intangible factors are distinguished. Second, in order to reveal the problems of identification and fostering of the identity of historical parts of cities and to verify the urban identity shaping methodology described in this article, historical suburbs of Vilnius in the southeast part of the Old Town are analysed in detail. The performed research of peculiarities of the urban fabric of the historical suburbs has showed very vividly that both the man made physical environment and the features of the natural environment present are significant for urban identity. In the studied suburbs, expressive terrain, also a river and its valley play a significant role for the formation and identity of a place. Man made built-up, ensembles, street routes and even the built-up function adapted to natural conditions. The close interaction between natural conditions and human activities has led to the identity of these historical territories. It is noted that urban identity should not be perceived as unchanging – it is a process that is shaped rather deliberately. Urban design, architecture and landscape architecture are activities that help create urban identity.
... A study by Hauge (2007) indicated that what happens during a shopping trip is that "People affect places, and places influence how people see themselves" (Hauge,p. 45). ...
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This study investigated women’s intentions to patronize shopping centres. The study attempts to explain the effect of different types of retail attributes shopping centres – utilitarian and hedonic on women’s’ shopping attitudes and the subjective norms in addition to motivations on the intentions to patronize shopping centres in the Klang Valley. This study is framed by the decomposed theory of planned behavior (DTPB). The data was collected via a mall intercept survey exercise in 10 major shopping centres located in the Klang Valley. The selection of these shopping centres were based on the choice of Tourism Malaysia. A total of 423 usable responses was obtained this period and was empirically tested. The decomposition of the constructs Attitude, Subjective norm and Perceived Behavioural Control provide better explanatory power of the variables. The results from this study confirm the applicability of the DTPB in a retail setting in shopping centres in the Klang Valley. This study provides useful insights to shopping centre patronage behaviour of women and shopping centre managers and retailers will benefit from knowledge of the right retail attributes (utilitarian and hedonic) a shopping centre or store should possess. Also, it is established that women tended to form an attachment to a shopping centre and their attitudes is based on the appeal of the type of retail attributes. Apart from this, the decomposition of the subjective norm provides a better explanation on the impacts women’s patronage to shopping centre intentions. Findings from this research provide important insight for retailers’ strategic marketing activities directed to women shoppers.
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The article is devoted to the analysis of the specifics of such a method of studying the urban environment as psychogeography, as well as to the study of the tools of interaction between a person and the urban environment. Attention is paid to the perception of the urban environment by a person, the influence of this environment on the behavior of citizens. The issues of human influence on the formation of the urban environment are touched upon. The aspects of the inclusion of psycho-geographical research in the work of architects and designers are considered.
This study draws upon cognitive maps and in-depth interviews with 15 unemployed women residing in a Portuguese social housing neighborhood (Bairro de Contumil) to explore how affects influence subjective neighborhood constructions. Despite Bairro de Contumil’s visible disconnection from its surroundings, its residents perceive its boundaries differently. The mental maps varied substantially, and none of the participants limited their neighborhood definition to the social housing area. In spite of this diversity, all participants used their habitual use of space and relationships as the main criteria for defining the neighborhood’s boundaries, both of which are strongly connected to their affects. The in-depth interviews revealed complex relations between place attachment, place identity, human relations, use of space, and spatial perception.
Hong Kong adopted the practice of assessing social value of heritage sites in the late 1990s or early 2000s, which by then had been widely incorporated by other places around the world, in line with the Burra Charter of 1979. However, social value appraisals in Hong Kong continue to be inadequate, due in part to a lack of understanding of this complex notion and how it works. Similar challenges have also been observed in other places, as attested in existing literature. This article reviews the rich literature on place and place-related concepts, and how these are operationalized by various authors to achieve their research objectives. Adopting a phenomenological perspective of heritage, with a particular stress on people-place relationship and interaction, the study unpacks and operationalizes the rich concept of social value. The resulting framework is applied to a specific place in Hong Kong to illustrate its capacity to raise the standards of assessments. The methods used in the study emphasize the importance of engaging the local community to better understand their relationship with place. Some policy implications are discussed.
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The Meaning of Things explores the meanings of household possessions for three generation families in the Chicago area, and the place of materialism in American culture. Now regarded as a keystone in material culture studies, Halton's first book is based on his dissertation and coauthored with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. First published by Cambridge University Press in 1981, it has been translated into German, Italian, Japanese, and Hungarian. The Meaning of Things is a study of the significance of material possessions in contemporary urban life, and of the ways people carve meaning out of their domestic environment. Drawing on a survey of eighty families in Chicago who were interviewed on the subject of their feelings about common household objects, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton provide a unique perspective on materialism, American culture, and the self. They begin by reviewing what social scientists and philosophers have said about the transactions between people and things. In the model of 'personhood' that the authors develop, goal-directed action and the cultivation of meaning through signs assume central importance. They then relate theoretical issues to the results of their survey. An important finding is the distinction between objects valued for action and those valued for contemplation. The authors compare families who have warm emotional attachments to their homes with those in which a common set of positive meanings is lacking, and interpret the different patterns of involvement. They then trace the cultivation of meaning in case studies of four families. Finally, the authors address what they describe as the current crisis of environmental and material exploitation, and suggest that human capacities for the creation and redirection of meaning offer the only hope for survival. A wide range of scholars - urban and family sociologists, clinical, developmental and environmental psychologists, cultural anthropologists and philosophers, and many general readers - will find this book stimulating and compelling. Translations: Il significato degli oggetti. Italian translation. Rome: Edizione Kappa, 1986. Der Sinn der Dinge. German translation. Munich: Psychologie Verlags Union, 1989. Japanese translation 2007. Targyaink tukreben. Hungarian translation, 2011.