Identification (psychology)

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Identification (from Latin idem: "the same", facere: "make") literally translated means "equate". In psychology , the term refers to a process within the soul that creates identity. This process can take place consciously, as is the case, for example, with an actor when he identifies himself with the role to be played by him. In addition, identification can happen to a person in a preconscious manner, which is usually the case if, for example, the viewer of a film or play identifies with one of the protagonists . Preconscious means that it happens involuntarily, i.e. without intention, but is capable of consciousness. In addition, identification can also take place unconsciously , as is almost the norm in the development of identity in human ontogeny .

People are able to identify not only with other people, but also with groups, with an organization or institution, a religion, a worldview and other things. It does not have to be, but it can contribute to the formation of ideology .

Identification and cultural studies

In cultural studies research, it is controversial whether the term identification is appropriate. After all, the process does not include “putting yourself in place of the characters”, but empathizing with the fictional characters. Many authors therefore use the more appropriate term empathy .

Reception theorists assume that a play , a text or a film is only perceived as exciting if the viewer can identify with the fictional character. The question of the conditions under which recipients can identify with characters is answered differently and depends on personal, social and cultural background. Some researchers assumed that viewers can only identify with characters who represent socially recognized morals. More modern research shows, however, that it is sufficient if the recipient can develop a relationship with the respective character. To do this, they need to be informed about the characters' goals, motives and / or feelings.

The identification does not necessarily have to take place consciously and be perceived, but is often subject to unconscious processes that play an important role in psychoanalysis as a defense mechanism . At the same time, the development of personality is not possible without identifying processes.

Identification and theater practice

In his theories and instructions for acting at the beginning of his career, KS Stanislawski attached great importance to the actor's identification with the role he was supposed to play. According to Stanislavski, the actor should not play his role, but rather be the character himself. As a rule, this identification is referred to as empathizing with the role and is still practiced especially in acting studies in America according to Stanislawski's student Lee Strasberg . However, Stanislawski's approach later changed to a mixture of inner and outer experience of the actor, to psychophysical action, which should bring about a realistic representation. This identification with the role or empathy for the role in the psychodrama of Jacob Levy Moreno , which he developed in the first half of the 20th century, is of particular importance .

The process of empathy involves physical relaxation, imagining the situation in which the character to be embodied is, and finally actual identification, in that the actor combines his own experiences from the past with those of the role. Stanislawski calls this emotional memory , a technique that he later refrained from; the actor thus evokes feelings in himself that correspond to those of the character, even if they have other causes. The intended effect of this was to have both actors and audiences perceive the actor's actions and reactions as real and authentic .

With his Epic Theater, Bertolt Brecht developed a form that should completely dispense with emotional identification. The actor should not feel but show, and accordingly the audience should not empathize, but think and reflect. But here too there is identification - not with the emotional, but with the social situation of the protagonists . Social conditions should be shown and recognized; this is only possible by identifying the viewer with what is depicted. Only the actor is not identified; According to Brecht, the performer should consider the outcome and consequences of the piece and the character's actions in every situation to be played, and act accordingly himself.

Identification and psychology

Empathy with another person is also important in the psychological consideration of identification . However, it does not only refer to roles that are played in the theater or in film, but mostly to real people. Even small children identify themselves first with their parents - mostly either with their mother or with their father - and later with their peers. Identification with gender roles is widespread - girls or boys, for example, identify with the image of women or men presented to them by their environment or in the media, and accordingly adopt certain behaviors that they consider to belong to their gender. Excessive identification in adulthood can lead to the development of certain fetishes ( see mirror stage , empathy ).

Identification is the most mature of three internalization processes (incorporation, introjection, and identification) within psychoanalytic developmental psychology and neuroses. It presupposes mature, constant object relationships. Ambivalences and affects that still exist can be tolerated and do not have to be acted out destructively. There is hardly any projective distortion of object perception. Mature love relationships take place at this level. But mature internalization processes can also function as pathological defense processes. This is the case with so-called “mature psychoneuroses” through identification with the hysterical symptom formation. One example of this is conversion disorder .

politic and economy

Identification with a group of people is a significant phenomenon in politics when it comes to “ingroups”; H. groups to which the individual in question belongs. This ingroup is usually rated positively. Exaggerated forms of this identification are local patriotism , regionalism and nationalism . People who belong to a different ethnic group or religion than the ingroup members often become objects of xenophobia .

There is the thesis that earlier than today, many employees identified themselves more with the company in which they (were) worked; Motivation and work ethic were better in the past (see also loyalty # loyalty in business , service according to regulations ).

See also


  • Bertolt Brecht : Writings on the theater. About a non-Aristotelian drama (= Library Suhrkamp. Vol. 41, ZDB -ID 256061-6 ). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1957.
  • Ronald Britton, Michael Feldman, John Steiner: Identification as defense. Contributions of the Westlodge Conference II . Ed .: Claudia Frank, Heinz Weiß (=  Perspektiven Kleinianischer Psychoanalyse . Volume 4 ). Edition diskord, Tübingen 1998, ISBN 978-3-89295-643-3 .
  • Stavros Mentzos : Neurotic Conflict Processing. Introduction to the psychoanalytic theory of neuroses, taking into account new perspectives (= Fischer 42239). Original edition, 10th - 12th thousand. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-596-42239-6 , p. 42 ff.
  • Sonia Moore: The Stanislavski Method. The professional training of an actor (= Compass Books. C118, ZDB -ID 1345937-5 ). Digested from the Teachings of Konstantin S. Stanislavski. Viking Press, New York 1962.
  • John L. Styan: Drama, Stage and Audience. Cambridge University Press, London 1975, ISBN 0-521-20504-2 .
  • Konstantin Stanislawski : An Actor Prepares. Geoffrey Bles Ltd., London 1937.
  • Konstantin S. Stanislawski: Moscow Art Theater. Selected Writings. Edited by Dieter Hoffmeier. 2 volumes. Verlag Das Europäische Buch, West Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-88436-197-X .
  • Clive Swift: The Job of Acting. A Guide to Working in Theater. George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London 1976, ISBN 0-245-52782-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. Mentzos, Stavros. Neurotic Conflict Processing - Introduction to the psychoanalytic theory of neuroses, taking into account new perspectives. Fischer publishing house. Frankfurt a. M. 1987. page 42 ff.