University involvement among firstyear students: a social identity perspective

Document Type

Poster Session

Presentation Date


Conference Name

Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Conference Location

Palm Springs, California

Peer Review



College freshmen who become involved in university activities are more likely to succeed and eventually graduate. In this study, we examine university involvement among first year students (N = 374) from the perspective of social identity theory. In a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial, we manipulated perceptions of the university’s size (small or large), reputation (relatively negative or positive), and exclusivity (lenient or strict admission standards). We then measured (1) perceptions of college life, (2) affective, evaluative, and cognitive dimensions of group identity and, (3) university involvement (going to campus events, clubs, reading school newspaper, wearing university clothing, voting, etc.). As hypothesized, while all three dimensions of group identity were correlated with involvement, the affective dimension was the only significant predictor in regression analyses. The socio-structural manipulations significantly affected group identity in predicted ways. Participants expressed greater levels of affective identity when the university was characterized as having relatively strict admission standards and a positive reputation. Evaluative identity was enhanced when the university was characterized as having a positive reputation, particularly when also described as relatively large. As hypothesized, students who reported more personal freedom in choosing the university (e.g., less affected by economic, geographic, parental constraints) expressed more university involvement, and this relationship was significantly mediated by affective group identity (but not the other dimensions). Similarly, students who reported a desire to attend a different university were less involved and this relationship was likewise mediated by affective identity. Both the applied and theoretical implications of this study are discussed.



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