The reinforcing nature of social identity-driven processes: Evidence using the ear methodology and a multilevel approach


The ways in which teammates interact with one another meaningfully shapes their sport experiences. In the current research, we leveraged an ambulatory ecological assessment tool known as the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) to non-obtrusively document the acoustic nature of athletes' social environments. Guided by a social identity approach, we generated and tested the novel hypothesis that when athletes receive signals from teammates suggesting that they are a valued and accepted team member, they will be more likely to engage in social identity enhancing behaviours. Data were collected from 45 youth athletes over the course of a three-day hockey tournament. We used the Audio Coding System for Social Environments in Sport to index the number of instances athletes experienced and engaged in three forms of social identity enhancing behaviours (i.e., ingroup affect, ingroup ties, cognitive centrality). Applying linear mixed-level modelling, we examined how experiencing social identity enhancing behaviours at both the within-person (i.e., daily events) and between-person (i.e., aggregated over the duration of the tournament) levels predicted engagement in social identity enhancing behaviours. Athletes engaged in more ingroup affect enhancing behaviours on days that they were the recipient of ingroup affect enhancing behaviours (p = .002). A similar pattern emerged in relation to cognitive centrality enhancing behaviours (p < .001). Our results highlight the utility of the EAR for studying teammate interaction processes and provide insight into the reinforcing nature of social identity processes in youth sport teams.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded by SSHRC IG 435-2016-0591 and the Canada Research Chairs Program