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The Inclusion of a New Group into the Self-Concept

Social Processes Lab


November 2007 - July 2009


Budget resources of KMRC


With the growing demand of flexibility and mobility it is a recurrent experience to be a newcomer in a group. The ability to integrate quickly into new groups is therefore essential. The project "The inclusion of a new group into the self-concept" investigated long-term changes in the newcomers' self-concepts under a self-regulation perspective.

Two studies in the context of exchange years demonstrated that (former) outgroups can become a part of the self-concept similar to the way that ingroups are a part of the self-concept. In experimental studies and field studies the impact of individual regulatory strategies on the development of the social self was investigated. It was demonstrated longitudinally that approach and avoidance strategies affect the inclusion of the new group into the self-concept, well-being and academic effort. Moreover, it was expected and found that approach and avoidance strategies in newcomers lead to a heightened sensitivity towards acceptance and rejection from the group, which in turn has specific effects on self-concept changes: When newcomers are accepted by the group, approach strategies (but not avoidance strategies) lead to stronger social identification with the new group. When newcomers are rejected, avoidance strategies (but not approach strategies) lead to stronger disidentification from the group. High internal motivation, however, buffers the effects of approach and avoidance strategies upon rejection: for newcomers high in internal motivation, approach strategies are related to social identification despite the rejection, whereas avoidance strategies are no longer related to distancing.

Taken together, the results demonstrate that the self-concept dynamically adapts to social environmental changes. Through the adoption of a self-regulatory perspective, newcomers are seen as active protagonists in their self-concept adaptation.


  • Matschke, C., & Sassenberg, K. (2012). I want to be like you: Self-regulation in the development of the social self. Social Psychology, 43(3), 115-126.
  • Matschke, C., & Sassenberg, K. (2010). The supporting and impeding effects of group-related approach and avoidance strategies on newcomers’ psychological adaptation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 34, 465-474.
  • Matschke, C., & Sassenberg, K. (2010). Does rejection lead to disidentification? The role of internal motivation and avoidance strategies. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 891-900.
  • Sassenberg, K., & Matschke, C. (2010). The impact of exchange programs on the integration of the host-group into the self-concept. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 148-159.