Ashdown Presents on Group Identity – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Ashdown Presents on Group Identity

In November, Assistant Professor of Psychology Brien Ashdown traveled to Murray State University in Kentucky to deliver a presentation titled, “Sex, Religion, and Basketball: It’s All about Identity,” which condensed a variety of Ashdown’s research projects that focus on the common theme of group identity.

“The connecting principle is my belief that group identity plays a strong role in our thoughts, attitudes, and the behaviors in which we engage,” says Ashdown.

His talk included descriptions of research he conducted with a collaborator in China, which show “that participants’ ethnic group identity (and how strongly they identify with that group) influences how strongly they endorse certain cultural values.”

Another study referenced in the talk, Ashdown says, demonstrates “that participants’ religious group identity and whether they are married or single (which I argue could be viewed as another type of social group identity) influences their level of sexual satisfaction when the construct of sex guilt is also taken into account. A third study I discussed showed that how strongly a person identifies with a social group (we explored ethnicity, gender, and religion), the more positive their attitudes were toward in-group members and the less positive they were toward out-group members.”

Ashdown concluded that “the role of group identity should be included more often in future research, and especially in applied research where we often don’t think of group identity as having an impact. For example, there is some research that suggests that a person’s ethnic group identification influences his or her health choices and health behavior. However, much of the research on these important topics do not include group identification as a variable, which I think means we’re missing out on a major part of that complex research puzzle.”

In the past, Ashdown’s research has often focused on group identity, and he currently has other projects underway that explore this topic, including “Christian’s attitudes toward Muslims, the relationship between socioeconomic class and entitlement, and ethnic attitudes in Guatemala, among other projects,” he says. “I also have plans to explore how ethnic group identity, religious group identity, and gender group identity influence health-related behaviors and decisions, such as alcohol use, safer sex practices, and certain mental health issues.”

Ashdown’s presentation was part of Murray State’s Brummer Colloquium Series, which draws a select number of scholars each year to present to the university’s psychology department. During his visit, Ashdown met with faculty and students, both graduate and undergraduate, and guest-taught a statistics course before his presentation.

Later in November, he delivered a shortened version of this presentation as a Friday faculty lunch talk at HWS.