In our study we want to examine the Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE). The SIDE theory was developed and first named in 1991 by Lea and Spears, and then later expanded on in 1992. This theory is important in understanding computer mediated technology and communication. The SIDE model expands on the basic deindividuation theory that examines how in crowds people will act in ways that are often not perceived as rational. When somebody is in a crowd there is a certain amount of anonymity that can effect how they will act. For example, normally if a rational person did not agree with a controversial decision made by a company, they would not usually go up to the company’s building by themselves and throw a glass bottle at it. On the other hand if a person is in a crowd of one hundred people and everyone is throwing glass bottles, then the person may be inclined to act irrational and proceed to deface the building with glass bottles.
The SIDE model even more examines anonymity and how anonymity changes the salience of personal identity and social identity, thus having a profound effect on behavior. In our study we are asking people to choose a side on a subject in which they have strong feelings about as well as a concrete opinion, and then discuss these views with someone that has the opposite opinion. To keep the study valid, it is important that people are kept anonymous in order to have the full effect. We were thinking about just giving people standard instant messaging user names, so that for example user 1 would be having a conversation with user 2, and both users will have conflicting views on the subject matter.
The cognitive side of the SIDE model deals with group immersion and anonymity and the salience with personal and social identities. Anonymity in a group can enhance the salience of social identity and depersonalize the social perceptions of others and the self. This can also lead to people perceiving others in terms of stereotypes.
In some situations, making an individual identifiable can promote a stronger social categorization. SIDE describes the cognitive processes by which the salience of social identity is affected by making information individuated or by eliminating individuated information. On the strategic side of the use of SIDE, anonymity can have strategic consequences, and can affect the ability for people to express their personal and social identities. Strategic concerns come into play when an out-group has more power than the in-group, or when the norms of both groups are different. When this happens, the identifiably of the in-group towards the out-group will shift the power between groups. The identifiably towards a more powerful out-group will limit the degree to which the in-group’s identity can be expressed freely.
SIDE is used in order to explain the effects of anonymity and social isolation in various contexts. SIDE can be used to do research with online teams and electronic relationships.