Identities in flux: Cognitive Network Activation in Times of Change

Using a dynamic cognitive model, we experimentally test two competing hypotheses that link identity and cognitive network activation during times of change. On one hand, affirming people’s sense of power might give them confidence to think beyond the densest subsections of their social networks. Alternatively, if such power affirmations conflict with people’s more stable status characteristics, this could create tension, deterring people from considering their networks’ diversity. We test these competing hypotheses experimentally by priming people at varying levels of status with power (high/low) and asking them to report their social networks. We show that confirming identity—not affirming power— cognitively prepares people to broaden their social networks when the world is changing around them. The emotional signature of having a confirmed identity is feeling comfortable and in control, which mediates network activation. We suggest that stable, confirmed identities are the foundation from which people can exhibit greater network responsiveness.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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