Applying the social identity approach in two worlds: health behaviour and education

Statistics show that men tend to engage in less healthy behaviour than women, but the mechanisms causing this are not well understood. In the first part of this seminar, I will talk about my research on the relationship between masculinity and health-related behaviour. My work has utilised the gender identity threat paradigm, where men are given bogus feedback about scoring low on masculine traits. I expected that this would lead to overcompensation, with men showing higher engagement in stereotypically masculine behaviours. The results suggested that after experiencing a masculinity threat, men indeed selected more stereotypically masculine foods, which also tended to be less healthy. An inverse of this effect was observed among women: after a femininity threat, they chose more feminine, and also healthier, foods. The next step will be to test whether social psychological interventions can be used to change men’s concept of masculinity - I will present the results of a pilot study designed to do this using a procedure based on pluralistic ignorance.

The second strand of my research concerns the association between social identification, students’ educational achievement and wellbeing. Over the last two years, I have collected questionnaire data from first-year students in psychology and veterinary medicine. The main variables of interest were identification with the university as a whole, as well as with their study subject, adoption of deep and surface learning, resilience, depression and burnout. Our findings indicated that identification with the university and with the subject area was significantly associated with the adoption of deep learning strategies, but was not associated with higher essay or exam marks.


Dr Kasia Banas is a social psychologist interested in applying the social identity approach to the study of health behaviour and education. Kasia’s PhD project explored the role of salient social identities and social norms in shaping people’s healthy eating intentions and behaviour. Since then, Kasia has been investigating the way in which gender (and predominantly masculinity) norms are associated with health-relevant behaviour. Kasia’s current role at the University of Edinburgh involves a lot of teaching and curriculum development, and she has become interested in how social identification with the university and the subject studied is related to students’ wellbeing and educational achievement.