IN SUGGESTING we have more in common with our neighbours than we might think, Allan Massie (Perspective, 12 February) is describing what psychologists call social identity theory, originally suggested by Henri Tajfel, a French-Jewish academic who had to hide his real identity as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany.
Mr Tajfel believed that we all to an extent get our feelings of self-esteem from the group we belong to, and we compare our group with other groups in a way that “our” group will look good – suggesting that Scots are more democratic and English are more elitist, for example.
If positive group distinctiveness is challenged, the group will stress its differences even more, to the extent of becoming hostile towards similar groups.
In stressing their views for and against independence, it’s to be hoped both sides in the debate will use rational arguments rather than exploiting the irrational.
(Dr) Mary Brown