Workshop 4: Understanding Individual and Group Identities

For our fourth workshop, we invited JEDelve and it’s young people back to UCL’s Bloomsbury campus to wrap up our series of workshops. A key theme from the focus group interviews was the appreciation of having a social identity (and a safe space to belong) and the importance of disconnecting from devices to connect with each other.

Based on these themes, workshop 4 comprised of three main parts. First, Dr. Panos Rentzelas led a session focused on stereotypes, individual identities, and social identities. We then planned a visit to the Wellcome Collection to visit the exhibit about what it means to be human. Finally, a short tour through the nature on campus! The workshop began with the best icebreaker: lunch.

Lunch break with the young people

Panos is a Social Psychology lecturer at the UCL’s own Institute of Education (IOE), and one of my professors who taught me Social and Developmental Psychology this year. He has extensive research experience on social, cross-cultural (individualism and collectivism) and psychological effects of environments in education.

After filling up on some pizzas, Panos began his session in the IOE drama room. All of the young people listened intently. Firstly, he led us through an exploration of our individual identities through the use of an identity wheel. The young people were encouraged to identify different elements that shape themselves – ‘what defines us?’. Through discussions, the young people shared that what we often notice first in other people, and what other people notice first about us (e.g., clothing, what they wear, their hairstyle).

A key takeaway from this session was the difference between our self-perceptions and other people’s perceptions of us. Panos went on to explain the thought process behind stereotypes. When encountering something foreign, mental shortcuts are taken and people are grouped together to reduce the cognitive load of figuring a new person out. Interestingly, Panos told us that it was only after colonisations in the recent past that skin colour was even used to group individuals together.

As a first-generation immigrant himself, Panos’ personal story of coming to England from Greece gave us an insight to the stereotypes that he too, faces. We were then able to share our own stories on things that we have encountered. The group of young people had a divided opinion on the future of the world. Some thought that racism could be ended through more understanding of each other, while others were more pessimistic. The exercise was provocative and such an important topic of discussion – one that all of the young people dealt with with such maturity and understanding.

It was my absolute pleasure to be invited to lead a workshop on identity and stereotypes at the CopeWell project. In an interactive workshop, we had the opportunity to discuss how social psychology theory and research can help us understand the formation of stereotypes and how stereotypes impact our behaviour and understanding of who we are.

– Dr. Panos Rentzelas

After our morning of discussions, we then decided to stretch our legs a bit. The group went on a tour of other parts of campus that they couldn’t visit last time – this time to visit the “Being Human” gallery at the Wellcome Collection. The collection explores the concepts of trust, identity and health within the 21st century world. Expressed through art, the concepts of world pandemics are especially topical given today’s COVID-19 pandemic situation.

It was definitely a museum-kind of day. The young people’s spirits were not dampened by the weather. They were extremely interested in checking out both of the permanent exhibitions at the Wellcome Trust. One young person was pleasantly surprised that they could see and learn so much (including Jeremy Bentham’s hair) for free.

Dr. Keri Wong

To end the workshop, we took a walk through the nature available on campus as a mini ‘nature walk’. Although the weather was not at its best, the walk around campus still revealed glimpses of beauty. And we were all reminded that it is always good to stop and smell the roses – or trees – once in a while to avoid burnout.

Read on for workshop 5!

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