Identities in flux: Cognitive network activation in times of change

Tanya Menon*, Edward Bishop Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-130
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science Research
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Change
  • Cognitive network activation
  • Identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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