What is it about?

We have all been confronted with identity threats, experiences in which we feel that “who we are” is under attack. Since this experience is so common, researchers have tried to understand it better by looking at what triggers identity threats and how people respond to them. However, prior research was based on surveys and questionnaires that had not been rigorously validated. In this paper, we developed and validated survey questions that measure individuals’ perceptions of three types of identity threat: threat to the value, the meanings, and the enactment of an identity. To show that our measures work well, we studied how technological changes can threaten teachers’ professional identity, how workplace experiences such as colleagues’ condescending comments and an overly masculine workplace culture can threaten the leader identity of pregnant women, and how discrimination and microaggressions at work can threaten the identities of members of the LGBTQ community. Across our studies, the experience of identity threat tends to leave people more exhausted and more likely to think about “getting out”. For example, pregnant women in leadership position who experience identity threat are more likely to think about giving up their leadership position, and members of the LGBTQ community who experience identity threat may think about quitting. There is much more still to learn about how identity threat happens and what its consequences are. Our questionnaire can be used by researchers and practitioners alike, and our hope is that it will help people who are dealing with this pervasive experience.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Developing and validating survey items is important because it allows researchers to put their theories to test. When there are no standard, validated measures, researchers cannot test their theoretical propositions, which generally yields skepticism from both scientific and non-scientific audiences.


I am proud to see that this paper, which is partly based on my Ph.D. dissertation, is now published. I strongly believe in its potential to help researchers and practitioners. Researchers interested in identity can easily use our measure. As for practitioners, for example, managers who are looking to implement a change initiative, they can use our measure to gauge identity threat before and after the initiative. I hope people will find this article useful.

Mailys George
EDHEC Business School

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: When “who I am” is under threat: Measures of threat to identity value, meanings, and enactment., Journal of Applied Psychology, July 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/apl0001114.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page