My notion of identity has varied from a psychological construct that is formed over time (Maslow, Hoffer) to an interactive neural network of agents (Minsky) to a stage in an interactive rhetorical process (Kenneth Burke). This latter process of identification is currently of most interest to me. Burke’s categories of identification can be described as follows:
Intelligent beings have a symbolic understanding of themselves and of each other, and share knowledge through positively aligning their personal symbol-systems with the symbol-systems of others. Kenneth Burke calls the process of creating agreement based on meaning consubstantiation.
Another way that individuals can identify with one another is through agreement of purpose, such as in the process of anti-thesis, or “…the creation of identification among opposing entities on the basis of a common enemy” (192).
A final type of identification involves the intentional but indirect application of sympathetic symbols in order to favorably predispose the audience to the rhetor, and thus to the otherwise unrelated symbols presented along with the sympathetic ones.