What Is Salient Identity?


A person has a number of identities. The same person plays the role of a parent, child and maybe a member of a particular religious congregation. Everybody is also part of a particular ethnic group and is characterized by other identity factors, such as gender and sexual preference. Salient identity is a concept that makes sense of how a person responds to different situations, considering these multiple identities.

Salient Identity

  • A person's salient identity is the identity that comes into play in a specific situation. Someone's salient identity changes depending on the situation. What identity comes into play in a specific situation depends on factors such as the level of commitment a person has to a particular identity. There are qualitative and quantitative characteristics to commitment.


  • When a person shares a certain identity with a greater number of people, his commitment to that identity tends to be higher. This is the quantitative aspect of the commitment to an identity. If a person shares deeper ties with people that she shares a particular identity with, this identity is likely to be more salient.

Salience Hierarchy

  • The higher the level of commitment a person has to a particular social identity, the higher the level it occupies on the person's salience hierarchy. For instance, if a woman has a large social network and a network that matters to her, based on her role as a wife, she is likely to place her identity as a wife high up on her salience hierarchy. This salient identity is likely to come into play more number of times than her other identities.


  • People tend to respond in different ways depending on how their salient identity is activated. Marketers could get consumers to respond favorably to their goods by activating a particular salient identity. For instance, they could appeal to feminine characteristics in marketing certain goods, bringing the female salient identity into play or advertise certain goods to appeal to African-Americans or Asian-Americans, bringing their ethnic salient identities into play.

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