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Living in Multicultural Worlds


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Title: Living in Multicultural Worlds

Living in Multicultural Worlds
  • Research on acculturation is very important but
    difficult to do. Ideally, studying how people
    acquire new cultures would be conducted
    longitudinally, but this is rarely done.

  • People move to many different kinds of contexts -
    cultural ghettos, homogenous neighborhoods,
    expatriate communities, or cultures which
    actively discriminate against them.
  • Cultures vary in their similarity to peoples
    heritage culture.
  • Furthermore, people have different
    personalities, goals, and expectations that
    affect how they acculturate.
  • Hence, peoples experiences vary tremendously and
    there are few universal acculturation findings.

What Happens When People Move to a New Culture?
  • Moving to a new culture involves psychological
    adjustment, and psychological adjustment can
    often be associated with stress.
  • One common pattern of acculturation is captured
    by a U-shaped curve.

  • The U-shaped curve is quite common, although some
    people never experience the Honeymoon phase.
  • In more homogenous cultures the adjustment phase
    of the curve is sometimes not experienced. For
    example, one study of immigrants to Japan showed
    an L-shaped curve (Hsiao-Ying, 1995).

Who Adjusts Better?
  • There are many variables that predict how likely
    it is for a person to have an easier time
    acculturating to a particular culture.
  • A parallel phenomenon exists for learning another
  • Languages can be categorized by how recently they
    shared a common linguistic ancestor. Those which
    have a more recent common linguistic ancestor,
    are more similar in terms of their grammar and

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Average Scores on TOEFL by Native Tongue
Indo-European Languages
Other I-E
Non-Indo-European Languages
  • The more similar ones native tongue is to
    English, the easier it is to learn English.
  • Sojourners who have greater cultural distance
    from the host culture tend to show more distress,
    have more medical consultations, and have more
    difficulty in making friendships with people from
    the host culture.
  • For example, Malaysian exchange students who
    studied in culturally-similar Singapore showed
    more successful adjustment than those who studied
    in more culturally distant New Zealand (Ward
    Kennedy, 1995).

  • One example of this can be seen in Canada, by
    looking at the success that various First Nations
    tribes have adjusted since Western
    colonialization began.
  • Three distinct tribes were assessed in terms of
    their cultural similarity to Western culture, and
    in the hardships that they faced.

  • The Tsimshian of the Northwest BC coast
    traditionally relied largely on subsistence
    practices (mostly fishing) that allowed them to
    accumulate large quantities of food and establish
    permanent highly stratified settlements.

  • The Eastern Cree from Northern Quebec were
    migratory, did not accumulate many resources, and
    had little stratification.

  • The Carrier, of Northeastern BC were intermediate
    in terms of their resource accumulation, and
    social stratification.
  • Paralleling the cultural similarities with
    colonial culture, the Tsimshian acculturated to
    mainstream Canadian culture with the least
    acculturative stress, the Eastern Cree showed the
    most difficulties, and the Carrier were

  • An individuals personality is also predictive of
    their motivations to migrate elsewhere ands in
    their acculturative success.
  • Extraversion should foster acculturative success,
    because extraverts communicate more with others,
    and are thus socialized more quickly to new
    cultural norms.

  • Extraversion might universally predict who is
    more likely to move to new environments.
  • However, extraversion does not universally
    predict acculturation success. What is more
    important is whether the individuals personality
    matches with that of the dominant host culture.
  • Extraverts fare well in a largely extraverted
    culture, such as the US, but extraverts have more
    problems fitting in in less extraverted cultures,
    such as Singapore (see Armes Ward, 1989).

  • People vary in the acculturation strategies that
    they use.
  • The two key variables are how positive are
    peoples attitudes towards their host culture,
    and how positive are there attitudes towards
    their heritage culture.

  • However, research finds mixed evidence where both
    the integration and the assimilation strategy
    yield the most positive outcomes.

  • The marginalization strategy is the least
    common strategy, and it has the fewest positive
    outcomes. Some suggest that this really isnt a
    strategy, but reflects neuroticism.
  • Assimilation and separation strategies are
    intermediate in frequency.

  • Societies vary in the model of multiculturalism
    that they pursue.
  • What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses
    of these two models?

  • In the process of adapting to a new culture, one
    needs to begin to see things in a new way.
  • There can be some particular benefits to learning
    how to see things differently.

Do Multicultural Experiences Foster Creativity?
  • Creative insight might be fostered by adjusting
    to a new cultural environment, where you learn to
    see things differently. If you are used to
    looking at life from more than one perspective,
    you might be more likely to have creative
  • Many famous artists and writers had multicultural

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How could you attach the candle to the wall so
that it burns properly, and doesnt get wax on
the floor, using only these objects?
  • MBA students were more likely to solve the candle
    task if they had spent time living abroad (see
    Maddux Galinsky, in press).
  • An alternative explanation is that it might be
    that creative people are more likely to live
    abroad. That is, perhaps having a creative
    personality leads one to be more interested in
    adapting to new cultures.
  • To address this, its necessary to manipulate

  • To address this, in another study, multicultural
    people (i.e., MBA students who had lived in more
    than one culture) were randomly assigned to a
    number of conditions.
  • Participants in an Adaptation prime condition
    were asked to imagine adapting themselves to a
    foreign culture.
  • In an Observation prime condition, participants
    were asked to imagine observing a foreign
  • And participants in a control condition received
    no priming materials.
  • In the creativity task, participants were asked
    to draw an alien. They were to imagine they had
    gone to a planet very different from earth.
  • Coders rated the similarity to earth creatures
    and the number of sensory atypicalities.

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Creativity of Alien Drawings
  • Participants who thought about adapting to a new
    culture were more creative in their drawings
    compared to the other conditions.
  • Thinking about observing another culture didnt
    yield the same effects. It seems to be that
    adaptation to other cultures is what is key to
    enhanced creativity.

Rated Creativity
  • Adapting to a new culture is not only associated
    with positive outcomes.
  • One way that acculturation can be negative, is
    when immigrants come to pick up the less
    desirable characteristics of a culture.
  • Many immigrants live in the poorest
    neighborhoods. The crime rate and the drop-out
    rate in these neighborhoods can be quite high.
  • Ironically, those immigrants who are especially
    adept at fitting in with their new surroundings,
    are more likely to drop out of school and engage
    in criminal activities.

Obesity of Americans
  • Immigrants adapt to American life in a number of
    ways. The longer theyve lived in the US, the
    more likely they are to have picked up the eating
    habits and resulting obesity levels.

Percentage Obese
Recent Long-Term
National Immigrants Immigrants Average
  • Some of the effects of discrimination are direct.
    People might not get hired, banks might not lend
    money, and they might be the victim of harassment
    and violence.
  • Other harmful effects of discrimination are more
    indirect. People may internalize stereotypes,
    which shape their expectations, and ultimately
    come to act in ways consistent with those
  • Stereotype threat is the fear that one might
    confirm a negative stereotype about ones group
    (see Steele Aronson, 1995).

  • Stereotype threat is a powerful explanation for
    the persistence of negative outcomes among
    minorities who are discriminated against.
  • For example, African-Americans underperform
    European-Americans at university, even after
    controlling for their level of preparation.
  • Stereotype threat explains this because of the
    negative stereotype that exists about
    African-American academic performance. Whenever
    an African-American student encounters a
    difficult academic challenge, they will be
    reminded of the negative stereotype. This leads
    to worse performance, so in the end, the student
    has proven the stereotype.
  • Much research shows how subtle reminders of ones
    group can activate stereotype threat.

  • One classic study by Steele and Aronson had
    African-American and European-American students
    at Stanford take the GRE verbal test.
  • In one condition they took the test as is, in
    another condition, they took the test after first
    checking a box to indicate their race.
  • African-American students answered fewer items
    correctly when they were asked to indicate their
    race compared with when they were not.
  • European-Americans performance was unaffected by
    indicating their race.
  • Subtle primes can elicit stereotype threat and
    have dramatic consequences.

  • There have been various efforts made to reduce
    stereotype threat.
  • For example, just being aware of the existence of
    stereotype threat reduces its impact (Johns,
    Schmader, Martens, 2005).
  • We conducted a study to investigate whether the
    perceived source of a stereotype influences its
    ability to impair performance (Dar-Nimrod
    Heine, 2006).
  • One common negative stereotype is that women
    struggle with math.
  • We investigated whether women would have more
    difficulty with math if they learned that the
    source of the stereotype was due to genetic
    factors or to experiential factors.

  • We randomly assigned UBC female students into one
    of four conditions
  • Control condition, where they learned that there
    are no sex differences in math.
  • Standard Stereotype Threat condition, where
    they were reminded of their sex.
  • Genetic Account condition, where they were
    informed that scientists had identified math
    genes on the Y chromosome.
  • Experiential Account condition, where they were
    informed that scientists had discovered that
    childrens early experiences with teachers
    provided boys and girls with different math
  • We then gave them a very difficult math test and
    assessed how many questions they correctly

Womens Math Performance
  • Women who were reminded of their sex performed
    worse than a control condition.
  • Women who were informed of genetic accounts of
    math performance and sex performed the same as
    those who were just reminded of their sex. This
    suggests that womens default way of explaining
    sex differences in math is genetic.
  • Women who were informed of experiential accounts
    did not show any stereotype threat. Apparently,
    people feel that they can overcome their
  • If these results can be generalized, they suggest
    that the harmful effects of stereotype threat
    across races is because people view racial
    differences in genetic terms.

Number of Correct Answers
Standard Stereotype Threat
Multicultural People
  • If peoples self-concepts and ways of thinking
    are shaped by their cultural experiences, then
    what kind of self-concept do people have who live
    in more than one culture?
  • There are two ways that multicultural experiences
    impact the self-concept, and there is some
    evidence for both.
  • Blending - Peoples self-concepts reflect a
    hybrid of their two cultural worlds.
  • Frame-switching - People maintain multiple
    self-concepts and switch between them depending
    on context.

Evidence for Blending
  • Do the self-concepts of multicultural people look
    intermediate between the self-concepts of
    monocultural people from different cultures?
  • In most cases, the answer appears to be Yes.
    For example, Asian-Americans show evidence of
    ways of thinking in between those of Americans
    and Asians for a wide variety of phenomena.
  • We have investigated the self-esteem of people
    with exposure to both Canadian and East Asian

Self-Esteem Change After 7 months
  • In one study we assessed the self-esteem of
    people longitudinally across two points in time
    prior to moving to a new culture and then again 7
    months after moving.
  • When Japanese had lived in Canada for 7 months,
    their self-esteem increased significantly over
    that period.
  • In contrast, when Canadians had lived in Japan
    for 7 months, their self-esteem decreased
    significantly over that period.

  • In another study we compared the self-esteem of
    people with exposure to East Asian and Canadian
    culture cross-sectionally.
  • We had a very large sample (about 5000) that we
    divided in terms of peoples exposure to North
    American culture along a continuum. Starting
    with the least exposure we had
  • Never Been-Abroad Japanese, who had never left
  • Been-Abroad Japanese, who had spent some time
    in the West.
  • Recent East Asian Immigrants, who had been in
    North America for less than 7 years.
  • Long-Term East Asian Immigrants, who had been in
    North America for more than 7 years.
  • 2nd-Generation East Asian Canadians.
  • 3rd-Generation East Asian Canadians
  • European-Canadians

Self-Esteem and Exposure to North American Culture
  • Never Been-Abroad Japanese have self-esteem
    scores that approach the midpoint of the scale,
    whereas the self-esteem of European-Canadians is
    much higher.
  • With increasing exposure to North American
    culture the self-esteem of East Asians increases
  • The self-esteem of 3rd Generation Asian-Canadians
    is indistinguishable from European-Canadians. If
    this result can be generalized, it suggests that
    three generations is necessary for complete

Self-Esteem Scores
Evidence for Frame-Switching
  • Rather than blending two self-concepts, an
    alternative account is that people switch between
    two different self-concepts.
  • The blending evidence might reflects the
    proportion of individuals who are currently
    thinking in a Western style or in an East Asian
  • Evidence of frame-switching is clear in language.
    Bilinguals do not speak a blended language like
    Spanglish. Rather, they switch between speaking
    in Spanish and speaking in English, depending on
  • There is much evidence for frame-switching.

  • For example, the sociologist Elijah Anderson
    describes how inner-city African-Americans need
    to switch between the code of the decent and
    the code of the street. Different contexts
    require different ways of speaking and
    interacting with people.
  • This demonstrates that people are responsive to
    contextual cues about how they act and present
    themselves to others.
  • Does frame-switching extend to domains that are
    unrelated to self-presentation? Do people switch
    between different ways of thinking that might not
    be conscious to them?

  • One study investigated whether biculturals would
    show thinking styles more characteristic of their
    two cultures if they were primed with cultural
    ideas (Hong et al., 2000).
  • Students from Hong Kong were shown images that
    were either neutral, or primed Western ideas, or
    Chinese ideas.
  • They were asked why is the front fish swimming
    ahead of the others? Is it something about the
    fish (internal attribution) or about the school

Explaining the Behavior of Fish
  • Participants who saw American primes were less
    likely to explain the fishs behavior in terms of
    the group of fish compared with the other
  • Participants who saw Chinese primes were more
    likely to make external attributions for the
    fishs behavior compared with the other
  • Apparently, the Hong Kong participants have
    access to both Western and non-Western ways of
    making sense of the fishs behavior, and which
    one they use depends on which cultural context
    has been activated for them.

Likelihood of Making an External Attribution
  • Other kinds of primes have shown similar evidence
    for frame-switching.
  • In particular, the language of the study appears
    to effectively prime different cultural thoughts
    among bilinguals.
  • When bilinguals switch languages they also appear
    to be switching their self-concepts as well.
  • These studies raise the question of whether
    biculturals are the only ones who show
  • Indeed, much research finds that priming ideas in
    anyone, monocultural or multicultural, leads to
    the activation of associated networks. However,
    multicultural people show more pronounced

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