DOI: 10.17689/psy-2015.2.3

 

УДК 159.9

 

 

The Relationship Between Ethnic

Identity and Reactions to Cultural Change

 

© 2015  Stephanie A. Quezada*

*Department of Psychology University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, (El Paso, TX, USA), squezada2@miners.utep.edu

 

Annotation. The Latino population in the United States is rapidly increasing. This increase produces cultural change, and the cultural inertia model suggests that cultural change is resisted if one's cultural identity must change. The present study investigates the role of ethnic identification in Latinos’ reactions to pressures to assimilate to mainstream American culture. Perceptions of cultural change were manipulated and prejudice toward White Americans, support for prominority legislation, and individual differences in collective selfesteem and openness to cultural change were measured. When biased to believe that their culture will have to change, Latinos high in collective self-esteem expressed greater prejudice toward White Americans and stronger political advocacy for Latino culture. These results support the cultural inertia model and make recommendations for how to improve intergroup relations

Keywords: culture, prejudice, identity, cultural inertia

 

Отношение между этнической идентичностью и реакциями на культурные изменения

© 2015 Стефани А. Кесада*
*Факультет психологии Техасского университета в Эль-Пасо, (г. Эль-Пасо, Техас , США), squezada2@miners.utep.edu


Аннотация. Популяция латиноамериканцев в Соединенных Штатах стремительно растет. Это увеличение производит культурные изменения, и культурная модель предполагает, что инерция культурных изменений присутствует у тех, чья культурная идентичность должна измениться. Настоящее исследование посвящено изучению роли этнической идентификации в реакциях латиноамериканцев на давление массовой американской культуры. Восприятие культурных изменений было предвзято по отношению к белым американцам, учитывались  индивидуальные различия в коллективной самооценке и открытость к культурным изменениям. Испытуемые латиноамериканцы с высокой коллективной самооценкой выражают большие предубеждения к белым американцам и считают, что их культуре предстоят изменения. Полученные результаты подтверждают культурную модель инерции и дают рекомендации о том, как улучшить межгрупповые отношения.

Ключевые слова: культура, предрассудки, самобытность, культурная инерция

 

 

 

Ethnic minority populations are rapidly increasing in the United States. Among the minority populations in the country, Latinos form the largest ethnic group (Ennis. Rios-Vargas, & Albert, 2011). This represents a shift in the “face of America” which shows no signs of abating. By 2050, approximately 133 million Latinos will be living in the United States, comprising approximately 30% of the country’s population (US Census Bureau, 2009). Because of the growing minority population, it is critical to understand how cultural change affects group identities.

As demographic shifts occur, societies are confronted with cultural change. In some areas across the US, the White American population has in fact become the minority. Communities are confronted with more diverse popu­lations in schools, the legal system, and in places of worship. Within this context, one key issue is whether ethnic minority groups should change to adapt to the norms of the mainstream culture, or whether ethnic minority groups should maintain cultural distinctiveness. Two cultural ide­ologies that characterize broad views on cultural integra­tion include assimilation and multiculturalism. Assimilation proposes that individuals relinquish a subordinate identity to adopt the common identity of mainstream society (Berry, 1984). Multiculturalism, on the other hand, proposes that individuals maintain a subordinate identity in a diverse society (Berry, 1984). The goal of these two ideologies and the importance of ethnic identity provide a framework for understanding and reducing negative reactions to cultural change.

Opposing Implications of Assimilation and Multiculturalism. Within an assimilation framework, a cohesive bond be­tween distinct groups is produced through a common set of norms and rules. Groups that were previously seen as distinct are now seen as one larger and more encompassing group. Ideally, similarity breeds cohesiveness. The implications of an assimilation ideology, however, differ as a function of where one stands in relation to current cultural norms. Assimilation ideologies are based on the premise that intergroup conflict between ethnic majority and minority groups is reduced when ethnic minority groups increase their cultural identification to adapt to the norms and values of the mainstream culture. Assimilation is effective at reducing intergroup tensions because the threat that is caused by cultural disparities is eliminated when distinctive cultural identities are re­placed with one aggregate identity (Gaertner, Dovidio, & Bachman, 1996).

In contrast to assimilation ideologies, multicultural ideologies promote ethnic diversity and suggest that cul­tural distinctiveness between ethnic groups should be maintained. Within a multicultural framework, intergroup tensions are reduced when diversity is appreciated. Societies have a wider set of tools and skills to confront new problems when the population is comprised of dis­tinct identities. Multicultural ideologies are based on the premise that intergroup conflict between ethnic majority and minority groups is reduced when ethnic minority groups retain their cultural distinctiveness. Multiculturalism is effective at reducing intergroup tensions because positive cultural distinctiveness prevents outgroups from being perceived as a threat to the ingroup’s values and norms (Hewstone & Brown, 1986).

The Importance of Ethnic Identification. While assimilation and multicultural ideologies have the same goal of reducing intergroup conflict, they also have opposing implications for the ethnic identity of ethnic majority and minority group members (Zarate & Shaw, 2010). The cultural inertia model aims to unify these im­plications. Cultural inertia is defined as the desire to avoid cultural change, or, conversely, the desire for cul­tural change once change is already occurring (Zarate Shaw, Marquez & Biagas, 2012). Unifying predictions can be made from the cultural inertia model about the way minority and majority groups will respond to cultural change. Assimilation and multiculturalism are desir­able if they are culturally affirming and imply the least amount of change for one’s cultural identity. Conversely, assimilation and multiculturalism are resisted when they are culturally threatening and imply change for one’s cul­tural identity. Thus, the extent to which individuals perceive they have to change will determine whether assim­ilation and multiculturalism can successfully reduce intergroup conflict.

Within the context of US intergroup relations, this suggests that assimilation and multiculturalism imply different things for different groups. Assimilation implies that, in order to adapt, the Latino population in the United States should relinquish their identity with Latino culture, change their cultural practices to assimilate to the dominant culture, and increase their identification with mainstream American culture. White Americans do not experience significant change in an assimilation context. In contrast, multiculturalism implies that the increasing Latino population in the United States should retain their Latino identity and maintain their native cultural values and norms. White Americans experience more change in a multicultural context because they must change their perception of mainstream American culture to be inclu­sive of other non-White American cultures. Altogether, multiculturalism allows members of the dominant culture to retain their majority identity and change their percep­tion of American culture, while assimilation requires members of the minority culture to relinquish their mi­nority identity and change their cultural practices. In gen­eral, change is resisted or resented by majority and mi­nority group members. Two expressions of resistance and resentment are heightened ingroup protective motives and prejudice toward ethnic outgroups, respectively (Za­rate & Shaw, 2010).

Cultural Inertia and Ethnic Minority Identity. Based on the cultural inertia model, ethnic minority groups should prefer multiculturalism because their ethnic identity changes less to assimilate to the dominant culture. Re­search conducted by Crisp, Stone, and Hall (2006) tested the extent to which group identity influences whether as­similation or multiculturalism is successful at reducing in­tergroup tensions. Across three experiments, participants were randomly assigned to a re-categorization condition or control condition. The recategorization condition repre­sented the common ingroup identity model, and partici­pants were biased to believe they were participating in a merger to form an aggregate identity. Consistently, partic­ipants expressed greater intergroup bias in the recategorization condition. Crisp et al. (2006) argued that the impor­tance of group identity may explain why the mutual inter­group differentiation model, rather than the common ingroup identity model, reduced intergroup bias.

Additional research conducted by Wolsko, Park, and Judd (2006) suggested that multiculturalism reduces inter­group conflict by ensuring ethnic minorities’ identities are valued. Across two separate studies, participants complet­ed a series of questions about their endorsement of multi­culturalism and assimilation, their level of identification with their ethnic group (Collective Self-Esteem; Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992), and their support for public policy. Eth­nic minorities who were high in collective self-esteem ex­pressed greater endorsement of multiculturalism. Further­more, the extent to which ethnic minorities supported prominority public policy was positively associated with greater endorsement of multiculturalism. These findings suggest that ethnic identity is more important for ethnic minorities than for members of the ethnic majority. Thus, when the ethnic identity of ethnic minorities is protected, they express less hostility toward members of the dominant culture. In this way, from a minority perspective, multicul­turalism is effective at reducing intergroup conflict (Wol­sko et al., 2006).

The findings reported by Crisp et al. (2006) and Wolsko et al. (2006) are supported by research on the “need for distinctiveness” (Zarate & Garza, 2002). In a representative study, participants were asked to make similarity or differ­ence ratings between the ethnic ingroup and an ethnic out­group. Participants were also asked to complete a measure of self-affirmation. Results indicated that, relative to when similarities were made salient, participants who self-af­firmed and made difference ratings expressed less preju­dice toward ethnic outgroups. In another study, the individ­ual difference measure of “need for distinctiveness,” was included. Individuals who were high in the need for dis­tinctiveness characterized their self-identity as distinct when the self was highlighted with group distinctiveness. Results indicated that participants who focused on self- awareness and group distinctiveness expressed less preju­dice toward ethnic outgroups. Additional analyses indicated that threats to a group’s distinctiveness promoted preju­dice.

These findings show how maintaining cultural distinctiveness affirms one’s social identity. When cultural groups were given the opportunity to retain native norms and val­ues, they did not feel threatened by cultural outgroups. More broadly, these data may suggest that ethnic minority groups prefer multiculturalism because it implies the least amount of change to their cultural identity.

Cultural Inertia and Ethnic Majority Identity. Based on the cultural inertia model, ethnic majority groups should prefer assimilation because their ethnic identity changes less to accommodate ethnic minorities. Research conducted by Morrison, Plaut, and Ybarra (2010) investi­gated the effect of multiculturalism on the identity of the majority ethnic group. Across two separate studies, White participants were exposed to material about multicultural­ism. Participants who highly identified with White Amer­ican culture expressed greater social dominance orientation and greater prejudice toward minority outgroups when bi­ased to perceive a multicultural context. These findings suggest that multiculturalism increases intergroup conflict when the ethnic identity of the majority ethnic group be­comes threatened (Morrison et al., 2010).

These findings show how cultural change is resisted when it implies a threat to one’s cultural identity. When individuals highly identify with their native culture, the re­sistance to change is expressed through increased inter­group conflict and greater prejudice toward ethnic out­groups. More broadly, these data suggest that ethnic major­ity groups prefer assimilation because it implies the least amount of change to their cultural identity. Moreover, de­gree of ethnic identification appears to be an important moderator. From a cultural inertia standpoint, this suggests that high ethnic identification implies greater change to ac­commodate an ethnic outgroup.

Present Study. The research conducted by Morrison et al. (2010) directly investigated the extent to which multiculturalism threatens the ethnic identity of majority group members. Research­ers, however, have not investigated the extent to which as­similation threatens and multiculturalism affirms the ethnic identity of minority group members. The present study ex­tends the cultural inertia model by measuring members of a minority group’s reactions to pressures from the majority group to assimilate to the majority culture. Research on the cultural inertia model also predicts that the effects of cul­tural inertia will be magnified for people with a strong eth­nic identity. Therefore, this study focuses on Latinos’ reac­tions to pressures to change and assimilate to mainstream U. S. culture and the role of group identification in this ef fect. It is predicted that, for Latinos who highly identify with Latino culture:

Hypothesis 1 (HI): the perception that Latinos will have to change to accommodate mainstream US culture increases prejudice toward White Americans,

Hypothesis 2 (H2): the perception that Latinos will have to change to accommodate mainstream US culture increases political advocacy for Latino culture.

Method. Participants. Latino students who self-identified as US citizens (N = 74) were recruited from introductory Psychology courses at the University of Texas at El Paso. Latino students self-identi­fied as Mexican-American (71.23%), Hispanic/Latino (16.44%). Hispanic and Caucasian (5.48%), and Mexican (6.85%). The final sample included 46 females (62.16%) and 28 males (37.84%) with an average age of 21 years (M = 20.70, SD = 3.73).

Design. The present study was a single-factor design (perception of cultural change) with three levels (White Americans changing to accommodate Latinos vs. Latinos changing to accommodate White Americans vs. control) and prejudice toward White Americans as a dependent variable. Collec­tive self-esteem and openness to cultural change were in­cluded as moderator variables in the design.

Materials and Procedure. Upon arriving at the laboratory, participants read and signed a consent form that described the study as an exper­iment investigating attitudes about culture and current events in the United States.

Cultural Change Manipulation. After giving consent, participants read an article that pre­sented opposing viewpoints about cultural change in the United States caused by the increasing Latino population. All participants read the same article. In the article, one viewpoint argued that mainstream American culture is changing to accommodate ethnic minorities. The opposing viewpoint argued that ethnic minorities are changing to as­similate to mainstream American culture. This provided positive endpoints for either integration perspective. After participants read the article, they were assigned to one of three conditions that were designed to bias participants to believe that:

  1. White Americans are changing to accommodate Latinos;
  2. Latinos are changing to accommodate White Americans; or
  3. White Americans and Latinos are not changing.

These three bias conditions were manipulated by presenting participants with one of three contrived rating scales for assessing cultural change.

Participants were asked to use the scale to rate their attitudes on 12 items. For example, participants were presented with an item such as, “How are the beliefs and values of this country changing as a function of the mix of traditional US culture and Latino culture?” (Zarate et al., 2012). Participants in the “White Americans are changing” condition responded to this item on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 = U.S. culture is changing somewhat to 7 = U.S. culture is changing dramatically. (The scale for the White Americans change condition did not include a “U.S. is not changing at all” response.) Participants in the “Latinos are changing” condition responded on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 = U.S. culture is staying the same to 7 = U. S. culture is changing somewhat. (The scale for the Latinos change condition did not include a “U.S. culture is changing dramatically” response.) In the “Latinos are changing” condition, the endpoints complemented the article read by participants, which implied that Latinos are changing if US culture is not changing. Participants in the control condition were given a fourteen-point scale ranging from 1 = U.S. culture is staying the same to 14 = U.S. culture is changing dramatically. Thus, participants in the “White Americans are changing” condition were given a scale biasing them to perceive dramatic change in US culture; participants in the “Latinos are changing” condition were given a scale that biased them to perceive little change in US culture; and participants in the control condition used an unbiasing scale representing a full range of possible responses. This manipulation has been shown to effectively manipulate participants’ perceptions that US culture is, or is not, changing (Carpenter, Zarate, & Garza, 2007; Zarate & Garza, 2002; Zarate, Garcia, Garza, & Hitlan, 2004). The actual responses to the twelve items were of no consequence and were not analyzed.

Prejudice Toward White Americans. To measure the extent to which Latinos express prejudice toward White Americans, participants completed a preju­dice measure developed by Stephan, Ybarra, and Bachman (1999). Participants responded to the statement “My atti­tude toward White Americans is:” by rating six positive emotions (e.g., admiration) and six negative emotions (e.g., hostility) on a 10-point scale (0 = no [hostility] at all, 9 = extreme [hostility']). The Cronbach’s a for this measure was a = .82 in this sample.

Political Advocacy. Political advocacy was operationalized as the extent to which participants supported pro-minority legislation. Par­ticipants rated six legislation items, such as “To make a national holiday in honor of Cesar E. Chavez,” that were developed specifically for the present study (see Appen­dix). The Cronbach’s a for the six items was a = .44 in this sample. This low internal consistency was slightly im­proved by removing one of the six legislation items from the measure. The removed item was reverse-scored and stated: “The President should immediately call for the en­forcement of laws to maintain U. S. cultural heritage.”

The Cronbach’s a for the remaining five items was a = .55. The five items were scored such that greater endorse­ment for each item indicated greater support for pro-minor­ity legislation. The pro-minority legislation items were de­veloped to measure the extent to which Latinos would pro­tect their ingroup by supporting pro-minority legislation. Thus, the five items with the highest internal consistency were included as the dependent variable in the analyses for the second set of hypotheses. As shown in the Appendix, legislation was rated along an eight-point scale (1 = not likely to support this act, 8 = very likely to support this act). To control for potential carry-over effects, the order of the prejudice toward White Americans measure and the pro­minority legislation measure was counterbalanced across conditions.

Collective Self-Esteem. The extent to which participants identify with Latino cul­ture was measured with Luhtanen and Crocker’s (1992) Collective Self-Esteem Scale. Participants completed 16 items, such as “I am a worthy member of the group I belong to.” along a seven-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). The Cronbach’s a for this measure was a = .80. ’

The present study investigates Latinos’ internal commit­ment to their cultural identity. Therefore, the membership esteem, private collective self-esteem, and importance to identity subscales of the collective self-esteem scale were included in all analyses, and the public collective self-es­teem subscale was removed. The Cronbach’s a was oc = .79 for the membership esteem, private collective self-esteem, and importance to identity subscales.

Attitude and Behavioral Openness. The Attitude and Behavioral Openness Scale (Caligiuri, Ja­cobs, & Farr, 2000) was used to measure individual differences in openness to cultural change. Participants rated seven items that measured attitudes toward international travel along a five-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). A sample item is: “Traveling the world is a priority in my life.” The Cronbach’s a for the internation­al travel subscale of the measure was a = .66 in this sample.

In addition to international travel, participants rated their attitudes toward domestic travel. Participants completed six items, such as “I travel within the United States.” along a five-point scale (1 = never, 5 = frequently) (a = .60). The b  Cronbach’s a for the entire measure was a = .74 in this sample.

Demographics. At the end of the study, participants responded to questions about their age, sex, whether the participant was a US cit­izen, place of birth, ethnicity, class rank, and political party affiliation. Afterwards, participants were debriefed and thanked for their participation.

Results. The present study examines the extent to which Latinos with a strong ingroup identity react to pressures from the outgroup to change. We used a multiple regression to test the extent to which stronger identification with Latino cul­ture relates to prejudice and support for pro-minority leg­islation as a function of whether Latinos believe they have to change to assimilate to mainstream American culture. To ensure that variability in the dependent variables was at­ tributable to the change manipulation rather than individual differences in openness to new experiences, each regres­sion model controlled for attitude and behavioral openness.

Hypothesis 1: Prejudice Toward White Americans. Based on the cultural inertia model, we predicted that bi­asing Latinos high in ethnic identification to believe they have to change to accommodate White Americans increas­es prejudice toward White Americans; and biasing Latinos high in ethnic identification to believe that White Ameri­cans are changing to accommodate Latino culture decreas­es prejudice toward White Americans.

To test this model, prejudice toward White Americans was regressed on a Change Condition (White Americans changing to accommodate Latinos vs. Latinos changing to accommodate White Americans vs. control) x Collective Self-Esteem interaction, where openness to new experienc­es was controlled. The general linear model was used for this analysis and the experimental manipulation retained its three levels as a “condition” variable. Overall, the variables in this model did not account for a significant proportion of variance in prejudice toward White Americans, R2 = . 14, F(6, 67) = 1.83, ns. The results did not yield significant main effects for the change condition, F(2, 67) = 0.31, ns or collective self-esteem, F(l, 67) = 1.05, ns.

The predicted interaction between change condition and collective self-esteem, however, was statistically significant, which indicates that the relationship between strength of eth­nic identification and prejudice toward White Americans dif­fers as a function of perceived cultural change, F(2, 67) = 3.32,p = .042. Separate general linear models were conduct- ed to contrast the specific differences across change condi­tions. As predicted, relative to the “White Americans are changing” condition, in the “Latinos are changing” condition, strength of identification with Latino culture related to greater prejudice toward White Americans, b = 0.84, SE = 0.32, t{46) = 2.61,p = .01 (Figure 1). Prejudice in the “Latinos are chang­ing” condition did not significantly differ from the control condition, b = -0.49, SE = 0.32, r(42) = -1.53, ns, and preju­dice in the “White Americans are changing” condition did not significantly differ from the control condition, b = 036,SE = 0.32, t(45) = 1.12, ns.

Hypothesis 2: Support for Pro-minority Legislation. Based on the cultural inertia model, we predicted that bi­asing Latinos high in ethnic identification to believe they have to change to accommodate White Americans increas­es support for pro-minority legislation; and biasing Latinos high in ethnic identification to believe that White Ameri­cans are changing to accommodate Latinos decreases sup­port for pro-minority legislation.

To test this model, support for pro-minority legislation was regressed on a Change Condition (White Americans changing to accommodate Latinos vs. Latinos changing to accommodate White Americans vs. control) x Collective Self-Esteem interaction, where openness to new experienc­es was controlled. The general linear model was used for this analysis and the experimental manipulation retained its three levels as a “condition” variable. Overall, the variables in this model accounted for a significant proportion of vari­ance in support for pro-minority legislation, R2 = .30, F(6, 67) = 4.76, p = .0004. While the results did not show a significant main effect for change condition, F(2, 67) =2.16, ns, the results showed a main effect for collective self-esteem, F(l, 67) = 16.34,/? = .0001 (Figure 2). Across all conditions, Latinos high in ethnic identification were more likely to support pro-minority legislation, b = 0.43, SF = 0.11.

The interaction between change condition and collective self-esteem was also marginally significant, suggesting that strength of ethnic identification is differentially associated with support for pro-minority legislation across conditions, F(2,67) = 3.08,/? = .053. Separate general linear models were conducted to contrast the specific differences across change conditions. Relative to the “White Americans are changing” condition, strength of identification with Latino culture relat­ed to significantly more support for pro-minority legislation in the control condition, b = 0.60, SE = 0.25, f(45) = 2.37, p = .022. Thus, believing that other ethnic groups are changing to support your culture appears to reduce ingroup protective motives. Contrary to the hypotheses, relative to the “Latinos are changing” condition, strength of identification with Lati­no culture related to moderately more support for pro-minor­ity legislation in the control condition, b - 0.47, SE = 0.26, f(42) = 1.80, p = .079 (Figure 2). Support for pro-minority legislation did not significantly differ between the “White Americans are changing” and “Latinos are changing” condi­tions, Z? = 0.13, SE = 0.26, *(46) = 0.51, ns