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Intergroup ideology

Dr. Simon Moss


In some countries or organizations, people are encouraged to dismiss differences between various races, ethnicities, or groups, called a color blind ideology. That is, they are persuaded to focus their attention on qualities that everyone shares. They strive to "look beyond skin color", "understand the person within", and recognize that "at the core, we really are all the same" (Vorauer, Gagnon, & Sasaki, 2009). They often believe that everyone should assimilitate and embrace the same set of values and standards.

In other countries or organizations, people are instead encouraged to embrace the differences between various races, ethnicities, or groups, called a multicultural ideology. They are invited to recognize that differences across collectives enable a diversity of perspectives, contributing to the growth, progress, and richness of society. These individuals recognize that "each ethnic group...can contribute in its own way" and "different cultural groups bring different perspectives to life". They do not embrace assimilation.

These ideologies greatly affect the behavior and cognitions of individuals (for a review, see Apfelbaum, Norton, & Sommers, 2012). For example, when people adopt a color blind rather than multicultural ideology, they tend to feel more prejudiced towards a member of a minority, unless this person diverges from the stereotypes of their group. They do not engage with people from other races or groups as vigorously. They also focus their attention more on their immediate duties and needs instead of future aspirations or opportunities to learn.

Consequences of these intergroup ideologies

Mundane interactions with members of minorities

Vorauer, Gagnon, and Sasak (2009) showed that a color blind, rather than multicultural, ideology tended to impede the ability of people to interact effectively with members of other races and ethnicities. That is, after people read about the benefits of a color blind ideology, and then interact with a member of another race, they report more negative emotions.

Nevertheless, the color blind ideology might not always impede interactions with other ethnicities. That is, in some instances, a multicultural ideology can provoke unfavorable perceptions of minorities. In particular, as Gutierrez and Unzueta (2010) showed, if people adopt a multicultural ideology, they tend to prefer minority individuals who align with stereotypes, such as an African American who enjoys basketball. That is, they embrace the diversity that a multicultural ideology epitomizes. In contrast, if people adopt a color blind ideology, they tend to prefer minority individuals who counter stereotypes, such as an African American who enjoys surfing. That is, they like people who can align to mainstream inclinations. Therefore, a minority individual who counters stereotypes may be liked more by someone who embraces a color blind ideology instead of a multicultural ideology.

Conflicts with members of minorities

As Vorauer and Sasaki (2011) showed, a multicultural perspective can sometimes provoke hostile reactions, instead of indifference, to members of other groups. Specifically, individuals who adopt a multicultural perspective become more hostile to a member of another race who excludes them or disagrees vehemently with their opinions on a key issue. In particular, if individuals adopt a multicultural perspective, they engage with people from other groups more vigorously--fostering warmth in response to agreement and hostility in response to disagreement. This hostility, however, is not necessarily undesirable, but can sometimes foster meaningful insights.

In one study, European Canadians were told they will later interact with a First Nations Canadian. Before meeting, the individuals completed a questionnaire about social issues, such as whether abortion should be legal. The European Canadians were told the First Nations Canadian with whom they will interact either shared the same or different perspectives on these issues. They also received information about the benefits of either a multicultural or color blind ideology, to evoke one of these mindsets. Finally, they were asked to write questions they would like to ask the First Nations Canadian.

If a multicultural ideology had been primed, the questions they wrote were more hostile, as rated by independent judges, but only if informed this First Nations Canadian disagreed with them on these social issues. For example, one person wrote "I have serious issues with people who form strong opinions on things such as abortion and euthanasia without actually knowing the facts about it. People who argue for the sake of arguing really piss me off, and I tend to make that clear to them". The second study was similar, but showed that multicultural ideologies provoke hostile responses in participants who were told this person did not want to meet them.

The final study uncovered the mechanisms that mediate this association between a multicultural ideology and hostile responses to disagreement. In particular, after reading about the benefits of multiculturalism or color blind ideologies, participants were asked to record any thoughts that were evoked at that ime. If a multicultural ideology had been primed, many of the words revolved around learning and understanding?-reflecting a learning orientation& this learning orientation also predicted the hostility. This prime also increased the extent to which individuals refer to groups or differences, but frequencies of these words were not related to hostility. Therefore, a learning orientation seems to underpin the relationship between a multicultural ideology and hostile responses to disagreement.

Presumably, when multiculturalism is primed, individuals are more inclined to reflect upon and contemplate, rather than dismiss, differences between themselves and other people. They strive to resolve and to understand this disparity, sometimes manifesting as hostility. Consistent with this argument, a multicultural ideology evoked less hostility than a color blind ideology in response to agreement or acceptance.

Exhaustion of minority members

As Holoien and Shelton (2012) showed, after members of minorities interact with someone who espouses a multicultural perspective, they are more likely to experience negative emotions. In particular, their mental effort is more likely to be depleted, evoking feelings of mental exhaustion. Their performance on subsequent tasks that demand concentration tends to diminish (Holoien & Shelton, 2012).

Presumably, if people embrace a color-blind ideology, they tend to demonstrate more prejudice inadvertently. Their attempts to suppress any prejudices tend to manifest subtly. The other individuals to whom they are speaking consequently feel uneasy, prompting anxiety and ultimately exhaustion.

Perspective taking

Todd and Galinsky (2012) showed that adopting the perspective of diverse groups is a consequence, as well as a determinant, of multiculturalism. That is, when individuals embrace multiculturalism, they appreciate that people are different from each other and adopt diverse perspectives. Consequently, they become more inclined to consider the perspective of other people. That is, they value, rather than dismiss, the unique perspectives of other individuals.

Todd and Galinsky (2012) conducted a series of studies that validate this possibility. In one study, participants read about the benefits of either multiculturalism or color blindness?-to evoke one of these two ideologies. Later, they completed a questionnaire that revolved around a variety of matters, including their tendency to consider the perspective of other people (e.g., "I sometimes try to understand others better by imagining how things look from their perspective"). A multicultural prime fostered the tendency in participants to adopt the perspective of other people.

Some of the other studies showed that a multicultural ideology does indeed improve the capacity of people to consider a situation from the perspective of someone else. For example, in one study, participants saw a photo of a person. On the left side of this person, but the right side of the participants, was a book. If participants had embraced a multicultural ideology, they were more likely to describe this book to be on the left side?-that is, from the perspective of another person instead of themselves.

The mechanisms that underpin the benefits of perspective taking

Todd and Burgmer (2013) proposed, and then validated, an account to explain how perspective taking can diminish prejudice. In particular, when individuals adopt the perspective of another community or ethnicity, their mental representation of this community becomes associated with themselves, called self-anchoring. Individuals tend to perceive themselves favorably. Hence, they become more likely to perceive this other community more favorably as well.

To illustrate, in one study, German participants were granted 5 minutes to describing a Turkish man, depicted in a photograph. To encourage perspective taking, some participants were asked to imagine thoughts, feelings, experiences, sights, and sounds from the perspective of this person. In the control condition, participants described the person from the perspective of a casual observer instead. Next, participants completed an implicit association task to ascertain the degree to which they associate Turkish and German names with themselves rather than other people. Finally, participants completed a second implicit association task to ascertain the degree to which they associate Turkish and German names with positive and negative words.

As predicted, if participants adopted the perspective of a Turkish person, they became more likely to associate Turkish names with positive words. That is, they perceived the Turkish community more positively. This relationship was mediated by the tendency of individuals to experience a stronger association between Turkish names and themselves.

Subsequent studies were conducted to override limitations of this study. For example, one study showed the pattern of results persisted even after another implicit measure, the affect misattribution procedure, was utilized instead of the implicit association task. Another study showed that perspective taking enhanced attitudes of individuals towards the other community rather than impaired attitudes of individuals towards their own community. Furthermore, as predicted, this sequence of events arose only in participants who exhibited a positive association with themselves. If individuals perceive themselves negatively, perspective taking did not enhance attitudes towards other communities.

Regulatory focus and learning orientation

Some people strive to fulfill their immediate duties and overcome problems, rather than pursue future aspirations, called a prevention focus. Other people pursue future aspirations and attempt to maximize gains instead, called a promotion focus (see regulatory focus). Whether people pursue immediate obligations or future aspirations significantly affects their behavior and inclinations.

Vorauer, Gagnon, and Sasak (2009) argued that a color blind, rather than multicultural, ideology could evoke a prevention focus. Specifically, when individuals adopt a color blind ideology, their principal goal might be to inhibit any hint of differential treatment. These individuals, therefore, strive to minimize the problems--the shame, guilt, resentment, and so forth--that differential treatment might evoke. Their motivation is to minimize a problem rather than to maximize a gain, indicative of a prevention focus. When individuals adopt a multicultural ideology, they strive to maximize the gains that diversity could foster.

Consistent with this rationale, after participants read material that reinforced a color blind, rather than multicultural, ideology, they became more inclined to report a prevention focus (Vorauer, Gagnon, & Sasak, 2009). That is, they endorsed the item "I have been trying to prevent my exchange with the other participants from going badly".

Furthermore, as a consequence of this prevention focus, participants experienced more negative emotions during interactions with members of another ethnicity. That is, the prevention focus can evoke caution and vigilance (Forster, Higgins, & Bianco, 2003). Consequently, conversations with minorities are stifled.

In contrast, a multicultural ideology is more likely to evoke a promotion focus. Similarly, after a multicultural ideology is primed, the thoughts of participants, as reflected by a writing task, tend to revolve around learning and understanding, called a learning orientation (Vorauer & Sasaki, 2011). Learning is more consistent with a focus on future aspirations instead of immediate duties.

Benefits of a color-blind ideology

Many studies have underscored the benefits of multiculturalism. Yet, a color-blind ideology can also foster some benefits, at least in particular settings.

Members of minorities, for example, feel the color blind ideology could reduce the likelihood they will be mistreated. That is, they feel that everyone may be treated equally, perhaps curbing discrimination (Vorauer, Gagnon, & Sasak, 2009).

Complications: Evaluations of other groups

Hahn, Banchefsky, Park, and Judd (2015) developed a more complex 2 x 2 taxonomy. According to this taxonomy, people vary on two dimensions. The first dimension relates to whether people tend to minimize or emphasize differences across individuals. The second dimension relates to whether tend to evaluate other groups positively or negatively. The first cell, in which people minimize differences between groups but evaluate other groups positively, is called color or gender blindness. The second cell, in which people emphasize differences across individuals and evaluate other groups positively, is called multiculturalism or gender awareness. The third cell, in which people minimize differences between groups but evaluate other groups negatively, is called assimilationism and assumes that subordinate groups should adopt the norms of dominant groups. And the final cell, in which people emphasize differences across individuals and evaluate other groups negatively, is called segregationism and assumes that groups should occupy separate spheres. Hahn, Banchefsky, Park, and Judd (2015) conducted a series of studies to corroborate this taxonomy.

Factors that affect the effects of intergroup ideology

Right wing authoritarianism

In general, a multicultural ideology tends to diminish prejudice. Yet, in people who embrace right wing authoritarianism and believe that everyone should conform to traditions and their leaders, this ideology can actually amplify prejudice. Specifically, these people advocate conformity because they covet security and certainty. When they are encouraged to embrace multiculturalism, this conformity and certainty is threatened. They experience negative emotions, provoking defensive reactions (Kauff, Asbrock, Thorner, & Wagner, 2013).

Kauff, Asbrock, Thorner, and Wagner (2013) conducted a series of three studies that attest to these propositions. In one study, the average extent to which people in 23 European nations tended to report right wing authoritarianism, liberal policies towards integration, and openness to diversity were assessed. To determine whether or not the policies are liberal, the MIPEX index was utilized--an index that combines 148 policy indicators that show commitment to integration and diversity. Right wing authoritarianism was negatively associated with openness to diversity, but this relationship was especially pronounced in nations with liberal policies.

The second study showed that right wing authoritarianism was associated with negative attitudes to immigrants. This relationship was more pronounced after these individuals watched a video that advocates multiculturalism.

Antecedents to intergroup ideologies

Perspective taking

As Todd and Galinsky (2012) discovered, after people are encouraged to adopt the perspective of a person who belongs to a minority group, they are more likely to adopt a multicultural perspective. That is, if people adopt the perspective of other individuals, they are more inclined to recognize that different experiences can foster diverse insights. They will therefore value, rather than denigrate, different cultures, translating to multiculturalism.

In one study, White participants read a narrative about a Black man. Some participants were encouraged to adopt the perspective of this man. In particular, they were told to imagine what this person may be thinking, feeling, and experiencing. In the control conditions, participants were either encouraged to avoid thinking about stereotypes or did not receive any further instructions. Next, participants completed a measure that comprises eight items, designed to gauge whether people adopt a color blind or multicultural ideology (see Ryan, Hunt, Weible, Peterson, & Casas, 2007). Four items gauged attitudes to a color blind ideology, such as "Judging one another as individuals rather than as members of a group". Four items gauged attitudes to multiculturalism, such as "Emphasizing the importance of appreciating differences between ethnic groups".

If participants had adopted the perspective of this other person, they were more inclined to espouse a multicultural, instead of a color blind, ideology. The same pattern of results was observed when an implicit measure was used to gauge intergroup ideologies. Interventions that inspire people to consider the perspective of other races or ethnicities, therefore, may increase support towards multiculturalism.

Manipulations and measures of intergroup ideology

Several procedures have been developed to prime or measure intergroup ideologies. For example, participants may be informed the benefits of one of the two ideologies (Todd & Galinsky, 2012). To evoke a color blind ideology, they might read that "We must remember that we are all first and foremost human beings" and "at our core, we really are all the same" (Vorauer & Sasaki, 2011). To evoke a multicultural ideology, they might read that "different cultural groups bring different perspectives to life" and "each ethnic group within the nation can contribute in its own unique way".

Alternatively, participants might be asked to complete questions that gauge which of these two ideologies they support. They might complete questions like "Judging one another as individuals rather than as members of a group" and "Emphasizing the importance of appreciating differences between ethnic groups" to measure color blind and multicultural ideologies respectively (see Ryan, Hunt, Weible, Peterson, & Casas, 2007).

Researchers have also used the implicit association test to gauge these ideologies implicitly (Todd and Galinsky, 2012). Specifically, in this task, participants must press one of two buttons when a word that relates to multiculturalism, such as multicultural or variety, is presented on a screen and press the other button when a word that relates to color blind ideology, such as color-blind or assimilation, appears. In addition, participants must also press one of the two buttons when a positive word appears and the other button when a negative word appears.

If people perform this task better when multicultural and positive words correspond to the same button, they are assumed to adopt a multicultural ideology. That is, multiculturalism and positive concepts must be connected in their minds. Conversely, if people perform this task better when color blind and positive words correspond to the same button, they are assumed to adopt a color blind ideology. Consistent with this possibility, after adopting the perspective of someone who belongs to another race, participants were more inclined to demonstrate a multicultural ideology, as gauged by this implicit association test (Todd and Galinsky, 2012).

Related concepts

Perspective taking: Consequences to out-group attitudes

Perspective taking can sometimes, but not always, diminish prejudice towards other groups. Bilali and Vollhardt (2013) reported an excellent example in which a radio program, partly designed to foster perspective taking in general, diminished prejudice in Rwanda. Specifically, in 2004, a production company developed a radio series, called Musekeweya or New Dawn. The series depicted a conflict between two fictitious villages, participating in a program that was designed to resolve an existing conflict. Over 30 messages around justice, trauma, dialogue, and other topics that relate to reconciliation were embedded in the program. One of these messages focused on the importance of perspective taking, in which participants learned that each village had developed a distinct viewpoint about previous conflicts.

Six months later, individuals who had listened to this radio drama for at least six months participated in a study. During this study, to prime the messages that were emphasized by this drama, the questionnaire was read by Batamuriza, one of the respected characters of this show. In the control condition, the questionnaire was read by an unknown reader. Participants answered questions on the extent to which they recognize the conflict in Rwanda can be understood from different perspectives, called historical perspective taking, as well as their level of distrust towards other ethnicities. Primes of the radio drama did indeed promote historical perspective taking and reduce distrust towards the other ethnicities.

Yet, some research, such as a study that was reported by Paluck (2010), showed that perspective taking can actually provoke negative attitudes towards other ethnicities in certain circumstances. This problem, according to Bilali and Vollhardt (2013), can arise when people feel coerced to adopt the perspective of a specific rival group, during a conflict. In this instance, because they feel coerced and the dangers are immediate, people may tend to feel more defensive. Perspective taking might threaten the existing beliefs of individuals and, therefore, provoke defensive reactions, such as denial.

The dual identity model

According to the dual identity model (Hornsey & Hogg, 2000), when people interact with someone from another community, they can identify with two groups simultaneously. First, they can identify with their in-group--that is, the group that differentiates themselves from the other community. Asian participants, while interacting with European individuals, may identify with Asia. Second, they can identify with an overarching group that includes both their in-group and other community.

In these circumstances, individuals feel certain of their distinct identity. They do not, therefore, feel the need to differentiate themselves more from the other community. Consequently, they will not exaggerate difference between the in-group and out-group--an exaggeration that often culminates in prejudice. Yet, individuals also feel they share goals with the other community, improving cooperation.

Iweins, Desmette, Yzerbyt, and Stinglhamber (2013) demonstrated that a dual identity may diminish bias against older workers. In this study, employees completed measures that gauge this dual identity. In particular, they indicated the degree to which they identify with people of their age group. In addition, they indicated the extent to which they identify with the overall organization--a collective that entails both their age group and older age groups. The product of these two subscales was assumed to reflect dual identity. Next, they completed a series of questions that assess ageism, such as the degree to which they admire older people and cooperate with older workers. Dual identity was associated with positive attitudes towards older employees.

Iweins, Desmette, Yzerbyt, and Stinglhamber (2013) also explored the determinants of this dual identity. They showed that organizations that embrace diversity in age, and recognize that each age group offers unique qualities that can facilitate harmony, increased the likelihood of dual identity in employees. Positive interactions with older people also increased this dual identity.


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Last Update: 7/20/2016