New Research Proposes Interculturalism over Multiculturalism as a Positive Approach to Intergroup Relations

Summary of:

Verkuyten, M., & Yogeeswaran, Y. (2020). Cultural diversity and its implications for intergroup relations. Current Opinion in Psychology, Volume 32, 1-5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.06.010

Background & Theory

A consistent trending topic in our current society revolves around diversity and multiculturalism. However, there is not consistent research focusing on interculturalism, which is much more relevant to today’s world. Verkuyten and Yogeeswaran perform a meta-analysis to discover the pros and cons of diversity, multiculturalism, and interculturalism, and the factors that are included in each.

Research Questions

Verkuyten and Yogeeswaran in their article, Cultural diversity and its implications for intergroup relations (2020), set out to answer the following questions:

  1. How is diversity and multiculturalism implemented in society today and what are benefits and consequences of them?
  2. Is interculturalism a better benefit to modern society than multiculturalism? 
  3. How does interculturalism positively influence intergroup relations comparative to multiculturalism?

Methods

To answer their research questions, Verkuyten and Yogeeswaran performed a meta-analysis of research available in regard to diversity, multiculturalism, and interculturalism. This information specifically looked at diversity (concluded as multiculturalism for the purpose of the article) in regards to demographic diversity, multicultural policies, multicultural beliefs, and it also looked at interculturalism. How certain policies and facets of multiculturalism and interculturalism have been introduced and integrated into societies and how they shaped beliefs and reactions was also evaluated. 

Results

The articles concludes overall that interculturalism is a much more positive approach for intergroup interaction than multiculturalism. While the intention of multiculturalism is positive and does have some benefits, such as certain policies ensuring more integration and acceptance, it also has many possible negative implications, such as increasing hostile reactions, prejudice against outgroups, and threatened sense of self. These largely depend on the specific factors of the region where policies or changes are introduced, and is in part because multiculturalism typically focuses on differences rather than commonalities and does not always take into consideration the sharing of multiple groups but can focus on one group over the other.

Interculturalism is regarded by the authors as being a more positive influence for intergroup relations. This is because it includes many of the critical factors that a more generalized multiculturalism approach might ignore, and evaluates the unique and complex pieces to diversity as a whole. As the article mentions, “interculturalism is not necessarily at odds with multiculturalism, but puts more emphasis on developing intergroup contact and dialogue, stimulating identity complexity, and developing a sense of commonality and shared belonging.”

Additionally, interculturalism focuses more specifically on intergroup interactions and focuses on the shared interests of the groups rather than their differences, making it much more effective when integrating numerous groups within an area.

What This Means

These results show that:

  • Diversity and multiculturalism are beneficial to society and should continue to be introduced, but in a positive way and under the right conditions that make them effective
  • Interculturalism is overall a better way to build positive intergroup relations than multiculturalism, for the fact that it focuses more on exchanging ideas between outgroups, looks at numerous levels of diversity and other required diverse and demographic factors. It also pushes people together by building an understanding of each other.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: When dealing with conflict where there are levels of prejudice or negative feelings (despite the existing diversity), focus on building a positive understanding of one another through introducing interculturalist ideas. Even in 1:1 situations between disputants, evaluating what their shared interests are and the pieces that matter distinctly to each of them can be helpful in coming to a sound agreement between the two.

For everyone: Everyone can benefit from understanding their neighbors better, and from looking at a perspective outside of their own. When you have conflict with someone that might relate to your differences (whatever they may be), focus instead on the strengths and commonalities that you share and how you can both interact more positively moving forward.

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