Research Explains How Belonging and Common Identity Can Reduce Prejudice

Summary of:

Adam-Troian, J., Çelebi, E., Bonetto, E., Taşdemir, N., & Yurtbakan, T. (2020). Together we stand? Belonging motive moderates the effect of national ingroup salience on attitudes towards ethnic minorities. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 77, 95-109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2020.05.002

Background & Theory

This article explores how belonging motives and distinctiveness impact prejudice, in this case in the context of nationalism as the superordinate ingroup. The authors argue that if someone feels their belonging and distinctiveness needs are met, they are more likely to be inclusive and positive, and ultimately less biased, of outgroup members.

Research Questions

The authors seek to answer the following questions in their article:

  1. How do belonging and distinctiveness impact ingroup and outgroup attitudes?
  2. How are ingroup/outgroup attitudes affected by a joint superordinate ingroup mentality?
  3. What role does belonging motive specifically play in regards to prejudice of the outgroup?

Methods

Two identical studies were conducted, taking place in two separate regions for a larger sample. The studies both strictly recruited nationals of the country in question, were conducted via online surveys, and included national flags of the country in question for the part of the group being manipulated for nationalist identity. Both studies also had a majority of women participate, which was accounted for through robustness checks, and neither study was permitted by law to inquire about ethnicity. Both studies were evaluated using a hierarchical regression approach and an unadjusted regression analysis, through a power analysis procedure (sources referenced on page 98).

Study 1 took place in Turkey, and included 184 participants (all were university students), with a majority female (80.4%). The participants were selected at random through a first-come-first-serve method, and also at random were placed into two separate groups, which allowed for understanding if the national group identity manipulation was successful. Questions were self-assessment-based and related to the following topics: national identity, political ideology, social identity (i.e., distinctiveness and belonging), intergroup attitudes (with specific questions based on Turkish or Syrian groups), demographics, and personal thoughts on the study being conducted.

Study 2 took place in France, and included 151 participants (though rather than all university students, were from different walks of life), and a majority female (86.8%). Study 2 was conducted the exact same as Study 1, though focusing on French and Maghrebi groups, as opposed to Turkish and Syrian groups.

Results

The results in both studies showed that belonging motives played a much larger role than distinctiveness did. Overall, those involved who felt their belonging needs were met in their ingroup had more positive views of the outgroups (in the larger context of all sharing the same nationalist superordinate group). In some ways, this does create bias for one’s ingroup, but it ultimately plays a positive role in the ways one sees an outgroup, as well.

Distinctiveness did not seem to play much of a role at all, though the authors acknowledge this may be due to how their study varies from past studies, and does not inherently discredit that distinctiveness does in fact have a role to play. The authors note several limitations of their study, but show the importance of belonging in playing a positive role in eliminating bias when recategorizing groups through finding common identity.

What This Means

  • If we can find ways to unite people, without eliminating the distinctiveness and belonging they hold to their ingroup, we can very likely overcome (at least some) issues of prejudice and bias.
  • It seems rather important that we recognize various cultural and socio-economic differences for their rightful value, encourage people to find belonging in their ingroups, and not remove either factor when trying to find common ground. Thus, we respect each other’s differences and unique qualities and seek to maintain these despite shared identity.
  • In terms of conflict, this may be yet one more step toward creating peace and eliminating prejudice and intractable conflicts.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Our nation is currently experiencing many rooted issues. There is no easy solution, but perhaps in finding a shared commonality, while yet acknowledging and appreciating our individual groups, we can move closer to eliminating prejudice. In practicing peacebuilding, this is something we can not only make an effort to do with clients, but in our individual lives and with those around us.

For everyone: Don’t feel you need to sacrifice your own identity in order to appreciate someone else’s you can recognize your differences, and yet find common values that can bring you closer together.