Research Shows Great Value in Interculturalism to Encourage More Positive Intergroup Contact

Summary of:

Verkuyten, M., Yogeeswaran, K., Mepham, K, & Sprong, S. (2019). Interculturalism: A new diversity ideology with interrelated components of dialogue, unity, and identity flexibility. European Journal of Social Psychology, 50(3), 505-519. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2628

Background & Theory

This article seeks to better understand interculturalism, its differences from multiculturalism, and how it might affect intergroup relations. The main areas of interculturalism evaluated included unity, dialogue, and identity flexibility.

Research Questions

The authors address the following questions:

  1. What is interculturalism?
  2. How might interculturalism positively impact intergroup relationships?

Methods

The authors conducted three studies to reach their conclusions, all of which included questionnaires.

Study 1: Study 1 consisted of 590 participants, all of whom were Dutch. Demographics varied for all involved, though everyone was above 18 years old, with the oldest being 87 years old. Women were 45% of the group, and men were 55%. The questionnaire focused on topics such as intercultural ideology, multicultural ideology, outgroup feelings, willingness to engage in intergroup contact, social dominance orientation, and social conformity. 

Study 2: All participants were Dutch, but not the same participants from Study 1. There were 757 participants in total, with the majority male (43.3% female/56.7% male), and varying ages (19 through 90 years old). The study was similar to Study 1, but this one also included questions on outgroup and ingroup feelings, deprovincialization, and civic and ethnic national identity.

Study 3: All participants were from the United States of America, and included 1050 people total. Participants were included from all regions throughout the U.S., with all states providing 10% or less of the sample (with the exception of California). The questions asked in this study pertained to multicultural ideology, assimilation ideology, outgroup and ingroup feelings, social conformity, deprovincialization, perspective taking, resistance to change, willingness to engage in intergroup contact, social dominance orientation, essentialism, entitativity, identity distinctiveness threat, and identity uncertainty.  

Results

In summary, the results from all three studies show that interculturalism has many benefits for society, and is ultimately better than multiculturalism for improved intergroup relationships and feelings. Interculturalism encourages perspective sharing, interactions with outgroup members, and not viewing one’s own group in too high regard; in other words, interculturalism encourages dialogue, unity, and identity flexibility. It varies from multiculturalism in many ways and is ultimately better, but an area that it lacks (and where multiculturalism excels) is in recognizing and valuing the differences amongst groups and ensuring these are effectively preserved. Interculturalism is a relatively new concept and should be further studied.

What This Means

  • Interculturalism may be a means for a way forward in our increasingly diverse world. The more open we are to conversations, going out of our comfort zones, and understanding others, the more unity we will see amongst the many groups of the world.
  • While interculturalism is very important, the idea that each culture and group deserves to be protected and recognized for their own unique values is still very important. It’s wise to allow some distinction to exist, so long as it is not done in a discriminatory way, and rather in an appreciative way.

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Creating trainings or finding ways to encourage interculturalism values within our work can not only help resolve conflict, but also reduce it. 

For everyone: You may be very appreciative of your own cultural values and beliefs, and you should be. Finding ways to do this for others is equally critical, and something we should all try to do for a more peaceful, united world.