Research Shows Positive Relationship Between Multicultural Experiences and Identification with All Humanity

Summary of:

Sparkman, D. J., & Hamer, K. (2020). Seeing the human in everyone: Multicultural experiences predict more positive intergroup attitudes and humanitarian helping through identification with all humanity. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 79, 121-134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2020.08.007

Background & Theory

This article explores the relationship between multicultural experiences and identification with all humanity (IWAH). More specifically, it evaluates how bond and concern for humanity may be impacted by multicultural experiences, and whether these encourage more positive intergroup evaluations and/or humanitarian efforts.

Research Questions

Authors Sparkman and Hamer seek to address the following questions:

  1. How do multicultural experiences affect intergroup evaluations and one’s desire to support humanitarian efforts?
  2. What role does identification with all humanity (IWAH), specifically bond and concern, play in these outcomes?

Methods

The authors conduct their research by examining Polish citizens, primarily because Poland is less diverse than the U.S. and thus it could be better examined how multicultural experiences factor in. The sample of participants included a total of 974 people, with demographics varying (youngest age was 18, oldest was 84; some had low education compared to others with graduate degrees; some were very religious and some not at all or fell in the middle). The participants completed a CAPI, or computer-assisted personal interview. The participants reported their feelings and experiences regarding “multicultural experiences, identification with all humanity, humanitarian helping, fear of refugees, generalized Islamophobia, and ethnocentrism, along with other measures that were part of a larger project” (Sparkman & Hamer, 2020, p. 125). The data collected was evaluated through a measurement model (under Amos 20 software) that made connections between the factors evaluated in this study (multicultural experiences, IWAH, etc.). The chi-square test was then utilized to ensure the measurement model worked well in alignment with the data to get accurate results. From here, a structured model was developed.

Results

The results concluded that exposure to cultural elements most certainly plays a role in one’s desire to offer humanitarian assistance, and at the root of this, one’s concern for humanity as a whole. One’s exposure to cultural members, however, showed a positive correlation between this and one’s concern and bond for humanity (both proponents of IWAH), as well as reduced negative intergroup perceptions. Concern for all humanity and bond for all humanity go hand-in-hand to have both a desire to offer humanitarian assistance and more positive intergroup evaluations (concern is linked to humanitarian assistance, bond is linked to intergroup attitudes). Overall, multicultural experiences, both with cultural elements and members, do play a significant role in one’s IWAH, though for the most positive outcomes in all regards, experiences with both cultural elements and members are needed to produce both factors of IWAH (concern for all humanity and bond for all humanity). When limited to just experience with cultural members or just with cultural elements, negative reactions may develop in either concern or bond for all humanity.

What This Means

  • We live in a global society, with the ability to travel and explore other cultures like never before; however, this does not imply that everyone makes the effort to learn about or experience other cultures.
  • Based on this study, we should continually encourage multicultural experiences, especially in schools, colleges, religious institutions (and really, just daily life). Knowing that this creates an increased likelihood of caring for and understanding the humanity of people much different from ourselves, what would be our reason not to?
  • With increased intergroup relationships and increased desire to offer humanitarian aid, conflict between groups and nations could be greatly reduced. 

Final Takeaway

For consultants: If it’s true that multicultural experiences can encourage positive change for most people, this is an area to explore creating trainings or offering these experiences from a peacebuilding perspective. This may further promote increased intergroup relationships, and thus less conflict in communities.

For everyone: Studies continually show that exposing oneself to cultures and people different from ourselves has many benefits, and in this case, may even decrease conflict in your life and provide a more positive outlook in general.