Levy, A., Žeželj, I., Branković, M., Dusanic, S., Van Zomeren, M., Saguy, T., & Halperin, E. (2019). Complex social identities and intergroup relations: Gateway groups in the western Balkans. Social Psychology, 50(3), 1-6. 10.1027/1864-9335/a000379.
Background & Theory
In this increasingly globalized and multicultural world, a recent development in social psychology is the Gateway Group notion. This concept inquires into the possibility of groups with multilayered and complex social identities to act as bridges between their distinct social counterparts and reduce their intergroup gaps. This paper seeks to study this phenomenon via the following experiment amongst children of mixed Serb(s) and Bosniak families, and Bosniak citizens of Serbia, post the Yugoslav wars.
The authors attempted to answer the following question:
Does exposure to a dually identified GG lead participants to:
- Identify the GG with both the ingroup and the out-group to a greater extent?
- See the GG as having greater potential for facilitating intergroup relations?
- Have a greater sense of ingroup-outgroup closeness?
- Have greater motivation for contact with the outgroup?
The author recruited 207 participants (102 males) at the University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Participants in the experimental condition read an article describing a survey that asked the GG from mixed Serb and Bosniak families about their identity. The result of the survey mentioned in the article showed that the majority of children that had both Serb and Bosniak parents identify both as Serb(s) and as Bosniak, and don’t see a contradiction between the two identities.
Participants in the control group did not read such an article. Finally, all participants were asked questions about their social perception of the GG and the outgroup, such as dual identification, potential bridge, social identity complexity, perception of the ingroup-outgroup closeness, contact motivation with outgroup members.
The authors found the effect that they were expecting: Participants in the experimental condition perceived their identities as more dual, compared to those in the control group. In potential bridge, and perception of the ingroup-outgroup closeness, the experimental group showed higher results. But, in social identity complexity, the experiment group showed more complexity. There was no significant difference found in contact motivation with the outgroup members category.
How This Translates for the Workplace
Nudging those with dual identities: A modern workplace usually has employees from multiple ethnicities, religions, cultures, and nationalities. Some of them may be first or second-generation nationals and may feel conflicted, especially if they are from a region that has or previously had conflicts with their current home country. A workplace environment can help them feel safer through inclusive efforts if the latter half of their identity is a politicized one or from a minority group. By encouraging them to talk about their upbringing of being part of two communities, these complex dual identities can be normalized, as in this study. Exposure to perhaps an influential figure who also has the same dual identity can lead to them helping bridge the gap between colleagues from other cultures too. This can lead to ingroup-outgroup bridging hence.
Celebrating multiplicity of cultures: Work environments where multicultural identities are valued are ahead of their time and have a competitive advantage. Companies who can see this diversity and complexity as a strength are ready for the 21st-century future of work where they can attract and retain the best of global talent. Such talent would be drawn to a company culture that validates their complex identities and experiences. As in this paper, those exposed to comfortable dual identified citizens ranked higher in the potential bridge and perception of the ingroup-outgroup closeness category. Such responsibilities can hence be strategically handed over to those from gateway groups, for they can be good candidates to lead team unity, cohesion, and unified efforts in the organization. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to accelerate your transition into the multicultural future of work!