Friday, February 10, 2012

Us vs. them in context.

As I scan the tables of contexts of journals for items that might be appropriate for MindBlog, I am majorly influenced by a catchy title and relative brevity, the old brain doesn’t have to work as hard. (In this vein, see the recent essay on "Bite Size" Science.) Gilbert Chin of Science Magazine notes that a plain title I passed over points to an interesting piece of work, showing that our attitude towards pluralism and tolerance can depend very much on whether we are in the majority or minority of the relevant social group. From Chin's summary:
Us versus Them is both an enduring view of the world and a malleable one. It is enduring in the sense that groups form naturally even where there are no preexisting differences and malleable in the sense that the group that one identifies with can change over time or between situations. Theoretical and empirical evidence justifies the generalization that members of a majority group tend to favor the assimilation of immigrants into the native culture, whereas immigrants are more likely to vote for pluralistic policies that acknowledge the distinctiveness of minority cultures.
The abstract of the article:
This research examined preferences for national- and campus-level assimilative and pluralistic policies among Black and White students under different contexts, as majority- and minority-group members. We targeted attitudes at two universities, one where 85% of the student body is White, and another where 76% of students are Black. The results revealed that when a group constituted the majority, its members generally preferred assimilationist policies, and when a group constituted the minority, its members generally preferred pluralistic policies. The results support a functional perspective: Both majority and minority groups seek to protect and enhance their collective identities.

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