Written by Dr Katharina Lefringhausen 

(Introduction to the research paper “Acculturation and Discrimination: A Parallel Mediation Model via Intergroup Contact and Threats” by Dr Katharina Lefringhausen, to be presented at the Mini SIETAR congress: Building Dialogues on Diversity, 16.11.19)

What motivates nationals to adapt to rather than reject cultural diversity in their own country?

A question that inspired many cross-cultural and social psychologists to look at various personal characteristics and experiences of nationals as well as contextual circumstances that could lead to more harmonious relationships between members of the dominating national group and members of ethnic minority groups. For example, in one of my past blog posts (How Harry Potter could have stopped Brexit), I outlined the work of researchers such as Vezzali and colleagues (2014) who examined whether reading Harry Potter can help reduce prejudice against refugees (It can!). However, such past work based on the premise that the dominant group can either support or hinder ethnic minorities’ adaptation to the mainstream culture yet not whether dominant group members can adapt to elements of ethnic minorities’ cultures, too.

Thus, in my presentation at the Mini SIETAR congress: Building Dialogues on Diversity, I will talk about my latest published work on US Americans and their tendency to either adapt to migrants’ cultures (i.e., experience a change in cultural values, behaviours and identity) or express discriminatory behavioural intentions towards them (e.g., I would never buy a car from a migrant; Lefringhausen, Ferenczi, & Marshall).

Specifically, the relationship between US Americans and migrants remains a controversial topic in the USA. Even during the presidency of Barack Obama, 41% of US Americans regarded migrants as a burden to the job and housing market (Krogstad, 2015). Looking into such intergroup tensions, decades of research stress that positive intergroup contact is one of the most effective situational approaches for reducing prejudicial attitudes, and thus, improving intergroup relations (Contact Hypothesis; Allport, 1954).

However, such a practical approach – to create a positive contact situation between a US American and a migrant – works for some individuals more than for others. For example, Hodson, Turner, and Choma (2017) stress that their work and that of other scholars revealed a stronger impact for prejudice prone individuals (e.g., people high in right-wing authoritarianism have a high degree of willingness to submit to authorities they perceive as legitimate; they adhere to societal conventions and are hostile towards people who do not adhere to them) than those without such a tendency.

Notably, before, during or after a contact experience, people also carry a level of perceived intergroup threat – that is, the extent to which they perceive migrants to be an economic burden to the country and/or challenge to the mainstream way of life and values (Abrams & Eller, 2017; Stephan & Stephan, 2000). So the questions arise – what are relevant personal characteristics that inspire some US Americans to interpret a contact situation as something positive (or not) whilst perceiving migrants as a threat (or not) which either relates to a higher tendency towards discrimination or cultural adaptation? More so, how can intercultural trainers, language teachers, HR advisors, volunteers or community workers interested in fostering harmonious relations between nationals and migrants/expatriates, use the study’s results in their daily practices?

If you wish to hear the answer to those questions, then do come along to my talk entitled “Acculturation and Discrimination: A Parallel Mediation Model via Intergroup Contact and Threats”.

Here are past articles (research and public) that examine nationals’ acculturation towards migrants’ cultures:


About the author of this article:

Dr Katharina Lefringhausen

Katharina is an Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick in Applied Linguistics and the Director of Research and Academic Relations at SIETAR UK. She has experience in intercultural training and development whilst her research interests focus on the acculturation of host community nationals towards host societies, Universities and workplaces. She has an MSc and PhD in Cross-Cultural Psychology and has worked in the USA, Belgium, Germany and the UK.

Tedx | LinkedIn | Warwick Profile | Twitter | Research Gate

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in articles on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SIETAR UK.“