Us vs. Them in Context

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Science  27 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6067, pp. 382
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6067.382-a

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. Hehman et al. have examined students' cultural assimilation and pluralism preferences at both a national and university campus level. As one would predict on the basis of their histories in the United States, white American undergraduates were more likely than their black classmates to vote for the establishment of English as the sole official language of the country. Similarly, when surveyed about funds to support multicultural activities on campus, white students were much less keen than their black classmates—when the context was a majority-white university. This preference disappeared, however, when white students at a majority-black institution were quizzed, revealing an association between minority status and pluralistic attitudes, regardless of individual identity.

Psychol. Sci. 23, 46 (2012).

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