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The addition of new cultures to the american identity

We review and integrate research examining the extent to which the American identity is implicitly granted or denied to members of different ethnic groups. The propensity to deny the American identity to members of ethnic minorities is particularly pronounced when targets individuals or groups are construed through the lenses of ethnic identities.

The tendency to equate being American with being White accounts for the strength of national identification among European Americans and behavioral responses including hiring recommendations and voting intentions.

The robust propensity to deny the American identity to ethnic minority groups reflects an exclusionary national identity. Many countries face the challenge of balancing attachment to the nation and identifications with more specific ethnic groups. Social psychologists have developed insightful models to account for the dynamics between superordinate e.

Adding to this literature, this paper focuses on a particular aspect of this complex puzzle and on a specific socio-historical context: The USA is an immigrant nation founded on shared values, as opposed to a shared ethnic identity, yet its population is composed of identifiable ethnic groups that vary in terms of numerical or social status, power, resources, length of immersion into mainstream culture, and conditions of immigration.

In this context, what does it mean to be American 1 and who is perceived as embodying the national identity? To what extent is the American identity psychologically granted or denied to members of different ethnic groups?

For example, characteristics deemed prototypical of a true American imply that individuals or groups who deviate from this prototype are seen as second-rank citizens. Yet, behind the deliberate endorsement of inclusive principles lurks a more exclusionary national identity.

  • These discriminatory policies were effectively countered by the civil rights movement and, eventually, by the Federal government itself;
  • This eclectic perspective will be expanded and nuanced as we cover more specific research questions in other sections;
  • Not only does this contribute to establishing that the effect is not limited to a specific technique, but it also provides a more fine-grained understanding of the locus of the effect.

Here, we review and integrate research on this topic. After a description of this effect, we briefly discuss factors that may potentially contribute to it. Then, we highlight striking fractures between the explicit and implicit giving of the American identity. We pursue with research showing that emphasizing or downplaying ethnic identities influences the implicit ascription of the American identity.

Next, we cover sources of variability in implicit ethnic—national associations. Comparing these two levels enriches our understanding of the dynamics coming into play and provides opportunities to highlight both differences and similarities between these two levels of responding. In this case, the technique is set up to assess the direction and strength of associations between two ethnic groups e.

Ethnic stimuli can be faces of Asian Americans and European Americans. Symbols such the addition of new cultures to the american identity the American flag, a map of the USA, or the Capitol building can be used to represent the concept American and contrasted to similar foreign symbols.

The technique involves comparing the ease with which participants categorize these stimuli under two configurations. In one set of trials, American symbols are paired, as quickly as possible, with Asian American faces, and foreign symbols with European American faces.

In another set of trials, the two pairs of concepts are combined in the opposite way: American symbols are paired with European American faces, and foreign symbols are associated with Asian American faces. Typically, this second configuration is easier to perform shorter response latencies than the first one.

Indirectly, it also suggests that prominent symbols associated with the national identity e. This should not be taken as evidence for the notion that all ethnic minority groups were equally seen as not American.

Lumping together these groups would neglect meaningful variations in the magnitude of the effect depending on the specific interethnic comparison. Indeed, the effect was particularly pronounced when European Americans were compared with Latino or Asian Americans; it was weaker when African or Native Americans served as the contrasting group. Not only does this contribute to establishing that the effect is not limited to a specific technique, but it also provides a more fine-grained understanding of the locus of the effect.

Shades of American Identity: Implicit Relations between Ethnic and National Identities

An important feature of the IAT is that it measures the relative strengths of associations between two pairs of concepts. To go back to the example described earlier, the IAT provides a relative assessment of the extent to which the concepts American versus foreign are associated with two ethnic groups European Americans and Asian Americans. Given the comparative element built in the technique, it is not possible to separate the contribution of associations about European Americans versus Asian Americans or about the perceived Americanness versus foreignness of each ethnic group.

Does the effect stem from a difficulty associating the American identity to Asian Americans or a proclivity to associate the concept foreign to this ethnic group?

  • In the same vein, even when well-known Asian American celebrities e;
  • This effect was attenuated when the politicians were categorized based on their personal identity or other relevant identities e;
  • Even at the implicit level, there is great variability and flexibility in the ascription of the American identity;
  • A Nation, to be ready to settle questions of dispute by war our italics should be in a condition of absolute independence.

Do these two ethnic groups differ in the extent to which they are associated with the concept American or with the concept foreign? Studies relying on the IAT cannot tease apart these alternative accounts. The inherent limitations of comparative assessments should not necessarily be seen as flaws. Perceptions, attitudes, and judgments are often comparative in nature. Ascribing or not a trait or characteristic to a group often implies that it applies more or less to this group than to another group.

Similarly, the ascription of the American identity to a target group or individual takes on meaning in relation to a concept or category that captures what is not American. For American respondents, the term foreign is often spontaneously used to characterize someone or something seen as not American.

Studies relying on less comparative techniques provide some insights into the locus of the effect. From this perspective, individuals tend to assume that a White person is more likely to be American than an Asian person and rely on this assumption only in the event that they are unable to rely on appropriate information.

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In other words, individuals unintentionally use this heuristic to resolve ambiguity when controlled processes fail. Increasing or decreasing the ability to rely on controlled processes did not alter this automatic bias.

At the same time, this research was clearly inspired by a number of influential theoretical perspectives. This eclectic perspective will be expanded and nuanced as we cover more specific research questions in other sections.

Considering that implicit associations reflect knowledge acquired through repeated experiences within a particular socio-cultural context Devos, 2008 ; Rudman, 2004a variety of factors are likely to shape implicit ethnic—American associations including the relative numerical and social statuses of ethnic groups, their relative power, their symbolic and material resources, the length of immersion in American society, and the circumstances surrounding waves of immigration e.

These factors are often inextricably linked. For example, length of immersion in American society and immigration policies are tied to asymmetries in terms of status or power. Given the pervasive ethnic hierarchy in the USA and the makeup of the general population, these factors contribute, in most cases, to fostering a strong connection between being White and being American. Consequently, ethnic minority status entails an exclusion from the national identity.

The effect can be displayed across ethnic lines, but it is likely to have positive implications for the dominant White majority and negative implications for subordinate ethnic minorities.

Applied to the specific socio-cultural context considered here, the White racial identity in the USA operates as a norm or cultural expectation.

  1. To what extent is the American identity psychologically granted or denied to members of different ethnic groups? According to this view, the original faith of the early English Christians had thus been corrupted by Rome 9.
  2. WASP culture and value systems linked to Protestant Christianity in particular which gradually came to be considered the preserve of uncultivated provincials or working class whites. The Decline of Anglo-Saxonism 54In addition to the demographic changes described above, a number of other crucial factors combined to precipitate the weakening of the WASP grip on power.
  3. Although during the Cold War it was taboo to publicly articulate leftist ideas, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s, many intellectuals were secretly attracted by the egalitarian and universal principles advocated by socialism. The Obamas and a Post Racial America?
  4. Given the pervasive ethnic hierarchy in the USA and the makeup of the general population, these factors contribute, in most cases, to fostering a strong connection between being White and being American.
  5. In this case, the technique is set up to assess the direction and strength of associations between two ethnic groups e.

The mental representation of the category Americans i. As a result, lower-status ethnic minorities are seen as less prototypical of the national identity.

Furthermore, when differences between ethnic groups need to be explained, attention shifts toward lower-status ethnic minorities. The various mechanisms and downstream consequences of this construction of the national identity contribute to the reproduction of status differences.

Given that these processes largely function outside of conscious control and awareness, they perpetuate the notion of ethnic minority groups as second-class citizens. In other words, power and status asymmetries operate in a manner that cannot easily be noticed or challenged.

The mechanisms underlying the construction of the national identity and asymmetrical positions in a social system mutually reinforce each other. Numerical majority, high social status, and dominance tend to be attributes associated with greater prototypicality. The various factors shaping ethnic—national associations also point to the fact that the perceived prototypicality of ethnic groups cannot be reduced to a statistical basis i.

In the contemporary USA, group-based hierarchies do not often manifest themselves through overt hostility or forceful oppression. Below the surface, the tendency to equate being White with being American functions as a legitimizing ideology that perpetuates asymmetrical relations between the dominant White majority and subordinate ethnic minorities. Dissociations between Implicit and Explicit Associations Techniques assessing implicit social cognition are particularly useful when they reveal a different picture than self-reports.

Several studies document a fracture between the implicit and explicit granting of the American identity. On explicit self-report measures, the American identity was more strongly associated with Black athletes than with White athletes. At the implicit level, Black athletes were less strongly associated with the American identity than White athletes.

In the same vein, even when well-known Asian American celebrities e. In both cases, implicit associations strongly deviated from explicit perceptions or knowledge.

Native Americans represent a thought-provoking scenario for this topic of research. American Indians were living in the North American continent when the first European immigrants arrived. From this perspective, Native Americans should be more strongly associated with the concept American than people of European descent.

A large data set collected through the Project Implicit website https: At the explicit level, American Indians were considered more American than Americans of European descent. At the implicit level, despite the fact that the American stimuli were not biased in favor of White America e. The striking dissociations between explicit and implicit associations reported in this section illustrate that statements or ideas that might be endorsed because they appear to be the addition of new cultures to the american identity valid e.

To a large extent, everyday images of prominent Americans — political and social leaders, celebrities, and a majority of the population — reinforce associations of America as White. As a result, the American identity might be associated with the ethnic identity of being White — so much so that even deliberate, conscious rejection cannot alter this association.

Emphasizing versus Downplaying Ethnic Identities The extent to which individuals or groups are cognitively construed through ethnic lenses affects the ability to automatically ascribe the American identity to them.

  1. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
  2. We now focus on other sources of variations in ethnic—national associations.
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When these two actresses were categorized based on their respective ethnic identity, the White person was seen as more American than the Asian person.

When the same targets were categorized based on their personal identities, the effect was reduced although not always completely eradicated. Convergent findings were obtained when pictures either emphasized or de-emphasized their respective ethnic heritage. Over the course of the 2008 US presidential campaign, questions surrounding the citizenship and national identity of Barack Obama were raised.

To cast doubts on his attachment to the American identity, some opponents emphasized his foreign-sounding middle name Hussein and his ties with Indonesia. Others highlighted his failure to wear a flag pin and salute the flag on one occasion. Underlying these reactions was a common theme: These reactions might be symptomatic of the pervasive difficulty to grant the national identity to non-White Americans.

In this context, Devos and Ma 2013 sought to document that the relative difficulty of seeing Obama as an American was a function of the extent to which he was construed as a Black person.

As the campaign unfolded, they successively examined the extent to which Barack Obama was seen as more or less American than four White politicians: Consistently, Obama was implicitly viewed as less American than McCain, Clinton, or even Blair when racial identities were stressed. This effect was attenuated when the politicians were categorized based on their personal identity or other relevant identities e.

In both cases, to the extent that the targets were categorized based on their ethnic or racial identities in comparison with other dimensionsthe person belonging to the ethnic or racial minority group was implicitly seen as less American than the White person.

Recent research documents complex reactions to the public or private expression of ethnic identity Yogeeswaran et al. In particular at the implicit level, a double-standard was apparent: As a whole, studies reviewed in this section stress that an emphasis on ethnic or racial identities may often implicitly disqualify members of ethnic minorities as American. More simply, they point to forms of exclusion that stem from ethnic categorizations and contrast with a definition of the American identity grounded in civic values.