Theses Doctoral

Cultural Crossing and Diversity Ideologies: Three Essays on the Identity Politics of Cultural Accommodation and Integration

Cho, Jaee

My dissertation explores people’s responses to cultural crossing, exploring when and why it is admired or admonished. One form of crossing is cultural accommodation, which occurs when a recently arrived foreign visitor behaves like a local, adhering to host-country norms of behavior rather than those of his/her heritage country. The second is cultural borrowing, which occurs when ideas from multiple cultural traditions are integrated into a product, performance or activity. I propose that people’s background beliefs about cultural differences (i.e., diversity ideologies) influence their evaluations of the actions of other people who cross cultures, as well as their own decisions to cross cultures.
My studies consider two well-studied diversity ideologies—colorblindness and multiculturalism. In addition, I also consider polyculturalism, a more novel ideology that, like multiculturalism, celebrates cultural differences. However, polyculturalism differs in that it embraces cultural change. I develop novel methods for empirically distinguishing consequences of the mindset of polyculturalism as opposed to classical multiculturalism.
In Chapter 1, I explore how diversity ideologies affect people’s acceptance of foreign visitors’ accommodation to the local culture. Multiculturalism, which holds cultural traditions to be separate legacies that should be preserved, was associated with negative evaluations of high accommodation. When polyculturalism (vs. multiculturalism) was experimentally primed, high accommodation was evaluated more positively. Further, I examine the underlying effects of diversity ideology on evaluations by focusing on trust judgments and find that multiculturalists’ distrust of high accommodators involves judgments of low ability and of identity contamination.
In Chapter 2, I develop the argument that diversity ideologies guide people’s first-person decisions about whether to accommodate when entering a new cultural context. Polyculturalism facilitated cultural accommodation and longer-term cultural adjustment by reducing concerns about contamination of heritage identity, whereas colorblindness and multiculturalism had no consistent effects.
In Chapter 3, I theorize and demonstrate that diversity ideologies also affect how people draw upon knowledge from foreign cultures in their problem-solving. Polyculturalism encouraged participants’ inclusion of foreign ideas when solving problems, which enhanced their creativity. However, colorblindness, which views ethnicity/culture as a mirage that is best ignored, inhibited participants’ incorporation of foreign ideas, thereby reducing creativity. No effect was found for multiculturalism.
Taken together, the chapters of my dissertation contribute to a more nuanced understanding of cultural crossing: when people do it, and when people admire or admonish others for doing so. Also, these empirical findings advance research on polyculturalism and spark future research questions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Morris, Michael W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 5, 2017