Diversity ideologies and intergroup attitudes: When multiculturalism is beneficial for majority group members

Publication Year


Journal Article

In social psychology, the background assumption of most of the research on cultural diversity ideologies is that multiculturalism is not in the interest of majority group members while colourblindness is. However, this assumption may not hold in a context in which multiculturalism benefits the majority group. Two studies investigated the association between multiculturalism and in-group bias amongst Hindu majority members in Mauritius. In Study 1, survey data showed that those who highly identified as Hindus reported less bias when they endorsed multiculturalism. Using an experimental design, Study 2 demonstrated that higher compared to lower majority group identifiers showed stronger in-group bias in colourblindness, polyculturalism, and control conditions, but not in a multiculturalism condition. In contrast to the existing research conducted in Western countries, these findings demonstrate that multiculturalism rather than colourblindness can be reassuring for high majority group identifiers. It is concluded that the meaning and impact of cultural diversity ideologies for intergroup relations depend on the national context.

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
Type of Article
Journal Article
Full text

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Study 1

Using survey data, we examine in Study 1 the main hypothesis that higher compared to lower Hindu identifiers show more in-group bias under colourblindness but not under multiculturalism. In so doing we focused on the Mauritian “unity in diversity” understanding of multiculturalism.

Participants. In total, 295 students from the University of Mauritius participated in a survey study and of those 140 self-categorized as Hindu. Out of these 140 participants, there were 95 females and 45 males with a mean age of 20.72 (SD = 1.44). [...]

Measures. Colourblindness was assessed on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). [...] Multiculturalism was assessed in terms of dual-identity multiculturalism with [...] four items (same 5-point scales) [...]. [...] Ethnic identification was measured with a six-item measure (5-point scales) of group identification assessing importance and feelings attached to one’s ethnic group was used. Participants were asked to indicate their ethnic group [...]. Then they answered the six items in relation to the group they reported. [...]. In-group bias was assessed using the well-known “feeling thermometer” which is a global measure of group feelings. [...] The participants were instructed to use the “feeling thermometer” to indicate whether they have positive or negative feelings about a list of groups on a scale of 0 to 100 degrees. [...] Following this, six groups were listed, including the Hindus (in-group), and Muslims and Creoles (two largest minority groups). [...]

Study 2

While Study 1 was concerned with individual differences in the endorsement of cultural diversity ideologies, we followed in Study 2 the principle of lay theories activation for examining the causal impact of these ideologies. Following previous research on the effect of diversity ideologies on intergroup attitudes, we used an experimental design to examine the situational effects of being encouraged to think in terms of multiculturalism, colourblindness, or polyculturalism. [...] Furthermore, we also included an experimental control condition in which no cultural diversity ideology was made salient. [...]

Participants. In total, 294 University of Mauritius students took part in the study. Of these participants, 160 described themselves as Hindu (128 females, and 32 males) with a mean age of 21.24, SD = 4.44. [...]

Design and measures. An experimental between-subjects questionnaire study was carried out in which multiculturalism, colourblindness, and polyculturalism were used as ideological frames and an additional control condition was used. [...] Four different versions of the questionnaire were randomly divided among the participants. Three versions focused on the corresponding diversity ideology and the fourth control version focused on leisure time in Mauritius. [...] Participants were first asked to read a short passage about why multiculturalism, colourblindness, or polyculturalism is beneficial for intergroup relations in Mauritian society. [...] Following the passage, participants were asked to write down five reasons why adopting the particular cultural diversity ideology could be beneficial for intergroup relations in Mauritius. Next and for strengthening the message, participants were asked to evaluate five statements (5-point scales) on the particular diversity ideology that they had read [...]. The passage participants read in the multiculturalism condition was as follows: [Text Stimulus A]. The colourblind condition was entitled “Social cohesion in Mauritius” and participants read that: [Text Stimulus B]. The polyculturalism condition was entitled “The polycultural Mauritian society” and participants read that: [Text Stimulus C]. The control condition was entitled “Social development in society” and participants read the following: [Text Stimulus D]. After the experimental manipulation, the participants were presented with the following measures. To measure in-group feeling bias, participants completed the same thermometer rating as in Study 1. They were requested to give a rating of 10 groups, including Hindus (in-group) and the two main minority ethnic groups, that is, Muslims and Creoles. [...] To measure in-group stereotype bias, participants were asked to use a 5-point scale for estimating the proportion of members of each ethnic group [...] that possess six different traits: honest, trustworthy, efficient, competent, friendly and likeable. [...]

Type of Prejudice/Bias