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Impacts of increased cultural diversity

UC researcher looking at impacts of increased cultural diversity

January 13, 2014

A University of Canterbury researcher is looking into the positive impacts of increased cultural diversity through immigration in New Zealand and around the world.

UC psychology lecturer Dr Kumar Yogeeswaran says New Zealand is experiencing increasing social consciousness toward recognising diversity and respecting cultural differences.

``The latest census data reveals that only 67 percent of the overall population is of European descent while about 15 percent are Maori, nine percent Asian and seven percent Pacific Islanders.

``The number of Asian people and Pacific Islanders are expected to grow considerably over the next decade or so suggesting that New Zealand will become increasingly diverse and will need to find ways to create harmony between people of different groups and avoid ethnic tension and conflict.

``Many other countries are also facing increased cultural diversity with increased immigration and globalisation around the world.

``In many such countries, people have mostly moved away from ideals that argue for people to give up their cultural identities and only subscribe to mainstream ideals. This was an ideology that dominated much of the 20th century.

``Instead people in several countries have moved toward multiculturalism which allows for such recognition of cultural differences while finding common membership in the national group.

`` Promoting multiculturalism can lead to more harmonious relations between people of different ethnic groups in a country. It has also been shown to be helpful for minority individuals’ well-being.’’

However, some research shows that there is still resistance toward diversity policies and majority group members sometimes show increased prejudice toward minorities that embrace their ethnic heritage. Multiculturalism is sometimes seen as being detrimental to the national identity, Dr Yogeeswaran says.

His research helps countries like New Zealand better understand when multiculturalism leads to positive outcomes and when it backfires and leads to negative outcomes among majority group members. His work showed that when people abstractly focus on the broad goals and principles of multicultural ideology, it leads them to show less prejudice toward ethnic minorities.

``However, when people concretely focus on specific strategies necessary to implement multiculturalism, then they show greater prejudice toward ethnic minorities within that country.

``The reason majority group members show more prejudice toward minorities because they see diversity as a threat to their national identity.

``Future research is needed to identify ways to successfully foster multiculturalism among political liberals and conservatives alike in a way that promotes positive relations between diverse social groups within the nation.

``There are diverging opinions relating to ethnic diversity such as immigration, multicultural education, the celebration of cultural events, the use of non-English languages and the use of ethnic or religious clothing in many countries around the world.’’

Dr Yogeeswaran’s research has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which is the No.1 journal in the field of social and personality psychology.


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