Friday, 24 April 2015

Collective Angst and Opposition to Immigration

Awareness of group history has an impact on social identity as it promotes a sense of common fate and fosters ingroup cohesion. Collective history is fundamental since "history grounds social identity and, thereby, makes social identity possible". Group history becomes more important for social identity when group members are concerned about losing their connectedness to the past. This happens when they are, for instance, afraid to lose their cultural identity, unity, and distinctiveness through immigrant minorities. The potential loss of historical continuity affects different group members in different ways. The authors hypothesise that those who strongly identify with the ingroup will suffer most when historical continuity is disrupted. It is also assumed that these higher identifiers have enhanced levels of collective angst.

Jamaican immigrants arriving at Gatwick Airport, 22nd March 1962, before the Immigration Bill becomes law.

In their studies, Jetten and Wohl measured identity preservation and protection and manipulated historical continuity by providing information about contemporary English continuity with its past.

Greek women arrive in Wellington, New Zealand, in the 1960s

Here is an example for high historical continuity condition and for low historical continuity in brackets:
"Until recently England was generally thought of as a gentle, fabled land freeze-framed sometime in the 1930s, home of the post office, country pub and vicarage. It’s now better known for vibrant cities with great nightlife and attractions, contrasted with green and pleasant countryside. It is incredible how these two sides of England can go so well together and both represent the England of today [But, it is also clear that this is no longer true for the present England. In fact, the English we know today and the English of yesteryear are two very different peoples]." 

Chinatown, London, 1955

The authors also measured collective angst and opposition to immigration. Results show that "group processes do not operate in a time-vacuum" and that the past, the present and the future are very much linked to each other shaping group actions. When the past is manipulated and presented less connected to the present, high identifiers suffer more and are particularly opposed to immigration. while lower identifiers feel less threatened by discontinuity ... and immigrants.

An Italian immigrant working in the Bedfordshire brickfields, 24th September 1955

Although the sample was rather small and only few items were used to measure complex constructs, the results are rather interesting. Hopefully, more research will follow.

Polish Church of St Bride's, Glasgow, 2nd April 1955

- Jetten, J. & Wohl, M. J. A. (2012). The past as a determinant of the present: Historical continuity, collective angst, and opposition to immigration. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 442-450
- photographs (first one by Keystone/Hutton Archive/Getty Images) via and via and via and  (Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images) via and (Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images) via, copyright by the respective owners

This posting was originally published on Science Google+ on 24th of January 2015