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Abstract

The study of multicultural identity has gained prominence in recent decades and will be even more urgent as the mobility of individuals and social groups becomes the 'new normal'. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art theoretical advancements and empirical discoveries of multicultural identity processes at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and collective (e.g., organizational, societal) levels. First, biculturalism has more benefits for individuals' psychological and sociocultural adjustment than monoculturalism. Bicultural individuals' racial essentialist beliefs and Bicultural Identity Integration affect cultural frame switching, racial categorization, and creativity. Second, identity denial and identity-based discrimination by other people or groups threaten multicultural individuals' psychological health and performance. Third, multiculturalism and interculturalism policies are associated with different conceptions of and attitudes toward diversity, and have distinct outcomes for multicultural individuals and societies.
Multicultural
identity
processes
Ying-yi
Hong
1,2
,
Siran
Zhan
1
,
Michael
W
Morris
3
and
Vero
´nica
Benet-Martı
´nez
4
The
study
of
multicultural
identity
has
gained
prominence
in
recent
decades
and
will
be
even
more
urgent
as
the
mobility
of
individuals
and
social
groups
becomes
the
‘new
normal’.
This
paper
reviews
the
state-of-the-art
theoretical
advancements
and
empirical
discoveries
of
multicultural
identity
processes
at
the
intrapersonal,
interpersonal,
and
collective
(e.g.,
organizational,
societal)
levels.
First,
biculturalism
has
more
benefits
for
individuals’
psychological
and
sociocultural
adjustment
than
monoculturalism.
Bicultural
individuals’
racial
essentialist
beliefs
and
Bicultural
Identity
Integration
affect
cultural
frame
switching,
racial
categorization,
and
creativity.
Second,
identity
denial
and
identity-based
discrimination
by
other
people
or
groups
threaten
multicultural
individuals’
psychological
health
and
performance.
Third,
multiculturalism
and
interculturalism
policies
are
associated
with
different
conceptions
of
and
attitudes
toward
diversity,
and
have
distinct
outcomes
for
multicultural
individuals
and
societies.
Addresses
1
Nanyang
Business
School,
Nanyang
Technological
University,
50
Nanyang
Avenue,
639798,
Singapore
2
Beijing
Normal
University,
19
Xinjiekou
Outer
St,
Haidian,
Beijing
100875,
China
3
Columbia
University,
718
Uris
Hall,
3022
Broadway,
New
York,
NY
10027,
USA
4
ICREA
at
Pompeu
Fabra
University,
Ramon
Trias
Fargas
25-27,
08005
Barcelona,
Spain
Corresponding
author:
Hong,
Ying-yi
(yingyi.hong@gmail.com)
Current
Opinion
in
Psychology
2016,
8:4953
This
review
comes
from
a
themed
issue
on
Culture
Edited
by
Michele
Gelfand
and
Yoshi
Kashima
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.09.020
2352-250/#
2015
Elsevier
Ltd.
All
rights
reserved.
How
many
times,
since
I
left
Lebanon
in
1976
to
live
in
France,
have
people
asked
me,
with
the
best
intentions
in
the
world,
whether
I
felt
‘‘more
French’’
or
‘‘more
Leba-
nese’’?
And
I
always
give
the
same
answer:
‘‘Both!’’
I
say
that
not
in
the
interests
of
fairness
or
balance,
but
because
any
other
answer
would
be
a
lie.
What
makes
me
myself
rather
anyone
else
is
the
very
fact
that
I
am
poised
between
two
countries,
two
or
three
languages
and
sev-
eral
cultural
traditions.
It
is
precisely
this
that
defines
my
identity.
Would
I
exist
more
authentically
if
I
cut
off
a
part
of
myself?
(Amin
Maalouf,
2000,
p.
1)
Since
1990,
the
worldwide
count
of
immigrants
and
expatriates
by
birth
or
citizenship
has
grown
by
75
percent
[1].
On
top
of
migration,
international
tourism
has
in-
creased
from
25
million
to
1133
million
in
2014
[2].
Global
internet
usage
has
grown
from
14
million
to
2.93
billion
between
1993
and
2014
[3].
These
aspects
of
globaliza-
tion
have
heightened
intercultural
exposure
and
the
diversity
of
societies.
As
an
adaptation
to
this
globalization,
Amin
Maalouf’s
identification
with
multiple
cultures
is
shared
by
an
ev-
er-wider
fraction
of
humankind.
To
understand
the
forma-
tion
and
maintenance
of
multicultural
identity,
researchers
study
influential
factors
at
multiple
levels:
intrapersonal,
interpersonal,
and
collective.
In
this
paper,
we
provide
a
review
of
the
latest
scholarship
on
these
multi-level
pro-
cesses.
Specifically,
the
research
addresses
(a)
how
indi-
viduals
navigate
and
manage
multicultural
identities
at
the
intrapersonal
level,
(b)
how
exclusion
and
discrimination
at
the
interpersonal
level
affect
multicultural
identity
forma-
tion
and
negotiation,
and
(c)
how
organizations’
and
socie-
ties’
diversity
policies
also
affect
such
processes.
Intrapersonal
processes
Early
models
of
acculturation
assumed
that
high
identifi-
cation
with
one
culture
(e.g.,
host
culture)
implied
low
identification
with
other
cultures
(e.g.,
heritage
culture).
Recent
conceptual
advancement
recognizes
that
high
identification
with
one
culture
does
not
entail
low
iden-
tification
with
all
other
cultures
[4];
multiple
strong
identifications
are
not
only
possible
but
also
beneficial
[5,6].
For
instance,
a
meta-analysis
of
83
studies
shows
that
biculturalism,
that
is,
attachment
to
and
competency
in
two
cultures,
is
associated
with
both
positive
psycho-
logical
(e.g.,
self-esteem,
lack
of
depression)
and
socio-
cultural
(e.g.,
career
success,
lack
of
delinquency)
adjustment,
but
not
with
health
[7].
This
link
between
biculturalism
and
adjustment
was
stronger
than
the
asso-
ciation
between
monoculturalism
(exclusive
orientation
toward
either
the
dominant
or
heritage/ethnic
cultures)
and
adjustment.
The
positive
relationship
between
biculturalism
and
adjustment
may
be
due
to
a
variety
of
factors
internal
(e.g.,
bilingual
competence,
having
social
support
networks
in
two
cultures)
and
external
Available
online
at
www.sciencedirect.com
ScienceDirect
www.sciencedirect.com
Current
Opinion
in
Psychology
2016,
8:4953
(e.g.,
non-discriminatory
policies)
to
the
acculturating
individual
(see
review
[8]
for
related
research
on
immi-
grant
acculturation).
New
insights
have
also
been
gained
about
‘marginals’
[9],
multicultural
individuals
who
have
low
identification
with
all
their
cultures
[10].
Recent
evidence
contradicts
the
traditional
view
that
these
individuals
are
maladjusted
[11];
instead,
these
culturally
‘marginal’
individuals
are
found
to
be
well
adapted
and
highly
successful
[13,14],
as
demonstrated
by
their
superior
creativity
[13],
intercul-
tural
communication
skills
[14],
and
likelihood
of
being
in
upper
management
positions
[15].
Based
on
these
new
insights,
Arasaratnam
[16]
proposed
an
alternative
defini-
tion
of
multicultural
identity
as
‘the
condition
of
persons
who
have
formed
an
identity
that
is
not
affiliated
with
one
particular
culture
but
instead
a
blend
of
multiple
cultures
and
contexts’,
themes
that
are
developed
in
recent
theory
on
polyculturalism
[17
].
That
said,
the
same
identity
structure
that
may
signal
independence
in
business
executives
may
signal
alienation
in
the
underclass,
thus
future
research
from
a
broader
strata
of
economic
groups
is
necessary.
Research
has
revealed
both
positive
and
negative
con-
sequences
of
priming
international
students
with
symbols
of
their
home
versus
host
culture.
On
the
one
hand,
Zhang
et
al.
[18
]
found
that
immigrants
from
mainland
China
speak
English
less
fluently
when
exposed
to
Asian
than
Caucasian
faces
or
when
exposed
to
Chinese
rather
than
American
images.
Visual
primes
of
the
home
culture
activate
structures
of
their
native
language
that
interfere
with
second
language
processing.
On
the
other
hand,
the
same
primes
can
have
a
positive
emotional
effect;
Fu
et
al.
[19]
found
that
home-culture
primes
soothe
inter-
national
students’
relational
insecurities
that
hinder
their
cultural
adjustment.
Similarly,
Hong
et
al.
[20
]
found
that
subliminally
exposing
international
students
to
home
cultural
cues
would
increase
subjective
well-being
in
that
it
buffers
perceived
discrimination,
and
acculturation
stress.
These
studies
have
broadened
the
range
of
con-
sequences
explored
in
cultural
priming
research.
Bicultural
individuals
differ
in
the
extent
to
which
they
integrate
their
two
cultural
identities
or
Bicultural
Identity
Integration
(BII)
[6].
Specifically,
BII
captures
two
dimen-
sions
of
dual
cultural
identity:
distance
(degree
to
which
two
cultures
are
perceived
as
dissociated)
and
conflict
(amount
of
perceived
tension
between
two
cultures).
Recent
research
indicates
that
a
low
level
of
BII-distance
(perceiving
two
cultures
as
overlapping)
is
beneficial.
For
instance,
immigrants
with
lower
BII-distance
experience
less
anxiety
[21
].
Latino
biculturals
with
lower
BII-
distance
perceived
their
personalities
as
more
similar
to
a
typical
Latino
and
also
more
similar
to
a
typical
Anglo-
American
(compared
to
those
with
higher
BII-distance)
[22].
Saad
et
al.
[23
]
found
that
Chinese-Americans
with
low
BII-distance
had
better
creative
performance
in
a
bicultural
contexts
(where
both
Chinese
and
American
symbols
were
present)
but
not
in
a
monocultural
context
(where
either
Chinese
or
American
symbols
were
pres-
ent).
Tadmor
et
al.
[13]
found
that
low
BII-distance
individuals
exhibited
higher
cognitive
complexity
and
ultimately
creativity.
Identity
conflict
is
anxiety
provoking
[21
].
However,
surprisingly,
a
high
level
of
BII-conflict
(perceiving
high
tension
between
two
cultures)
is
associated
with
some
positive
cognitive
outcomes.
For
example,
Tadmor
et
al.
[12]
and
Benet-Martinez
et
al.
found
that
biculturals
who
experience
identity
conflict
exhibit
greater
cognitive
complexity.
Similarly,
Thomas
et
al.
[24]
found
that
biculturals
perceiving
greater
identity
conflict
have
higher
cultural
metacognition
self-awareness
of
their
cultural
assumptions
and
inferences.
Biculturals’
level
of
identity
conflict
also
moderates
how
they
respond
to
cultural
primes
through
frame
switching
[5].
High
BII-conflict
individuals
shift
their
biases
to
contrast
with
norms
of
the
primed
culture
rather
than
to
assimilate
with
it.
Mok
and
Morris
[25
,26,27]
com-
pared
Asian-American
with
conflicted
cultural
identities
to
those
with
compatible
cultural
identities.
Conflicted
Asian-Americans
exhibited
a
contrastive
or
contrarian
response
more
Western
biases
(on
measures
such
as
focal/holistic
attention,
need
for
uniqueness,
and
individ-
ualism)
after
Chinese
priming
and
more
East
Asian
biases
after
American
cultural
priming.
One
explanation
is
that
conflicted
biculturals
feel
dis-identified
with
their
cul-
tures,
motivated
to
dissociate
themselves
from
each
cul-
ture
[4].
An
alternative
explanation
is
the
motivation
to
protect
the
non-cued
cultural
identity
[25
,26,27].
Recent
studies
using
subliminal
priming
indicate
this
response
occurs
implicitly
rather
than
through
conscious
impres-
sion
management
[25
].
Although
this
response
of
con-
flicted
biculturals
may
prevent
them
from
meshing
with
cultural
contexts,
it
is
useful
in
protecting
them
from
groupthink
when
working
in
groups
from
their
two
cul-
tures
[28].
This
finding
implies
that
bicultural
individuals
with
conflicted
identities
can
contribute
to
avoiding
de-
cision
biases.
Because
culture
and
race/ethnicity
are
often
conflated,
how
bicultural
individuals
conceptualize
the
nature
of
race
and
ethnicity
should
also
affect
how
they
manage
their
identities.
In
particular,
two
lay
theories
of
race
have
been
identified
racial
essentialism
refers
to
a
belief
in
race
as
fixed
biological
essence
that
determines
a
person’s
traits
and
ability,
whereas
social
constructivism
refers
to
a
belief
in
racial
categories
as
malleable
(see
review,
[29]).
Asian
Americans
(ethnic
minorities)
who
believe
in
racial
essentialism
identified
less
with
American
(host)
culture
than
did
those
who
believe
in
social
constructivism
[30].
50
Culture
Current
Opinion
in
Psychology
2016,
8:4953
www.sciencedirect.com
Furthermore,
holding
racial
essentialism
was
also
associ-
ated
with
less
flexibility
in
shifting
between
cultures
[31],
more
rigid
racial
categorization
[32
],
and
dampened
creativity
[33
].
Conversely,
holding
less
racial
essential-
ism
was
associated
with
better
psychological
well-being
for
multiculturals
because
it
reduces
the
racial
barrier
in
interracial
contexts
[34].
Interpersonal
influences
Individuals
negotiate
their
cultural
identities
within
spe-
cific
social
contexts
as
social
performers
meet
social
perceivers
[35].
Problems
arise
when
a
person’s
own
perceptions
and
others’
perceptions
fail
to
align
[35,36].
For
instance,
an
Asian
American
can
strongly
embrace
both
her
Asian
and
American
identities;
however,
percei-
vers
might
forcefully
categorize
her
only
as
Asian
(e.g.,
by
white
Americans)
or
American
(e.g.,
by
her
co-ethnics).
When
this
occurs,
she
may
feel
that
her
autonomy
to
exercise
identity
choice
is
thwarted.
Another
key
chal-
lenge
for
multicultural
individuals
is
that
they
are
often
ethnic
minorities
who
face
discrimination
from
majority
groups
[37,38].
These
problems
contribute
to
a
range
of
negative
outcomes
such
as
dampened
self-esteem,
sense
of
belonging,
and
motivation
[40,41],
increased
substance
abuse
and
depression
[42],
and
impaired
academic
per-
formance
[43],
among
others.
Multicultural
individuals,
especially
those
with
minority
status,
can
take
a
wide
range
of
strategies
to
battle
identity
denial
and
discrimination.
An
automatic
response
to
iden-
tity
denial
is
to
over-emphasize
the
denied
identity
in
a
compensatory
defense
manner,
for
example,
by
behaving
in
more
stereotypically
American
ways
if
one
perceives
denial
to
her
American
identity
[35,43].
Common
strate-
gies
for
combatting
discrimination
are
identity
switching
and
identity
redefinition.
Identity
switching
is
deempha-
sizing
the
vulnerable
target
identity
and
self-recategorizing
into
a
more
positively
valued
identity.
Identity
redefinition
is
highlighting
positive
associations
with
the
target
identity
so
as
to
protect
self-esteem
associated
with
that
identity
(see
[45
]
for
a
review
on
the
mechanisms,
moderators,
and
limitations
of
each
strategy).
In
addition
to
these
reactive
strategies,
preventive
approaches
can
be
taken
to
protect
multiculturals
against
potential
threat.
For
instance,
par-
ents
who
have
successfully
adjusted
to
a
multicultural
environment
can
engage
in
racial
socialization
(i.e.,
raising
awareness
of
racism
and
discrimination,
and
possible
cop-
ing
strategies)
with
their
children
to
improve
their
adjust-
ment
and
adaptation
experiences
[43].
Organizational
and
societal
influences
The
diversity
policies
that
organizations
and
societies
adopt
affect
individuals’
multicultural
identity
formation
and
negotiation.
In
the
remaining
section,
we
review
the
impact
of
two
alternative
policies,
that
is,
multicultural-
ism
and
interculturalism,
on
outcomes
for
multicultural
individuals
and
societies.
Multiculturalism
was
coined
in
1970s
Quebec
to
name
the
‘policy
of
honoring
differences
with
the
goal
of
preserving
different
cultural
communities
within
a
society
or
organi-
zation,
valuing
purity
of
traditions’
[17
],
p.
636.
In
essence,
cultural
groups
have
rights;
societies
should
treat
none
of
its
major
cultural
groups
as
more
central
than
the
others;
individuals
should
be
recognized
in
their
cultural
identi-
ties.
In
two
experimental
studies,
Verkuyten
[46]
found
that
presenting
a
statement
endorsing
multiculturalism
in
the
local
society
enhances
subsequent
self-esteem
of
high
ethnic-minority
identifiers’
but
not
that
of
low
identifiers.
Also,
individuals
endorsing
multiculturalism
show
less
social
dominance
orientation,
more
interest
in
and
appre-
ciation
of
diversity,
and
greater
comfort
with
differences
[47].
However,
some
findings
reveal
costs
of
multicultur-
alism.
One
cost
is
reduced
national
unity
[48].
Further-
more,
multicultural
approaches
that
focus
only
on
superficial
characteristics
of
cultural
groups
may
uninten-
tionally
reinforce
group
stereotypes
[49,50].
Discontent
with
multiculturalism
has
led
to
the
adoption
of
interculturalist
policies
that
promote
‘intercultural
contact
and
dialog.’
The
underlying
theory
is
polycultur-
alism,
the
view
that
individuals
have
‘partial
and
plural’
connections
to
cultures
and
that
cultural
communities
have
always
interacted
and
affected
each
other’s
evolu-
tion
[17
],
p.
634.
Recent
studies
of
diversity
ideologies
find
that
individuals
with
a
polyculturalist
mindset,
com-
pared
with
those
with
multiculturalist
mindsets,
were
more
willing
to
criticize
their
own
cultural
traditions
[51],
more
eager
for
intergroup
contact
[47],
and
held
more
positive
attitudes
toward
people
from
different
cultures
[52
].
Foreign
visitors
who
dramatically
accom-
modate
to
the
norms
of
the
society
they
are
visiting
are
appreciated
by
polyculturalists
and
derided
by
multicul-
turalists
[53]
as
multiculturalists
generally
prefer
individ-
uals
to
maintain
their
cultural
distinction.
In
general,
polyculturalist
individuals
welcome
fluidity
and
hybridity
in
enacting
cultural
norms
whereas
multiculturalist
indi-
viduals
see
them
as
threats
to
cultural
preservation
and
authenticity.
Conclusion
and
directions
for
future
research
The
study
of
multicultural
identity
has
gained
prominence
in
recent
decades
and
will
be
even
more
urgent
as
the
mobility
of
individuals
and
social
groups
becomes
the
‘new
normal.’
As
reviewed,
this
topic
cuts
across
three
(intraper-
sonal,
interpersonal,
and
collective)
intimately
linked
levels.
For
instance,
Cheng
and
Lee
[54
]
have
shown
that
asking
Asian
Americans
participants
to
recall
positive
(neg-
ative)
interactions
with
the
mainstream
American
group
increases
(decreases)
participants’
level
of
bicultural
iden-
tity
integration,
suggesting
that
the
interpersonal
level
affects
the
intrapersonal
level.
Conversely,
intrapersonal
level
can
also
affect
interpersonal
experiences
as
well.
For
instance,
No
et
al.
[30]
found
that
Asian
American
partici-
pants
who
held
a
social
constructivist
view
of
race
increased
Multicultural
identity
processes
Hong
et
al.
51
www.sciencedirect.com
Current
Opinion
in
Psychology
2016,
8:4953
their
American
identification
significantly
after
recalling
a
large
(vs.
small)
number
of
positive
encounters
with
Amer-
ican
culture
but
those
who
held
a
racial
essentialism
did
not.
Finally,
both
the
intrapersonal
and
interpersonal
experiences
are
affected
by
national
policies
[55].
Future
research
can
further
elucidate
the
interplay
between
the
three
levels
of
multicultural
identity
processes.
Interestingly,
the
exponential
prevalence
of
multicultural
contacts
and
mixing
could
possibly
change
human
biology
as
well.
A
recent
study
found
that
adult
Spanish-English
bilinguals
have
larger
gray
matter
volume
in
frontal
and
parietal
brain
regions
(that
are
typically
implicated
in
executive
control)
when
compared
with
English-speaking
monolinguals
[56].
The
researchers
explain
that
manag-
ing
two
languages
(i.e.,
the
experience
with
two
languages
and
the
increase
need
for
cognitive
control
to
use
them
appropriately)
changes
the
brain.
To
the
extent
that
adapting
to
multiple
cultures
also
requires
navigating
between
cultural
contexts
and
managing
multicultural
identities,
multicultural
experiences
may
change
human
brain
as
well
[see
elaboration
in
[29]).
Future
research
can
investigate
this
intriguing
possibility.
Conflict
of
interest
statement
Nothing
declared.
References
and
recommended
reading
Papers
of
particular
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published
within
the
period
of
review,
have
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highlighted
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special
interest
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bicultural
identity
integra-
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assimilated
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both
subliminal
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supraliminal
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poly-
culturalism,
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results
show
that
greater
endorsement
of
polyculturalism
relates
to
more
positive
attitudes
toward
foreigners
above
and
beyond
a
number
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Current
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in
Psychology
2016,
8:4953
... Research focusing on acculturation and adjustment processes in a new cultural context after migration indicates a negative correlation between identification with the host culture and identification with the culture of origin (Hong et al., 2016). However, more recent studies suggest that the correlation between identification with the host culture and identification with the culture of origin can be positive as well as negative (Zander and Hannover, 2013;Hong et al., 2016). ...
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