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Muslim Americans’ Responses to Social Identity Threats: Effects of Media Representations and Experiences of Discrimination


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Direct and indirect social identity threats can influence stigmatized individuals to seek identity management strategies that restore a positive sense of social identity. The current study examined the effects of media representations and self-reported experiences of discrimination on Muslim American students’ identity management strategies. Results revealed that Muslim American students who viewed negative media representations of their religious ingroup, relative to a control video, were less likely to desire acceptance by other Americans and more likely to avoid interactions with majority members. Additionally, self-reported experiences of discrimination significantly and positively influenced a desire for collective action. These results reveal the powerful effects of media representations and discrimination in threatening minority group members’ social identity and exacerbating negative intergroup relations between majority and minority groups.
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Media Psychology
ISSN: 1521-3269 (Print) 1532-785X (Online) Journal homepage:
Muslim Americans’ Responses to Social Identity
Threats: Effects of Media Representations and
Experiences of Discrimination
Muniba Saleem & Srividya Ramasubramanian
To cite this article: Muniba Saleem & Srividya Ramasubramanian (2019) Muslim Americans’
Responses to Social Identity Threats: Effects of Media Representations and Experiences of
Discrimination, Media Psychology, 22:3, 373-393, DOI: 10.1080/15213269.2017.1302345
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Published online: 04 Apr 2017.
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Muslim AmericansResponses to Social Identity Threats:
Effects of Media Representations and Experiences of
Muniba Saleem
and Srividya Ramasubramanian
Department of Communications & Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;
Department of Communication, Texas A&M
University, College Station, Texas, USA
Direct and indirect social identity threats can influence stigma-
tized individuals to seek identity management strategies that
restore a positive sense of social identity. The current study
examined the effects of media representations and self-
reported experiences of discrimination on Muslim American
studentsidentity management strategies. Results revealed
that Muslim American students who viewed negative media
representations of their religious ingroup, relative to a control
video, were less likely to desire acceptance by other Americans
and more likely to avoid interactions with majority members.
Additionally, self-reported experiences of discrimination signif-
icantly and positively influenced a desire for collective action.
These results reveal the powerful effects of media representa-
tions and discrimination in threatening minority group mem-
berssocial identity and exacerbating negative intergroup
relations between majority and minority groups.
And today, there are voices in this world, particularly over the Internet, who are
constantly claiming that you have to choose between your identitiesas a Muslim,
for example, or an American. Do not believe them. If youre ever wondering
whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the
United States: You fit in hereright here. Youre right where you belong. Youre
part of America, too. Youre not Muslim or American. Youre Muslim and
President Barack Obama
The above quote was part of President Obamas speech at the Islamic
Society of Baltimore on February 3, 2016 (The White House, 2016). This
quote made salient the tension between Muslim and American identities,
which has been incited by recent incidents, including then-President-elect
Donald Trumps proposition requiring Muslim Americans to carry religious
identification cards (Mark & Diamond, 2015), elected officials refusing to
meet with Muslim American constituents until they declare their allegiance
CONTACT Muniba Saleem Department of Communications & Research Center for
Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
2019, VOL. 22, NO. 3, 373393
© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
to the United States(Hamilton & Ura, 2015, p.1), and claims that Muslim
American citizens are un-American (Sarsour, 2015; Stolberg & Goodstein,
2011). Apart from these incidents, public opinion data reveal that many
Americans question whether Muslims living in America can truly be loyal
to the United States and embrace mainstream American values and morals
(Gallup, 2011; The Brookings Institute, 2011). Of those surveyed, 51% of
Americans believe that Muslims in the United States want to remain distinct
from American culture (Pew Research Center, 2011).
These findings map onto the experiences of Muslim Americans, many of
whom have had direct experiences of religious discrimination (Ahmed &
Ezzeddine, 2009; Sirin, Bikmen, Mir, Zaal, & Fine, 2008; Sirin & Fine, 2008).
In addition to direct experiences of discrimination, the majority of Muslim
Americans report dissatisfaction with the medias representation of Muslims
(Ahmed & Ezzeddine, 2009; Ahmed & Reddy, 2007; Ibrahim & Abdelhalim,
2012). Indeed, Muslims are frequently linked with violence, terrorism, and
aggression across American media outlets, including cable news (Dixon &
Williams, 2015), newspapers (e.g., Nacos & Torres-Reyna, 2007; Powell,
2011), television and movies (e.g., AlSultany, 2012), web animations and
flash-based games (e.g., Van Buren, 2006), and traditional video games
(e.g., Sisler, 2008). These media-based associations are known to influence
negative stereotypes of Muslims, negative emotions towards Muslims, as well
as support for public policies known to harm Muslims (e.g., Saleem, Prot,
Anderson, & Lemieux, 2015; Saleem, Yang, & Ramasubramanian, 2016),
however, no studies to date have empirically examined the effects of these
representations on Muslims themselves.
The present study explored the unique effects of media representations
and self-reported experiences of discrimination in influencing Muslim
American studentsidentity management strategies. Using the social identity
theory framework, we tested the effects of these factors on Muslim
Americansdesire for individual mobility (e.g., acceptance as Americans),
collective action (e.g., changing negative perceptions of Muslims), and avoid-
ance of majority members (non-Muslim Americans). This study contributes
to the scholarship on social identity threats in several ways. First, we exam-
ined the unique and combined effects of media representations and discri-
mination, both of which are routinely experienced by stigmatized individuals,
however, often are not studied together. Second, we examine a range of
group-based consequences that influence minority membersintergroup
dynamics vis-à-vis the majority group. Third, much of the existing work
on the impact of media representations of minorities is focused on the
majority rather than minority members (see D. Mastro, 2009, for a review).
This study focuses on how minority members are influenced by watching
negative mediated messages of their ingroup. Finally, the present study adds
to the limited empirical literature on Muslim Americans who are routinely
exposed to experiences of discrimination and negative media messages of
their religious ingroup.
Social identity threats and associated responses
Individuals strive to achieve a positive social identity (Tajfel & Turner, 1979).
Culturally known stereotypes about ones ingroup (i.e., stigmas), however,
devalue certain aspects of ones identity and act as social identity threats for
stigmatized individuals (Major & OBrien, 2005). These threats can be enacted
directly through experiences of discrimination or indirectly through social
contexts that make salient the culturally known stereotype (Davies, Spencer,
Quinn, & Gerhardstein, 2002; Ellemers, Kortekaas, & Ouwerkerk, 1999; Stout &
Dasgupta, 2011). For example, there are pervasive cultural stereotypes alleging a
sex-based inability for women to perform well in science, technology, engineer-
ing, and mathematics (STEM) related fields. These cultural stereotypes can be
reflected in experiences of discrimination such as women not being given the
same opportunities as men in these fields or be made salient in social contexts
such as watching television commercials that portray women in domestic roles.
Both of these contexts are likely to activate social identity threats in women
(e.g., Crocker, Major, & Steele, 1998;Daviesetal.,2002).
Importantly, the stigmatized individual need not accept or believe in the
cultural stereotype in order to be affected by it (Steele, 1997). Indeed,
research reveals that simple awareness regarding the cultural stereotype
held against ones ingroup is enough to threaten ones social identity
(Steele, 1997). Social identity threats can influence a variety of individual
and group-based reactions in stigmatized individuals (see Major &
Townsend, 2010; Shapiro & Neuberg, 2007, for a review). In the following,
we focus on three strategies that influence minority membersintergroup
dynamics vis-à-vis the majority group.
Individual mobility
In the face of social identity threats, individual mobility involves distancing
oneself from the devalued low-status group with a goal of seeking acceptance
within the high-status group. Research on stigma reveals that chronic threats
to social identity often influence dis-identification and disengagement in
minority groups (Major & OBrien, 2005). Importantly, threats to social
identity do not always lead to individual mobility (e.g., Ellemers, Spears, &
Doosje 1997; Ellemers, Wilke, & Van Knippenberg, 1993; Verkuyten &
Martinovic, 2012). Research suggests that individuals who are highly identi-
fied with their threatened ingroup are less likely to prefer individual mobility
(Ellemers et al., 1997; Mummendey, Kessler, Klink, & Mielke, 1999), as their
sense of self is closely tied to their group identity. In addition, in the context
of immigration, research reveals that host society membersunacceptance of
immigrants negatively influences immigrantsdesire for integration within
host society (see Brown & Zagefka, 2011, for a review), due to heightened
perceptions of boundary impermeability. Indeed, immigrants who have
experienced discrimination or perceive that their ingroup is viewed nega-
tively by host society members are less likely to desire integration within the
host society (Kteily & Bruneau, 2017; Verkuyten & Martinovic, 2012).
Collective action
In contrast to individual mobility, collective action aims to directly strengthen
the group and improve its social status (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). This strategy is
especially desired among highly identified ingroup members and when accep-
tance by the majority is unlikely (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Examples of collective
action strategies can include changing the public perception of the ingroup,
political mobilization, and nonnormative aggressive actions. Research suggests
that working together to collectively challenge inequalities can be an empower-
ing behavioral strategy for minorities (Outten & Schmitt, 2015).
Social identity threats can also influence stigmatized individuals to pursue
avoidant behavioral strategies aimed at reducing encounters with future
threats (Miller, 2006; Miller & Kaiser, 2001). This avoidance can take the
form of disengagement from a threatening domain (e.g., dropping out of a
major in which ones ingroup is devalued; Davies et al., 2002) or social
avoidance from people and environments that are likely to elicit the identity
threat (e.g., Major & Schmader, 1998). This disengagement or behavioral
distancing serves as a self-esteem maintenance strategy (Crocker & Major,
1989; Steele, 1997).
Research reveals that discrimination is one such significant source of
identity threat that often motivates minorities to avoid majority members
(e.g., Doerr, Plant, Kunstman, & Buck, 2011; Jasinskaja-Lahti, Mähönen, &
Liebkind, 2011; Mendoza-Denton, Downey, Purdie, Davis, & Pietrzak, 2002).
For example, Mendoza-Denton and colleagues (2002) argued that both direct
rejection and vicarious experiences of mistreatment, prejudice, discrimina-
tion, and exclusion based on membership in a devalued social group can
generate anxious expectations about future status-based rejection. This anxi-
ety can further influence negative intergroup attitudes and behaviors. For
example, minority members who report experiencing discrimination are
more likely to distrust, display negative attitudes, and display avoidant
behaviors toward majority group members (e.g., Crocker et al., 1998;
Jasinskaja-Lahti et al., 2011; Jasinskaja-Lahti, Mähönen, & Liebkind 2011;
Mähönen, Jasinskaja-Lahti, & Liebkind, 2011; Mendoza-Denton et al., 2002;
Shelton & Richeson, 2005).
Ingroup identification
Research reveals that the extent to which an individual identifies with their
ingroup often moderates their reactions to social identity threats (Tajfel &
Turner, 1979). At high levels of identification, the groups outcomes and welfare
become closely connected to ones own sense of well-being. Research suggests
that intergroup bias effects are especially prominent for those who are highly
identified with their ingroups (Hewstone, Rubin, & Willis, 2002; Saleem, Prot,
Cikara et al., 2015). Similarly, studies exploring the effects of media stereotypes
on minorities (see details below) highlight the importance of ethnic and racial
identity as a moderator.
Specifically, some studies suggest that the effects of
media stereotypes on minoritiesself-concepts are especially damaging for those
who highly identify with their ethnic and racial identity (Rivadeneyra, Ward, &
Gordon, 2007; Schmader, Block, & Lickel, 2015). Given the importance of
ingroup identification identified by previous research we assessed and tested
for ingroup identification effects in the present experiment.
Negative media representations as social identity threats
The above review highlights the importance of discrimination in cuing social
identity threat. In the absence of discrimination, situation cues indicating
that ones group is devalued can also affect behavior (Steele, Spencer, &
Aronson, 2002). Negative representations of ones ingroup within main-
stream media are powerful situational cues indicating to minority members
their worth within the mainstream society (Davies et al., 2002; Fujioka, 2005).
Indeed, numerous reviews have documented that minority groups tend to be
under or negatively represented in mainstream media (Behm-Morawitz &
Ortiz, 2013; Tukachinsky, Mastro, & Yarchi, 2015). This is especially true in
regard to media portrayals of Muslims, Arabs, and people from the Middle
East (AlSultany, 2013; Dixon & Williams, 2015; Nacos & Torres-Reyna, 2007;
Powell, 2011; Saleem & Anderson, 2013; Saleem et al., 2016). Research
suggests that media depictions of minorities can influence majority members
attitudes toward the depicted groups (see D. Mastro, 2009, for a review).
However, much less work has examined how the same media representations
influence the stigmatized members themselves. A consideration of the minority
membersperspective is important as it helps to provide a more complete
understanding of the role of media in intergroup relations. The limited work
that does exist in this domain tends to focus on minority membersself and
group perceptions rather than identity management strategies that can restore a
positive view of the threatened identity (e.g., Abrams & Giles, 2007;Banjo,2013;
Ortiz & Behm-Morawitz, 2015; Rivadeneyra et al., 2007; Schmader et al., 2015).
For example, Banjo (2013) found that African Americans were especially con-
cerned about Black media stereotypes influencing Whitesopinion of African
Americans when they watched the movie with a majority White, relative to
Black, audience. Similarly, exposure to English-language television among
Latino Americans was associated with perceptions of discrimination against
Latinos (Ortiz & Behm-Morawitz, 2015). Schmader et al. (2015) discovered
that Mexican Americans who were exposed to stereotypic film portrayals of
their ethnic group displayed more negative emotional responses (e.g., shame,
guilt, anger) and lower self-esteem compared to those who did not watch such
Apart from these studies, there is limited work examining the impact of
media stereotypes on identity management strategies that can influence
intergroup relations between the majority and minority groups. An impor-
tant contribution in this direction was made by Fujioka (2005). Specifically,
in a sample of African Americans, awareness of medias tendency to nega-
tively represent African Americans was positively associated with endorse-
ment of affirmative action. In other words, African Americansperceptions
of media-based threats to their social identity influenced support for collec-
tive action. This relationship was mediated by negative public perceptions
(i.e., perceptions that White Americans think negatively about African
Americans). Similarly, Tsfati (2007) found that Arab-Israelisperceptions of
media bias against their minority ethnic group was significantly associated
with their negative meta-cognitions (i.e., perceptions that Israelis view Arabs
negatively) and perceptions of ostracism from the larger Israeli society. Thus,
exposure to negative media representations of ones ingroup was inversely
related to desire for individual mobility with the majority culture.
Despite these findings, several theoretical and methodological ambiguities
remain. Theoretically, the majority of studies have examined the effects of
discrimination and media representations in isolation rather than in con-
junction. This is an important limitation as minorities report experiencing
social identity threats due to both factors and perceptions of discrimination
can be enhanced by social contexts that further highlight the minority status
or negative representation of the stigmatized group (Inzlicht & Ben-Zeev,
2000; Stout & Dasgupta, 2011). In addition, studies examining the effects of
media representations on minorities have either not assessed strategies that
are likely to influence intergroup relations or have exclusively focused on one
strategy (collective action or individual mobility). Thus, the effects of media
representations, in particular, on different kinds of strategies are not very
well understood.
Methodologically, the correlational design of past studies assessing identity
management strategies limits the ability to draw causal conclusions regarding
the effect of negative media representations on these strategies in minority
members. Finally, no studies to date have considered how self-reported experi-
ences of discrimination and experimentally manipulated media representations
affect Muslim Americansidentity management strategies even though many
Muslim Americans report experiencing discrimination based on their religious
identity (e.g., Sirin & Fine, 2008) and negative representations of Muslims are
prevalent in American media (e.g., Dixon & Williams, 2014).
The current study used an experimental design to manipulate negative and
control media representations of Muslims and examined how such represen-
tations as well as self-reported experiences of discrimination influence
Muslim American studentsdesire for individual mobility, collective action,
and avoidance of majority members. Given that Muslim Americans report
high levels of ingroup identification (Amer & Bagasra, 2013), discrimination
(e.g., Sirin & Fine, 2008),
and are dissatisfied by negative media representa-
tions of their religious group (e.g., Ibrahim & Abdelhalim, 2012), we had the
following predictions regarding their reactions to social identity threats.
H1aH1c. Participants will be less likely to desire individual mobility
(i.e., acceptance as an American), more likely to desire collective
action (i.e., correcting the negative image of Muslims), and more
likely to avoid majority members when exposed to a video nega-
tively depicting their religious identity compared to participants
who are exposed to a control video (Hypotheses 1a, 1b, 1c,
H2aH2c. Participantsdesire for individual mobility will be inversely related,
but desire for collective action, and intentions to avoid majority
members will be positively associated with self-reported experi-
ences of discrimination (Hypotheses 2a, 2b, 2c, respectively).
RQ 1a1c. Participants desire for individual mobility, collective action, and
avoidance of majority members will be influenced by the inter-
action of video condition and self-reported experiences of dis-
crimination (Research Questions 1a, 1b, 1c, respectively).
However, we had no specific predictions regarding the direction-
ality of these effects.
Control variables
As mentioned, ingroup identification moderates the effect of social identity
threats on subsequent identity management strategies (Major & OBrien, 2005).
In addition, the number of years that recent immigrants have lived in the
United States influences their attitudes and behaviors toward majority groups
(e.g., Jasinskaja-Lahti et al., 2011). Thus, we controlled for ingroup identifica-
tion and number of years lived in the United States in all main analyses.
One hundred fifty two Muslim American students were recruited through
two sampling procedures, including a) students in a small Midwestern uni-
versitys subject pool in exchange for course credit (N= 82), and b) students
at a large Midwestern university in exchange for monetary compensation
(N= 70). This technique allowed us to recruit a sample that is presumably
varied in their levels of religious identification (see Amer & Bagasra, 2013, for
a detailed critique on recruiting through mosques). Only participants who
self-identified as Muslim in a preliminary demographic questionnaire were
allowed to take part in the main study. Of the 152 participants, 93 self-
identified as females, 50 as males, and 9 were unidentified. The majority of
participants self-identified as ethnically Arab (61.84%), followed by South
Asian (23.68%), other (6.58%), White (4.61%), African American (2.63%),
and East Asian (2.63%). The majority of participants were born in the United
States (57.89%). The mean age was 21.35 years (SD = 1.27).
Participants were told that the objective of the study was to understand
studentsmedia habits and social experiences.After consenting, participants
completed pre-experimental questionnaires assessing their religious identifi-
cation, experiences of discrimination, and demographics information in a
randomized order. Next, participants were asked to watch and evaluate three
news clips. The first two were unrelated to the study (see details below) and
were included to reduce suspicion. For the third video, participants were
randomly assigned to watch a video that depicted Muslims in a negative light
or a control video. Finally, participants completed post-experimental ques-
tionnaires assessing their desire for individual mobility, collective action, and
avoidance of majority members. Post-experimental questions also included
items related to climate change and nutrition to reduce suspicion.
Video clips
To mask the purpose of the study, participants first viewed two news clips
unrelated to this study, one about climate change and the second about
changes to the food pyramid. Next, participants were randomly assigned to
watch a video depicting Muslims in a negative or control light. The negative
video clip discussed the 2007 attempted terror attack on Fort Dix (NJ); it
aired on CBS on May 9, 2007. Specifically, the news clip stated that six
Muslim men who had planned to attack Fort Dix with the goal of killing as
many soldiers as possible were captured. These men were prepared to die in
the name of Jihad and had considered attacking other military bases. The
control video clip discussed afterschool sports practice schedule change due
to Ramadan in a high school, and it aired on ABC on August 17, 2010. The
news clip stated that the high school administrators had decided to delay
afterschool sports practices to accommodate the Muslim students who were
fasting from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. The video
included a brief interview with a Muslim student who expressed his relief and
happiness with the administrations decision. All videos were approximately
of the same length (approximately 2:00 min) and of the same video quality
(Youtube videos).
Pilot testing of videos. It was important to find videos that differed in the
extent to which Muslims are represented negatively but were equivalent on
other important dimensions. We pilot tested the videos using a separate group
of 33 non-Muslim participants recruited through Amazon Mturk who com-
pleted the survey for monetary compensation. We expected participants to rate
the videos as significantly different in the extent to which they depict Muslims
negatively. (The video represents Muslims in a negative light; the video
stereotypes Muslims in a negative way.) Additionally, we expected participants
to rate the videos as equivalent on other nonrelevant dimensions (objective-
ness, accuracy, believability, relevance, interestingness). Participants were ran-
domly assigned to watch one of the videos and asked to evaluate the video
using a 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree) scale. As expected, the
negative video was rated as representing Muslims in a negative light (M=
3.94, SD = 1.03) and negatively stereotyping Muslims (M=3.71,SD =.85)
more than the control video (Ms = 1.71, 2.12, SDs = .69, .99, respectively). Both
conditions were significantly different from each other, Fs (1, 33) > 25.00, ps<
.001. Furthermore, there were no significant differences among the three
videos in the extent to which they were objective, relevant, boring, and
interesting, Fs < 2.00, p>0.5.
Descriptive statistics and alphas for each of the key measures are shown in Table 1.
Pre-experimental measures
Religious identification. Religious identification was measured using a 4-item
scale developed to assess ingroup identification (Doosje, Ellemers, & Spears, 1995).
Participants responded to statements (e.g., I feel strong ties with fellow Muslims,
I identify with other Muslims)ona1(do not agree at all)to7(agree completely)
rating scale.
Experiences of discrimination. Five items assessed participantsexperiences
with discrimination due to their religious affiliation (Schmitt, Branscombe,
Kobrynowicz, & Owen, 2002). Participants indicated their agreement with
statements (e.g., I have personally been discriminated against because of
my religion,”“Others have avoided social contact with me because of my
religion)usinga1(strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree)ratingscale.
Demographics. Participants indicated their gender, age, race, and the num-
ber of years they had lived in the United States.
Post-experimental measures
Desire for individual mobility. Desire for individual mobility was assessed
through two- items. The item I make every effort to be considered part of
American societywas adapted from Mummendey et al. (1999). The other
item I dont have a desire to be accepted by other Americans
(reverse scored)was created for this study. Participants responded to these
statements on a 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree) rating scale.
Desire for collective action. Desire for collective action was assessed through
two items that were created for this study. Participants indicated their
agreement with statements (I am motivated to change the image of
Muslims in American society,”“It is one of my goals to teach non-Muslim
Americans about Muslim values and ideals)ona1(strongly disagree)to5
(strongly agree) rating scale.
Desire for avoidance. Four items adapted from Mackie, Devos, and Smith
(2000)assessed avoidant behavioral intentions. Specifically, participants indi-
cated the extent to which they wanted to avoid, have nothing to do with, be
friends with (reverse cored), and hang out with (reverse scored) non-Muslim
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations (in Parentheses), Alphas (on Diagonal), and Correlations of
Key Variables.
Scale Range Mean (SD)1 2 3 4 5
1) Experiences of discrimination 15 3.00 (1.12) 0.89
2) I make every effort to be accepted as an
15 3.34 (1.23) 0.07
3) I dont have a desire to be accepted by
other Americans
15 2.62 (1.13) 0.05 0.26**
4) Collective action 15 4.01 (0.88) 0.15 0.28** 0.10 0.70
5) Avoidance of majority members 17 2.03 (1.12) 0.02 0.36*** 0.25* 0.20* 0.85
Note. N = 152, *p< .05, **p< .01, ***p<.001.
using a 1 (strongly disagree)to7(strongly agree) rating scale.
Higher scores indicated a desire to avoid majority members.
Preliminary Analyses
Correlations among all main variables are reported in Table 1.
In order to account for the negative skewness observed in the ingroup
identification measure, we log transformed this measure (M=.17,SD =.20,
skewness = .93). The log transformed ingroup identification measure did not
significantly moderate the effect of video condition on the outcomes assessed.
This is consistent with some of the other studies that have found nonsignificant
effects of ingroup identification in the context of media stereotypes (Fujioka,
2005;Mastro,2003). The lack of a significant moderation could be due to
priming manipulations temporarily overriding individual difference effects in
accordance with the activated schema (Bargh et al., 1988). The log transformed
ingroup identification measure and place of birth (United States or not) were
included as covariates in all subsequent models. Finally, the two items for
individual mobility were analyzed separately due to the low alpha (α=.41)
obtained for this composite measure.
Main analyses
The small sample size obtained prevented us from using structural equation
modeling techniques to test our hypotheses. In order to account for the
intercorrelations between dependent measures, we performed a multivariate
analysis of covariance to determine the effect of video (negative vs. control),
discrimination (standardized), and the interaction between video and dis-
crimination on the two items reflecting individual mobility, collective action,
and intentions to avoid non-Muslims. As stated above, ingroup identification
and place of birth were included as covariates.
Multivariate analysis of covariance results revealed a significant effect for
video condition, F(4, 142) = 2.97, p<.05, Wilksλ= .92, but not self-reported
discrimination, F(4, 142) = 1.69, p>.10, Wilksλ= .95 or the two-way
interaction between video and discrimination, F(4, 142) = 1.36, p>.10,
Wilksλ= .96. Univariate tests were performed next in order to better under-
stand these effects.
Desire for individual mobility
Univariate tests revealed that there was a significant effect of video condi-
tion on the item I do not have a desire to be accepted by other Americans,
F(1, 145) = 6.86, p<.05,d=0.43,ηp
= 0.05. Specifically, participants in
the negative video condition (M=2.86;SD = 1.21) were significantly more
likely to agree with this statement compared to those in the control video
condition (M= 2.39; SD = 1.02). Neither the main effect of discrimination
nor the interaction was significant for this item. Univariate tests of the item
I make every effort to be considered part of American societyrevealed no
significant effects of video, discrimination, or the interaction.
The low alpha obtained for this measure prevented us from examining
these items as a composite measure of individual mobility. Whereas, one
of the items was assessing the extent to which one desires acceptance
within a national society, the other item was assessing the extent to
which one desires acceptance by other members of that national identity.
Analyses of separate items reveal that exposure to a negative, relative to
control, video of ones ingroup may influence the latter but not necessarily
the former.
Desire for collective action
Univariate tests revealed that video condition did not significantly influence
desire for collective action, F(1, 145) = 0.00, p> .10, contrary to Hypothesis 2a.
Discrimination, however, was significantly and positively associated with desire
for collective action, F(1, 145) = 4.39, p<.05,b= 0.27, supporting Hypothesis
2b. Finally, there was a marginally significant interaction between video con-
dition and discrimination, F(1, 145) = 3.26, p=.07(Figure 1). In the neutral
video condition, discrimination was positively and significantly associated with
desire for collective action, F(1, 76) = 9.81, b=0.27,p< .01. In the negative
video condition, however, discrimination was negatively but nonsignificantly
associated with desire for collective action F(1, 72) = 0.05, b=0.03, p= .44.
Figure 1. Desire for collective action as a function of video condition and experiences of
Overall, video condition did not significantly influence desire for collective
action. Muslim American students who experienced social identity threats
through experiences of discrimination were more likely to desire collective
action. The interaction results revealed that the positive association observed
between discrimination and desire for collective action may be suppressed
when individuals are exposed to other forms of social identity threats,
including watching negative representations of their ingroup.
Desire for avoidance
Univariate tests revealed that there was a significant effect of video condition on
intentions to avoid non-Muslim Americans, F(1, 145) = 7.07, p<.05,d=0.44,ηp
= 0.05, supporting Hypothesis 1c. Specifically, participants in the negative video
condition (M=2.25;SD = 1.26) were significantly more likely to avoid non-
Muslim Americans than those in the control video condition (M=1.78,SD =0.83).
Neither the effect of discrimination nor the interaction was significant in this
These results suggest that Muslim American students who are exposed to
negative mediated representations of their religious group are more likely to
avoid non-Muslim Americans compared to participants exposed to control
media representations. Furthermore, this effect is not moderated by experi-
ences of discrimination.
The present study examined how media representations and self-reported
prior experiences of discrimination influence Muslim American students
responses to social identity threats. Results revealed that Muslim American
students who were exposed to negative media representations of their reli-
gious identity were less likely to desire acceptance by other Americans and
more likely to avoid majority members compared to those in the control
video condition. Importantly, video condition did not significantly influence
the item I make every effort to be considered part of American societyfrom
the individual mobility scale, suggesting that perhaps the two items were
assessing different aspects of acceptance within the dominant society. It is
possible that one of the items was assessing desire for acceptance by a society,
whereas, the other was assessing desire for acceptance by its dominant
members. Alternatively, it is possible that one of the items was assessing
identification with a society and the other was assessing dis-identification,
both of which may be related but have different underlying motivations
(e.g., Verkuyten & Yildiz, 2007). Future studies can better address these
questions by using different measures that have high reliabilities.
Video condition did not significantly influence desire for collective action,
contrary to Hypothesis 1b. It is possible that the heightened desire for
collection action observed in this sample (M= 4.01) suppressed the potential
effect of video condition. Alternatively, the negative media representation
may have been a more ambiguous form of social identity threat than actual
experiences of discrimination. Research reveals that ambiguous forms of
discrimination are less likely than blatant discrimination to elicit collective
action (Becker & Wright, 2011).
Self-reported experiences of discrimination, however, were positively and
significantly associated with desire for collective action, supporting
Hypothesis 2b. In addition, a marginal two-way interaction between video
condition and discrimination emerged for desire for collective action. This
interaction revealed that although discrimination may be positively asso-
ciated with a desire for collective action in the control condition, this effect
is nonsignificant in the negative video condition. It is possible that the
situational social identity threat presented through the negative video condi-
tion inhibits motivations for collective action and influences other kinds of
reactions including avoidance.
Results from this study reveal that negative media representations of minorities
in mainstream media are similar to experiences of discrimination in activating
social identity threats. This is significant considering that when minorities are
represented in media they are either under represented or negatively represented
(Mastro, 2009). Previous research reveals that negative media representations have
detrimental consequences on minoritiesself-esteem and negative emotional
responses (e.g., Schmader et al., 2015). Results from the present study reveal that
negative media messages may also affect intergroup relations such as desire to
avoid majority members. However, media are also powerful in reversing some of
these effects. Indeed, media that represent minorities in a positive manner and
depict positive intergroup contact between majority and minority member
increase positive intergroup attitudes in majority members (e.g., Saleem et al.,
2015; Joyce & Harwood, 2012). More work is needed to examine if these positive
effects can also generalize to minority members.
The fact that negative media representations inversely influenced minority
membersdesire for acceptance by the majority is significant in understand-
ing intergroup relations in a multicultural society like the United States as
well as many parts of Europe. Indeed, many European countries are adjusting
to a recent increase of Muslim immigrants and are involved in conversations
regarding the successful integration of these immigrants within host societies
(Chryssochoou & Lyons, 2011). At the same time Muslim immigrants in
these countries are experiencing social identity threats through high levels of
discrimination and dissatisfaction with political and media-based rhetoric
surrounding their religious ingroup (Chryssochoou & Lyons, 2011;
Verkuyten, 2014). Previous work has highlighted that media are one of the
most significant sources through which minorities learn about their value
and standing within the majority culture (e.g. Abrams & Giles, 2007;
Harwood & Roy, 2005). It is possible that increased and positive depictions
of minorities in the mainstream media can improve minoritiesperceptions
of acceptance and worth within the dominant society and culture. It may
even facilitate better integration of immigrants into host societies. Of course,
more work is needed to test these ideas and assumptions.
Certainly more message-centered approaches to promote more balanced repre-
sentations of minority groups in mainstream media would ameliorate some of the
negative effects observed of media stereotypes (Ramasubramanian, 2007). In
addition, media literacy interventions can focus on teaching minority members
effective individual and collective coping strategies in response to media-based
social identity threats. In the context of media, collective action could also take the
form of media activism so that community-based organizations could use media
as a tool for amplifying the voices of underresourced and underrepresented
minority groups. These community organizations for minority groups could
provide resources for developing critical media literacy skills that help minority
group members challenge and counterargue with negative media images of their
group at the individual level.
Although the effects observed in this research would theoretically generalize to
other minority groups, it is important to emphasize the significance of negative
media representations for the Muslim American community. Muslims in America
report alarming levels of discrimination due to their religious identity and report
dissatisfaction with the ways in which Muslims are represented in American
media (Ahmed & Ezzeddine, 2009; Ahmed & Reddy, 2007;Ibrahim&
Abdelhalim, 2012). These frequent social identity threats are likely a source of
stress in Muslim Americanseveryday lives, affecting various spheres of life such as
housing, education, healthcare, and banking. Indeed, chronic stress based on
experiences of discrimination has been linked to lower self-esteem, increased
anxiety, decreased life satisfaction, and heightened depression (see Major &
OBrien, 2005, for a review). Although the chronic effects of negative media
representations on minority groups are unknown, results from the present
research suggest that these images may be similar to experiences of discrimination
in affecting negative outcomes. More research is needed to examine the long-term
consequences of negative media representations for minority members.
A few limitations deserve attention. First, the use of a student sample some-
what limits the generalizability of the results obtained from the present study.
However, research suggests that Muslim American youth are especially likely to
experience discrimination and dissatisfaction with medias representation of
their religious group (e.g., Ahmed & Ezzeddine, 2009; Ahmed & Reddy, 2007;
Ibrahim & Abdelhalim, 2012;Sirin&Fine,2008). Nevertheless, future research
should examine these processes using an adult sample. Second, the alpha
obtained for our individual mobility measure was less than desirable.
This could have been due to the use of a new reverse-scored item, different
sample, or, ultimately, conceptual problems with the measure itself. Thus,
caution should be taken when interpreting results related to the individual
mobility measure. Future studies should include other assessments of individual
mobility as well as other reactions to social identity threats including social
Another limitation is that the majority of our participants ethnically
identified as Arab Americans. Future studies should include more diverse
ethnic representation of Muslim Americans to better understand whether the
results of the present study can be generalized to Muslim Americans from
other ethnic groups. The third limitation concerns the videos used in the
present study. Although we equated the videos on objectiveness, accuracy,
believability, relevance, and interestingness, it is possible that they varied on
other important dimensions such as arousal, typicality, and positive and
negative emotions. Future studies should extend these results by including
several different videos that are equivalent on other important dimensions to
providence evidence for external validity and overall generalizability of these
results. A related limitation is the use of a non-Muslim sample in the pilot
test to evaluate the videos. It is possible that evaluations of these videos might
significantly differ based on the participantsreligion.
Overall, the present study extends previous literature on negative media
representations and minorities in a theoretically important direction.
Specifically, results from the present study reveal that negative media repre-
sentations along with experiences of discrimination activate social identity
threats, motivating responses that have important intergroup consequences.
These results suggest that negative media representations of minorities can
influence their desire for acceptance by majority members as well as their
intentions to avoid majority members. Thus, negative media representations
can be an importance source of stigma for minority members leading to
harmful intergroup consequences.
1. The moderating role of racial identity, however, has been found to be weak in some research,
particularly in survey-based media effects studies (e.g., Fujioka, 2005;Mastro,2003).
2. At high levels of ingroup identification and discrimination (signaling boundary imper-
meability), social identity threats are inversely related on individual mobility
(e.g., Ellemers et al., 1997; Mummendey et al., 1999; Verkuyten & Martinovic, 2012).
3. We measured behavioral intentions toward non-Muslim Americans, as this is a clear
religious outgroup for Muslim Americans. Some may propose that White Americans is
a more appropriate outgroup, however, many Arab Americans racially identify as
White (Ajrouch & Jamal, 2007). Indeed, the U.S Census (2017) racial category of
Whites includes Arab Americans, many of whom are Muslim.
4. The rating scale for behavioral intentions used in previous studies is 17
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In the context of the right to religious freedom. Minority groups have not received serious attention from the upper class, this is evident in the many minority rights that must be fought for. Minority groups are often overlooked or underrepresented in the media, most minority groups play less of a role in television programs. Minority groups are often misinterpreted through prejudices held by the majority. The position of the Indonesian mass media as a social institution in relation to society is very important, where the position of the media has a very power that can be considered to make a better living society. The wahabi movement is sometimes also associated with salafist groups referring to salafist clerics (earlier Ulama), Wahabi or Salafi marking the movement of Islamic conservatism. This movement is associated by some circles with various radical movements, considering that its approach is often to fictionalize or silence others, so the term Wahabi as a pejorative form, a term that contains negative meanings. The study aims to find out relations of media and minority groups to the existence of Wahhabism in Indonesia. Library research method is used in this study. From the findings in this article which uses a literature study, the relationship between media and minority groups in the existence of Wahabi, it can be seen that the media has experienced media success in partiality towards minority groups. Wahabi who feel part of a minority group, by building and establishing relationships with the media, succeed in bringing about new changes, through the media, their guidance as a minority group their rights are successfully fulfilled.
... Previous media research has documented how Islam is routinely portrayed as ideologically inferior and offensive to Western values, particularly around issues of human rights and gender equality. Congruently, Muslim people have been frequently stereotyped as anti-democratic terrorists and intolerant misogynists who threaten the very foundations of civilisation (Ahmed & Matthes, 2017;Dixon & Williams, 2015;Kabir, 2010;Nacos & Torres-Reyna, 2007;Poole, 2002;Poole & Richardson, 2006;Saeed, 2007;Saleem & Anderson, 2013;Saleem & Ramasubramanian, 2017;Said, 1978). Constructing Muslim communities as suspicious and inferior works to communicate the message -that Muslims lack value, are underserving of respect, and are not worthy of full membership in progressive societies (Cherney & Murphy, 2015). ...
Islam and Muslim people feature regularly in news coverage internationally and in Aotearoa New Zealand. Previous research shows a dominant tendency towards the perpetuation of stereotypes of Muslim people as threats to society. Although such international trends are also evident in news items produced in Aotearoa New Zealand, there are also alternative and more positive depictions. Using Newztext Plus to find 583 New Zealand – produced news items and press releases from the Muslim community for the period 2013 to 2018, this article documents the mediated depiction of Muslim people and Islam, intergroup relations with non-Muslim groups, and the range of contemporary issues that were covered. Findings are presented in three interrelated sections: (1) positive and inclusive depictions evident through the lens of peace, tolerance, and inclusivity; (2) persistently negative stereotypes through the lens of violence and terrorism; (3) the contestation of negative depictions by Muslim leaders and inter-faith allies. This article sets the groundwork to foreground some of the complexities around positive and negative depictions of Islam in news coverage leading up to the Christchurch terror attacks. Future research will explore if and how depictions change in light of the events of March 15, 2019.
... Besides having an external source, the nature or characteristic of threat by association is also indirect because Muslims in Indonesia do not necessarily interact or are in direct contact with Westerners from different parts of the world. As an indirect intergroup threat, the threat by association stems from ingroup members' knowledge and observations of the outgroup through historical narratives spread in schools or books (Psaltis et al., 2017), as well as through news or information from the media, such as the internet, radio and television (Saleem & Ramasubramanian, 2019). Finally, the threat by association may take shape via realistic threats or symbolic threats. ...
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This article addresses the question of why members of a majority group, despite their more powerful status, may protest against low-power minority groups. The present study addressed this question in the context of immanent intergroup relations between Muslims, as the majority group, and non-Muslims, as the minority group, in Indonesia. It is argued that at the core of such collective protests is a threat by association, a perception of the majority group members that the minority groups are in league with the West which threatens the existence of Muslims worldwide. Based on data collected using a survey questionnaire from Indonesian Muslims (N = 418) this study tested a hypothesised model using threat by association posed by the minority groups, Islamic puritanism and beliefs relating to western conspiracy to predict collective protests and intolerant intentions against non-Muslim minorities in Indonesia by using MPlus version 7.0. The hypothesised model found empirical support. The relationship between threat by association and Islamic puritanism with collective protests was mediated by Western conspiracy beliefs. It was also found that support for collective protests got translated into majority group members’ religious intolerant intentions against the people belonging to the non-Muslim minority groups. The article discusses the theoretical implications and research limitations of these empirical findings.
Despite widespread trust in scientists, efforts to curtail their influence suggest some Americans distrust scientists and may even perceive them to be a social threat. Using panel survey data, we examine who holds this viewpoint and potential implications of threat perceptions. Results suggest Republicans and Evangelical identifying individuals perceived more social threat from scientists. News media uses were associated with threat perceptions in divergent ways. Threat perceptions were strongly associated with inaccurate science beliefs, support for excluding scientists from policy-making, and retributive actions toward scientists. Findings highlight the importance of social identity considerations amid concerns about partisan social sorting and politicization of science.
Pride and Prejudice (1813) is transposed onto an Indian-origin Muslim community in modern-day Toronto in Uzma Jamaluddin’s Ayesha at Last (2019), and the novel is as much about being Muslim in the West as it is about being an Austen adaptation. These creative departures from the Austen hypotext contribute to the novel’s positive reception, which can be gauged from the 4.4 stars rating by 1184 users on Amazon. Ronald Robertson (1995) argues that “diversity sells,” and this article examines Amazon user reviews to demonstrate how Jalaluddin’s Muslim glocalization of Pride and Prejudice makes her novel a success and reveals the market for such diverse stories. She makes a commendable effort to make space for practicing Muslim protagonists in the Austen oeuvre and succeeds in providing realistic depictions of many aspects of the Muslim community. However, the novel’s unfortunate surrender to Western stereotypes of the “terrorist” Muslim male to appeal to the implicit white reader ultimately undermines its authenticity and does not fully represent the breadth of Muslim experience, thereby demonstrating that continued effort is required to overhaul the publishing industry’s employee and audience base to enable the inclusion of more equitably drawn minority characters.
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Research suggests that members of advantaged groups who feel dehumanized by other groups respond aggressively. But little is known about how meta-dehumanization affects disadvantaged minority group members, historically the primary targets of dehumanization. We examine this important question in the context of the 2016 U.S. Republican Primaries, which have witnessed the widespread derogation and dehumanization of Mexican immigrants and Muslims. Two initial studies document that Americans blatantly dehumanize Mexican immigrants and Muslims; this dehumanization uniquely predicts support for aggressive policies proposed by Republican nominees, and dehumanization is highly associated with supporting Republican candidates (especially Donald Trump). Two further studies show that, in this climate, Latinos and Muslims in the United States feel heavily dehumanized, which predicts hostile responses including support for violent versus non-violent collective action and unwillingness to assist counterterrorism efforts. Our results extend theorizing on dehumanization, and suggest that it may have cyclical and self-fulfilling consequences.
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Two studies examined the effects of reliance on direct and media-based contact for information about Muslims on Americans' stereotypic beliefs of and negative emotions toward Muslims and support for public policies harming Muslims domestically and internationally. Results revealed that reliance on media for information about Muslims was positively associated with stereotypic beliefs, negative emotions, and support for harmful policies. Reliance on direct contact for information about Muslims produced the opposite results. Results from a three-wave longitudinal design revealed that reliance on media and direct contact significantly predict changes in negative emotions which then predict changes in support for civil restrictions for Muslim Americans. We discuss the differential effects of reliance on media-based and direct contact in influencing intergroup outcomes.
The Oxford Handbook of Media Psychology explores facets of human behavior, thoughts, and feelings experienced in the context of media use and creation. Divided into six sections, chapters in this volume trace the history of media psychology; address content areas for media research, including children's media use, media violence and desensitization, sexual content, video game violence, and portrayals of race and gender; and cover psychological and physical effects of media such as serious games, games for health, technology addictions, and video games and attention. A section on meta-issues in media psychology brings together transportation theory, media psychophysiology, social influence in virtual worlds, and learning through persuasion. Other topics include the politics of media psychology, a lively debate about the future of media psychology methods, and the challenges and opportunities present in this interdisciplinary field.
Coping with bias This chapter reviews theory and research on how people cope with stigma-related threats to their identity. It adopts a coping perspective, in which targets of prejudice, discrimination, and negative stereotypes are viewed as active agents who negotiate their social interactions so as to achieve desired goals. Prior theoretical perspectives on how people negotiate devalued social identities are reviewed and common coping dimensions identified. Moderators of ways of coping with stigma-related identity threats are discussed. The chapter closes with a discussion of whether individual coping efforts can be effective at overcoming the effects of stigmatization. It is suggested that understanding the effectiveness of efforts to cope with stigma requires looking at multiple outcome variables and multiple types of coping simultaneously, and adopting a more complex understanding of what is meant by ‘effective coping.’ This chapter considers how people who are stigmatized cope with being a target of negative ...
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent "war on terror," growing up Muslim in the U.S. has become a far more challenging task for young people. They must contend with popular cultural representations of Muslim-men-as-terrorists and Muslim-women-as-oppressed, the suspicious gaze of peers, teachers, and strangers, and police, and the fierce embodiment of fears in their homes. With great attention to quantitative and qualitative detail, the authors provide heartbreaking and funny stories of discrimination and resistance, delivering hard to ignore statistical evidence of moral exclusion for young people whose lives have been situated on the intimate fault lines of global conflict, and who carry international crises in their backpacks and in their souls. The volume offers a critical conceptual framework to aid in understanding Muslim American identity formation processes, a framework which can also be applied to other groups of marginalized and immigrant youth. In addition, through their innovative data analytic methods that creatively mix youth drawings, intensive individual interviews, focused group discussions, and culturally sensitive survey items, the authors provide an antidote to "qualitative vs. quantitative" arguments that have unnecessarily captured much time and energy in psychology and other behavioral sciences. Muslim American Youth provides a much-needed road map for those seeking to understand how Muslim youth and other groups of immigrant youth negotiate their identities as Americans.
After 9/11, there was an increase in both the incidence of hate crimes and government policies that targeted Arabs and Muslims and the proliferation of sympathetic portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media. Arabs and Muslims in the Media examines this paradox and investigates the increase of sympathetic images of "the enemy" during the War on Terror. Evelyn Alsultany explains that a new standard in racial and cultural representations emerged out of the multicultural movement of the 1990s that involves balancing a negative representation with a positive one, what she refers to as "simplified complex representations." This has meant that if the storyline of a TV drama or film represents an Arab or Muslim as a terrorist, then the storyline also includes a "positive" representation of an Arab, Muslim, Arab American, or Muslim American to offset the potential stereotype. Analyzing how TV dramas such as West Wing, The Practice, 24, Threat Matrix, The Agency, Navy NCIS, and Sleeper Cell, news-reporting, and non-profit advertising have represented Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans, and Muslim Americans during the War on Terror, this book demonstrates how more diverse representations do not in themselves solve the problem of racial stereotyping and how even seemingly positive images can produce meanings that can justify exclusion and inequality.
Identity and Cultural Diversity examines immigration and its effect on diversity from a social psychological perspective. Immigration increases cultural diversity and raises difficult questions of belonging, adaptation, and the unity of societies: questions of identity may be felt by people struggling with the basic problem of who they are and where they fit in, and although cultural diversity can enrich communities and societies it also sometimes leads to a new tribalism, which threatens democracy and social cohesion.