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With the rise of globalization, culture mixing increasingly occurs not only between groups and individuals belonging to different cultures but also within individuals. Biculturals, or people who are part of two cultures, are a growing population that has been studied in recent years; yet, there is still much to learn about exactly how their unique experiences of negotiating their cultures affect the way they think and behave. Past research has at times relied on models of biculturalism that conceptualize biculturals’ characteristics and experiences as simply the sum of their cultures’ influences. Yet, the way biculturals negotiate their cultures may result in unique psychological and social products that go beyond the additive contributions of each culture, suggesting the need for a new transformative theory of biculturalism. In this theoretical contribution, our aims are threefold: to (a) establish the need for a transformative theory of biculturalism, (b) discuss how our new transformative theory unifies existing research on biculturals’ lived experiences, and (c) present novel hypotheses linking specific negotiation processes (i.e., hybridizing, integrating, and frame switching) to unique products within the basic psychological domains of self, motivation, and cognition.
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Running head: TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 1
More Than the Sum of Its Parts: A Transformative Theory of Biculturalism
Alexandria L. West
York University
Rui Zhang
Dickinson College
Maya Yampolsky
Université Laval
Joni Y. Sasaki
York University
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 2
Abstract
With the rise of globalization, culture mixing increasingly occurs not only between groups and
individuals belonging to different cultures but also within individuals. Biculturals, or people who are
part of two cultures, are a growing population that has been studied in recent years, yet there is still
much to learn about exactly how their unique experiences of negotiating their cultures affects the
way they think and behave. Past research has at times relied on models of biculturalism that
conceptualize biculturals’ characteristics and experiences as simply the sum of their cultures’
influences. Yet, the way biculturals negotiate their cultures may result in unique psychological and
social products that go beyond the additive contributions of each culture, suggesting the need for a
new transformative theory of biculturalism. In this theoretical contribution, our aims are threefold: 1)
establish the need for a transformative theory of biculturalism, 2) discuss how our new
transformative theory unifies existing research on biculturals’ lived experiences, and 3) present
novel hypotheses linking specific negotiation processes (i.e., hybridizing, integrating, and frame
switching) to unique products within the basic psychological domains of self, motivation, and
cognition.
Keywords: bicultural; multicultural; transformative theory of biculturalism; bicultural negotiation
process; frame switching; hybridization; integration; self; motivation; cognition
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 3
More Than the Sum of Its Parts: A Transformative Theory of Biculturalism
With the rise of globalization, mixing between cultures is increasingly common, which has
relevance both for people moving to a new culture themselves and for members of host cultures
(Chen, Benet-Martínez, & Bond, 2008). International tourism and immigration results in millions of
people travelling to foreign countries every day (International Air Transport Association, 2013),
while media and trade also bring the products of different cultures to us. Having exposure to
multiple cultures is becoming the norm rather than the exception. In fact, culture mixing often occurs
not only between groups and individuals belonging to different cultures but also within individuals.
Biculturals, or people who are part of two cultures, represent a rapidly growing population in much
of the world. In North America, for instance, the U.S. saw a 32% increase in the number of people
identifying with multiple races between 2000 and 2010, a growth rate which surpassed that of
single-race identification during the same period (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). In Canada, a national
survey revealed that approximately 42% of the population identified with multiple ethnic origins
(Statistics Canada, 2011). Globally, according to the most recent available estimates, there are over
231 million immigrants living internationally, more than double what it was in 1990 (United Nations
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2013). Though biculturals are increasingly recognized
as an important segment of many societies, relatively little is known about this group from a
psychological perspective. How do biculturals’ experiences make them distinct? And do the
particular ways biculturals experience their cultures have consequences for how they think and
behave?
Some past research on biculturalism has commonly modelled biculturals’ characteristics and
experiences as simply the sum of their cultures’ influences. For example, the finding that Japanese
Canadian biculturals’ self-esteem is intermediate to typical Japanese and Canadian levels has been
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 4
explained additively, in terms of the averaged amount of exposure and investment these biculturals
have in each culture (Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999). Although biculturals may be at
least partially understood based on the direct influences of both their cultures, in some cases this
understanding may be incomplete. Biculturals may manage their cultures in a variety of ways,
including hybridizing, integrating, and frame switching, which are the main bicultural negotiation
processes we discuss in this paper. Using these negotiation processes may produce psychological
and social products that go beyond the additive contributions of each culture, suggesting the need for
a new transformative theory of biculturalism. In this theoretical contribution, our aims are to 1)
establish the need for a transformative theory of biculturalism, identifying the limitations of the past
additive theory, 2) propose a new transformative theory of biculturalism, discussing how it unifies
and provides a nuanced structure to existing research on biculturals’ lived experiences, and 3) use
our transformative theory to present novel hypotheses within basic psychological domains, including
the self, cognition, and motivation.
Who Is Bicultural?
Before delving into the past and proposed theories of biculturalism, it is useful to first
consider who exactly qualifies as bicultural. Biculturals can be immigrants, sojourners, citizens
living in multicultural societies, or the progeny of people from different cultural backgrounds.
“Culture” itself may also come in different forms. Aside from the more commonly used categories
of ethnicity and nationality,
1
culture may also include region, religion, and social class, among
others (Cohen, 2009). An inclusive theory of biculturalism would ideally incorporate all of these
1
Ethnic labels used by ethnic minorities living in immigrant-receiving countries make categorization even more
complex (Kiang, 2008; Kiang, Perreira, Fuligni, 2011). For example, Mexican Americans could describe their
cultural heritage either in terms of the specific ethnic group they belong to (Mexican) or with a panethnic or racial
label that subsumes the subgroups falling under it (Latino; see Okamoto & Mora, 2014, for a recent review on
panethnicity). It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the factors that predict which spontaneous labels
biculturals prefer to use. However, the general point is that however narrowly (e.g., Mexican) or broadly (e.g.,
Latino) one’s cultural heritage is conceptualized, the bicultural processes proposed herein apply equally well.
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 5
ways of being bicultural, acknowledging the similarities and differences between their experiences.
However, the defining features of biculturals are that they have had personally significant and
sufficiently lengthy exposure to two cultures (Benet-Martínez, Leu, Lee, & Morris, 2002;
Yampolsky, Amiot, & de la Sablonnière, 2013), and thus, this is the definition we use as we discuss
biculturalism.
2
There is also merit in considering the growing number of multiculturals, people who identify
with more than two cultures. To illustrate, an Italian-Armenian girl who is born and raised in
bilingual Montreal will be exposed to her own dual-heritage from her parents along with the two
mainstream English and French language cultures of her city. Many individuals live in the
intersection of national, linguistic, religious and ethnic affiliations as a result of the growing cultural
complexity and mixing occurring at a societal level (Vertovec, 2007; Yampolsky, Amiot & de la
Sablonnière, 2016). Furthermore, these combinations can include cultural groups and experiences
outside of a person’s own heritage and mainstream cultures as our shared public spaces become
more multicultural and opportunities for cross-group relationships increase (Doucerain, Dere &
Ryder, 2013; Shelton et al., 2014; Thompson & Tambyah, 1999). Although the transformative
theory delineated here could be extended to studies of multiculturals, for the sake of simplicity we
focus on the experiences of biculturals as they negotiate their two cultures.
Additive Theory of Biculturalism
In the past, biculturalism research has mainly adopted an additive theory, which generally
assumes that the influences of biculturals’ two cultures are the principal causal factors that sum
2
Implicit in this discussion of “who is bicultural” is the consideration of who is not bicultural, or as an anonymous
reviewer put it, whether there are still monoculturals in an increasingly multicultural world. Although the number of
monoculturals may decrease overall as multiculturalism increases (Alter & Kwan, 2009; Morris, Chiu, & Liu, 2015),
it is likely some individuals in multicultural contexts may remain relatively monocultural due to tensions with or
lower personal investment in other cultures, among other reasons.
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 6
together to determine major aspects of their experiences. Early models of bicultural identification
are rooted in acculturation research, which examines the adaptation process that individuals
such as migrants and their progeny undergo at intra-individual, relational and group levels as a
result of continuous and direct contact with others from diverse cultural groups (Berry, Phinney,
Sam, & Vedder, 2006; Redfield, Linton & Herskovits, 1936). Specific models of biculturals’
identities usually proposed that individuals maintained either 1) a singular cultural identity
(either their mainstream or their heritage group) or 2) both mainstream and heritage cultural
identities (see Ryder, Alden, & Paulhus, 2000).
Unidimensional and Bidimensional Models
Acculturation has typically been conceived as an additive process through two different
models: unidimensional and bidimensional. In the unidimensional model of acculturation, one
would move from their membership in their heritage culture (separation) to membership in their
majority culture (assimilation) or vice versa. In this way, the unidimensional model conceived of
cultural identity as a zero-sum experience in which one must lose one cultural identity to identify
with another cultural group (e.g., Gordon, 1964; Suinn, Rickard-Figueroa, Lew, & Vigil, 1987).
In contrast, the bidimensional model conceived of one’s cultural adaptation along two parallel
lines of mainstream and heritage cultural involvement, respectively. In addition to the
assimilation and separation identity patterns, one can feel marginalized, or disidentify with either
group; alternatively, one could simultaneously identify with and maintain membership in both
heritage and mainstream cultural groups (Berry, 1997; Berry et al., 2006; Ryder et al., 2000). In
the bidimensional model one can have a second identity without losing the first, a framework
which has allowed researchers to examine how individuals are able to simultaneously maintain
membership with multiple cultural groups. The unidimensional and bidimensional models are
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 7
both additive in the sense that they focus on adding cultural identities, but a unidimensional
model puts zero-sum constraints on the end product, whereas the bidimensional model proposes
non-zero-sum possibilities.
One direct implication of the unidimensional model is that people who affiliate with two
cultural groups have cognitive, emotional, and motivational experiences that are situated
between typical members of their heritage and mainstream cultures. As such, past research has
explored how biculturals compare, on average, to their respective monocultural groups. For
instance, the aforementioned work of Heine and colleagues (1999) demonstrated that Japanese
Canadian biculturals reported self-esteem levels that were moderate relative to Euro-Canadian
monoculturals, who reported higher self-esteem, and Japanese monoculturals, who reported
lower self-esteem. Similar findings were reported in the examination of how context affects
emotion judgment (Masuda, Wang, Ishii, & Ito, 2012). Context (i.e., the facial expressions of
surrounding others) exerted the greatest influence on Japanese participants’ judgment of a
target’s facial expression but the least influence on Euro-Canadian participants’ judgment.
Bicultural Asian-Canadians and international students generally showed context effects at levels
that fell between the monocultural groups. Phinney and colleagues’ (2000) examination of
intergenerational changes in values highlighted the developmental bicultural experience of dual
exposure to both the dominant American culture and traditional family obligation values. For
Armenian, Mexican and Vietnamese families, adolescents endorsed traditional values less than
their parents, but more than Euro-American participants, who endorsed traditional family
obligation values the least. These studies demonstrate that biculturals sometimes average the
characteristics typically found in their respective groups, resulting in an intermediate experience
consistent with a unidimensional model.
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 8
Given the longstanding interest in adaptation in acculturation research, the bidimensional
model has primarily been applied to shed light on the relationship between acculturation and
adjustment (Berry et al., 2006). Acculturation research has generally found support for the
adaptiveness of affiliating with both cultural groups compared to the singular affiliation strategy:
having both cultural affiliations is related to greater adjustment and well-being compared to
having only one cultural affiliation (Berry et al., 2006; Chen et al., 2008; Nguyen & Benet-
Martínez, 2013; Sam & Berry, 2010; Torres & Rollock, 2011). Yet, recent work suggests the
importance of examining the processes by which biculturals negotiate their cultural identities,
rather than treating them as orthogonal entities. That is, simply acknowledging that a bicultural
holds two cultural identities does not sufficiently account for their adjustment outcomes. A
strained, compartmentalized relationship between one’s identities has been shown to predict
lower well-being than identifying with one culture over another (Yampolsky et al., 2013, 2015),
demonstrating the potential need for moving beyond an additive understanding of biculturalism
to account for the impact of the complex relationship between one’s cultures.
There are several limitations to the unidimensional and bidimensional models. Among
them is that both frameworks tend to treat cultural identities as independent from one another
and that certain complexities of cultural identification are being overlooked (see Rudmin, 2003).
While the additive process forms the necessary foundation for the bicultural experience, it has
become glaringly apparent that biculturals’ identities are multifaceted, interrelated, and dynamic
(see Doucerain, Dere, & Ryder, 2013; van Oudenhoven & Benet-Martínez, 2015; Yampolsky et
al., 2013; Zhang, Schimel, & Faucher, 2014), underscoring the need for research that clearly and
directly studies our societies’ enormous “super-diversity at the identity negotiation level
(Vertovec, 2007).
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 9
Paving the Way for Transformative Theory: Frame Switching
More recently, biculturalism research has begun filling the gaps left by the
unidimensional and bidimensional models by uncovering the dynamic processes biculturals use
to manage their cultural identities in everyday life. In particular, frame switching was developed
to capture biculturals’ experience of adapting to situationally salient cultural contexts by
activating cultural systems of knowledge (Hong, Morris, Chiu, & Benet-Martínez, 2000). There
is a wealth of evidence demonstrating that biculturals can switch between cultural frames in
domains such as personality and self-descriptions (Ramirez-Esparza, Gosling, Benet-Martínez,
Potter, & Pennebaker, 2006; Ross, Xun, & Wilson, 2002), cognitive styles (Hong et al., 2000),
emotional experience (Perunovic, Heller, & Rafaeli, 2007), and social behaviors (Briley, Morris,
& Simonson, 2005; Wong & Hong, 2005). Cultural cues that can trigger frame switching include
iconic and mundane cultural images (Mok & Morris, 2009; Verkuyten & Pouliasi, 2002),
language (Perunovic et al., 2007; Ramirez-Esparza et al., 2006), and ethnicity of the interlocutor
(Chen & Bond, 2010). Beyond showing that biculturals can frame switch in response to their
cultural context, research using naturalistic experience-sampling methods shows that biculturals
do frame switch in their daily lives (Doucerain et al., 2013; Perunovic et al., 2007). Researchers
have also examined the extent to which biculturals are conscious of their switching and found
evidence for both subconscious and conscious processing. For instance, frame switching has
been elicited using subliminal as well as supraliminal cultural priming (Mok & Morris, 2013),
indicating that at least part of the process can occur subconsciously.
Frame switching research moved toward a transformative theory by elucidating one way
biculturals negotiate the coexisting cultures within themselves. First, frame switching draws on
knowledge activation research (Higgins, 1996) to explicate how cultural knowledge follows the
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 10
same basic cognitive principles of activation as any knowledge structure. Unlike bidimensional
models that conceptualize biculturalism as a stable configuration of host and heritage cultural
engagements, the frame switching model provides a person-by-situation analytic framework in
which a subset of one’s cultural knowledge is cued by the immediate environment and
subsequently serves as a behavioral guide. The implication is that biculturals can acquire
multiple knowledge structures, but these take turns to become operative and guide action.
Second, in the lived experience of many biculturals, frame switching is likely rooted in the
relative separateness of life domains: for example, the dominance of host culture in public
domains and the dominance of heritage culture in private domains (Arends-Tóth & van de
Vijver, 2004). Thus, it is one functional process biculturals may use to balance their dual cultural
orientations in everyday life.
Despite these strengths, what seems to be missing in the current frame switching research
is a consideration of the psychological changes that emerge from repeatedly switching between
cultures. By focusing on the influence of each situationally active cultural frame, the current
theoretical approach may be analogous to taking snapshots of the switching process. However,
the switching process itself could exert a causal force, leading to psychological changes that go
beyond moment-to-moment effects and cannot be reduced to the direct influence of either
culture. Understanding the outcomes of the frame switching process is one of the primary goals
that motivated our transformative theory of biculturalism. Thus, we view the current frame
switching research as providing an important bridge between the additive theory and our
transformative theory that extends the explanatory power of frame switching.
A Transformative Theory of Biculturalism
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 11
As reviewed, the traditional additive theory has conceptualized biculturals as the sum
total of their cultures, emphasizing the relative influence of each culture. While this research
advanced the field in crucial ways, the agentic nature of biculturals’ engagement with their
cultures may have at times been overlooked. We aim to put forth a transformative theory of
biculturalism that focuses on how biculturals’ active negotiation of their cultures changes them
in ways that transcend the influence of their particular cultures alone.
Key Assumptions of a Transformative Theory
Our transformative theory of biculturalism posits that biculturals’ characteristics and
experiences result not only from the direct influences of each of their cultures, but also from the
processes they use to negotiate their cultures. We refer to these as bicultural negotiation
processes, and they include hybridizing, integrating, and frame switching. In contrast to the
additive theory, our transformative theory emphasizes that using these negotiation processes may
affect biculturals in ways that go beyond the cumulative influence of their cultures. As an
analogy, consider baking a cake. To make a cake, it is not enough to simply add the ingredients
together in a container. You must go through the transformative processes of combining the
ingredients in a particular way, mixing the dry ingredients together before slowly adding the wet
ingredients, and heating the mixture in an oven in order to end up with a cake. The processes
involved are just as important as the ingredients, as the ingredients alone are not all there is to the
cake. Likewise, having two cultures together in one person is not all there is to being bicultural;
the processes of negotiating the two cultures are often crucial parts of a bicultural’s experience.
To illustrate this phenomenon in biculturals’ actual lives, Yampolsky and colleagues
(2013) collected rich accounts of biculturals’ negotiation experiences based on interviews. One
participant said, “[My cultures] are all interconnected, they each bring something to the pot. It’s
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 12
like you have a fondue, there’s a lot of cheese in there, but there’s different cheese in
there…everybody brings their own cheese. At the end you have got something marvellous. It
doesn’t [taste] like any one cheese. It tastes like a new delicious cheese.” Just as the different
processes involved in baking a cake, such as blending the ingredients together or constructing
different layers, are responsible for distinct features of the end product, so too might the use of
different bicultural negotiation processes produce specific characteristics in biculturals. For
example, as discussed in a later section (“Effects on cognition”), we predict that the process of
frame switching between cultures may result in different cognitive abilities (e.g., context
sensitivity) than the process of integrating cultures (e.g., cognitive complexity). Our
transformative theory of biculturalism highlights an essential feature of what it means to be
bicultural having unique experiences that depend on the particular ways they negotiate their
cultures. It also acknowledges the heterogeneity amongst biculturals and points to the need to
examine the causal relationships between process and unique outcomes rather than relying on
cruder comparisons between monoculturals and biculturals. Importantly, our theory makes
specific predictions about how and why different bicultural negotiation processes may lead to
different psychological outcomes.
Distinctions and Relationship between Transformative Theory and Additive Theory
The defining feature of the additive theory of biculturalism is its focus on the cumulative
influence of each culture on biculturals’ characteristics and experiences. Additive theory does
not address how the process of negotiating two cultures may affect biculturals. Our
transformative theory of biculturalism, in contrast, assumes that the way biculturals negotiate
their cultures affects their characteristics and experiences beyond the sum of each culture’s
influence. In additive theory, the influences of Culture 1 and Culture 2 are primary causal factors
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 13
that, when summed together, result in biculturals’ characteristics. Transformative theory expands
on additive theory by emphasizing that the processes biculturals use to negotiate their cultures
(e.g., frame switching) can be not only additive, but transformative causal factors ones which
may account for unique changes in characteristics for biculturals. For example, in accounting for
Chinese Americans’ characteristics, additive theory may sufficiently predict how and when these
biculturals are influenced by American values regarding personal freedom and Chinese values of
social harmony. However, there may be times when transformative theory could yield further
insight. For instance, researchers might be interested in how negotiating multiple systems of
values makes Chinese American biculturals more open-minded. In this case, open-mindedness is
a characteristic biculturals develop from the transformative process of negotiating their cultures
and is not attributable to the additive influence of American and Chinese cultures.
Our intention with transformative theory is not to assert that the bicultural negotiation
processes are more important or more strongly affect biculturals compared to the additive
influences of their cultures, but that additive and transformative processes exert causal force. For
certain outcomes, the additive components (i.e., cumulative influence of each culture) may need
to be at certain levels or create a particular profile for the transformative processes of bicultural
negotiation to be relevant. In the Chinese American example above, for instance, such biculturals
may need to view their Chinese and American value systems as sufficiently different from each
other in order to develop ways of negotiating the two systems and subsequently be impacted by
these negotiation processes. Further, additive and transformative processes are likely to interact,
as the influences of biculturals’ particular cultures may affect the way biculturals negotiate their
cultures and vice versa (see later section on “Situation-level moderators”). Our transformative
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 14
theory adds complexity to the additive theory, thus building on rather than nullifying it, in order
to provide a richer understanding of biculturals’ lived experiences.
Unifying Existing Research
To illustrate the promise of a transformative theory of biculturalism, we show how such a
framework might provide a more comprehensive account of certain findings than its additive
predecessor. We start by considering past biculturalism research, noting cases in which the
additive theory may fall short in explaining the results. Next, we move to the related field of
social identities to illustrate how employing a transformative theory can yield more nuanced
conclusions. Lastly, we highlight evidence of the unique products of bicultural negotiation
processes provided by more recent biculturalism research that is consistent with a transformative
theory.
Within biculturalism research, certain results may be understood more clearly by using a
transformative rather than additive conceptualization of biculturalism. For example, biculturals
differ in the way they cognitively and behaviorally react to the same cultural context, with some
biculturals assimilating themselves to the salient culture and others contrasting away from that
culture by adopting culturally atypical thoughts and behavior (Benet-Martínez et al., 2002;
Friedman, Liu, Chi, Hong, & Sung, 2012; Mok & Morris, 2009, 2013; Zou, Morris, & Benet-
Martínez, 2008). This moderation effect is partly driven by individual differences in bicultural
identity integration (BII), biculturals’ understanding of how their two cultural identities relate
(Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005; Mok & Morris, 2013). Biculturals with high BII view their
cultural identities as compatible and overlapping, while those with low BII view their cultural
identities as conflicting and separated (Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005; Huynh, Nguyen, &
Benet-Martínez, 2011). BII goes beyond additive considerations of cultural identification, as two
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 15
biculturals whose cultures are equally important to them can differ on BII depending on how
they manage the two together. Benet-Martínez and colleagues (2002) found that cultural priming
resulted in opposite patterns of frame switching for those high versus low on BII. High BII
biculturals assimilated their behavior to the primed culture, while low BII biculturals contrasted
their behavior away from the primed culture by adopting behavior more characteristic of their
non-primed culture. Importantly, biculturals can differ in BII despite strongly identifying with
both of their cultures. Additive theory does not seem to explain why integrating cultural
identities moderates the effects of cultural contexts when the strength of each cultural identity is
constant. Transformative theory, in contrast, assumes that differences in integrating can affect
how biculturals respond to their cultural environments, beyond simply adding the two cultural
identities together.
Even the process of integrating cultural identities is itself malleable and may be related to
cognition in ways that suggest a conceptualization of biculturalism in line with transformative
theory. Cross-cultural research has typically found an analytic cognitive style (i.e., context
independence, formal logic) to be more characteristic of North American cultures, whereas a
holistic cognitive style (i.e., context dependence, dialectical) is more characteristic of East Asian
cultures (Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). The additive theory of biculturalism might
therefore predict that, for Asian Americans, their Asian identification would be tied to holistic
cognition while their American identification would be tied to analytic cognition, but would not
predict that the integration of these identities would be tied to a particular cognitive style.
Counter to an additive prediction, however, when Mok and Morris (2012) primed Asian
Americans with global (versus local) processing, a visual attention pattern associated with
holistic cognition, the global priming increased biculturals’ BII. This suggests that holistic
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 16
cognition may relate to the way two cultural identities are negotiated rather than being linked
solely to the influence of the cultures themselves, consistent with a transformative rather than
additive theory of biculturalism. Similarly, although American primes were generally tied to
more creative problem-solving than Asian primes (Mok & Morris, 2010), priming both
American and Chinese cultures (versus priming either single culture) resulted in more creative
performance among high-BII Chinese Americans (Saad, Damian, Benet-Martínez, Moons, &
Robins, 2013). Thus, enhanced creativity among some biculturals cannot be reduced to
affordance in one of their cultural environments.
Although identity integration is arguably the most commonly studied bicultural
negotiation process, biculturalism researchers in psychology have recently been exploring others.
One such process is the notion of hybridity or hybridization, combining cultures into a new form
that is distinct from its precursors (Doucerain et al., 2013; Zhang et al., 2014). Research on
hybridity suggests that biculturals’ formation and affiliation with hybrid cultures cannot be
explained by their attitudes toward their two cultures separately (Doucerain et al., 2013).
Furthermore, differences in hybridity predict biculturals’ motivation to seek familiarity versus
novelty in response to mortality threat (Zhang et al., 2014), suggesting that the process of
hybridizing may be crucial in predicting how biculturals derive meaning in a threatening
situation, going beyond additive influences of either precursor culture. As another example,
researchers have identified a relationship between the process of frame switching and identity
compartmentalization. Qualitative studies of biculturals’ experiences show that biculturals are
often aware that they adapt themselves to their cultural environments, and many do so
intentionally (Yampolsky, Amiot & de la Sablonnière, 2013). For some biculturals, recognizing
that they frame switch may lead them to experience their cultural identities as separate and
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 17
context-specific (i.e., identity compartmentalization; Yampolsky, Amiot, & de la Sablonnière,
2015; see also Downie, Mageau, Koestner, & Liodden, 2006). This line of research thus focuses
more on implications of the conscious switching experience for the coherence of one’s global
self-concept than the immediate experience of adapting to culturally laden stimuli. An additive
theory seems limited in its ability to explain these recent findings. However, such observations
fit well with a transformative theory of biculturalism, which emphasizes that the way biculturals
negotiate their cultures will affect how they view themselves and relate to others, and moderate
the way they interpret and respond to events.
Social identity research more broadly has benefitted from adopting models similar to
transformative theory, such as the intersectional framework of multiple identities.
Intersectionality research demonstrates how identities can interact within an individual to change
their experiences of each identity (Howard, 2000; Woollett, Marshall, Nicolson, & Dosanjh,
1994) and provides evidence for unique products that result from combining identities (Purdie-
Vaughns & Eibach, 2008; Roccas & Brewer, 2002; Sesko & Beirnat, 2010). For example, people
who identify with multiple minority groups, such as Black women and lesbians, experience a
lack of recognition known as “intersectional invisibility” because they deviate from the
perceived prototypes of both of their minority groups (Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008; Sesko &
Beirnat, 2010). Importantly, these discrimination experiences arise out of how two identities are
combined rather than the direct influence of each, as each social identity moderates the
experiences of the other social identity in an inextricable way (Settles, 2006). Other research on
multiple social identities shows that the way individuals structure their identities (e.g.,
integrating, compartmentalizing) results in varying degrees of social identity complexity, and
this complexity predicts their attitudes toward outgroup members (Roccas & Brewer, 2002).
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 18
These findings again demonstrate that combining social identities affects people’s experiences in
ways that cannot be accounted for by the additive contributions of each identity. In as much as
cultural identities are social identities, and some would argue that they are especially important
social identities (Stryker, 1987), the study of biculturals’ experiences may benefit from a similar
intersectional framework.
Some recent biculturalism research seems to be consistent with a transformative
approach, even without explicitly adopting a formal theory. Increasingly, studies of biculturals
are finding evidence for what we refer to as unique products of biculturalism: psychological
characteristics that differ in degree or type from monoculturals and that result from the processes
biculturals use to negotiate their cultures. For example, certain bicultural negotiation processes
(i.e., integrating, switching) are linked to greater cognitive complexity in biculturals compared
to monoculturals’ cultural representations (Benet-Martínez, Lee, & Leu, 2006). These unique
products seem to manifest in biculturals’ behavior and cognition more broadly as well. For
instance, biculturals who integrate their cultures show greater integrative complexity,
acknowledging conflicting perspectives and using more complex solutions to resolve them in
both cultural and work domains (Tadmor, Tetlock, & Peng, 2009), and their enhanced integrative
complexity predicts greater creativity (Tadmor, Galinksy, & Maddux, 2012). In addition, the
processes associated with becoming competent in a second culture (e.g., lowering need for
cognitive closure, tolerating uncertainty) predict lower intergroup biases (Tadmor, Hong, Chao,
Wiruchnipawan, & Wang, 2012). Although studies such as these already investigate the unique
products of biculturalism, they may suggest different interpretations of exactly which negotiation
process is responsible for a particular outcome, sometimes conflating them. For instance, Benet-
Martínez and colleagues (2006) explained their findings of biculturals’ (versus monoculturals’)
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 19
greater cognitive complexity as possibly resulting from a lack of integrating cultural identities
(i.e., low BII) and from repeated experiences of cultural frame switching, though the researchers
measured only BII and did not manipulate either BII or frame switching. More recent
experimental research compared the effects of exposing biculturals to cultural icons from both
cultures versus either culture in order to test whether bicultural experience increases creativity
(Saad, Damian, Benet-Martínez, Moons, & Robins, 2013). Yet, the nature of this manipulation
does not make clear exactly which aspect of bicultural experience is responsible for the outcome.
In order to more fully understand the experiences and consequences of biculturalism, we may
need a theory that differentiates between distinct bicultural negotiation processes so that clear
causal relationships can be revealed. Taken together, this past research provides support for the
assumptions and aims of a transformative theory, which in turn can offer a formalized
framework that unifies and structures this work.
Bicultural Negotiation Processes: Mechanisms within Transformative Theory
Our transformative theory of biculturalism currently includes three specific bicultural
negotiation processes: hybridizing, integrating, and frame switching (see Table 1). These processes
may rely on distinct mental abilities and may change biculturals’ characteristics in measurable ways.
Biculturals are likely to draw on other processes in navigating their cultural worlds as well, and these
additional processes should be included as they are identified and tested within a transformative
theory. The three processes we cover, however, are already prominent in biculturalism research,
particularly in the most recent research that seems to be moving toward a transformative model, and
thus they may be particularly promising for driving future research.
Hybridizing. In our transformative theory of biculturals, hybridizing occurs when biculturals
mix their cultures to create an end product that is distinct from its cultural raw materials. Hybridizing
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 20
is more than an additive process because it connotes not a simple or even a weighted summation of
cultural inputs but an active recombination process with unique outcomes, as in our baking analogy
(p. 11). A likely result is the emergence of a third culture that bridges the source cultures. For
instance, Oyserman, Sakamoto, and Lauffer (1998) found among Jewish and Asian Americans that a
stance that embraces both individualism and collectivism increased one’s obligation to the larger
society. This was interpreted as a culturally hybrid accommodation because it involves retaining the
collectivistic emphasis on social obligation but transposing the target of obligation from one’s
ingroup members, which are a typical focus of collectivism, to both heritage and host communities,
a presumably more adaptive solution when living in a complex, multicultural society.
Although existing models of biculturalism have described hybridizing using similar terms
such as fusion (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993; Phinney & Devich-Navarro, 1997) and
synergy (No, Wan, Chao, Rosner, & Hong, 2011), Benet-Martínez and colleagues were the first to
empirically assess such experiences by focusing specifically on the identity structure that results
from combining different cultural elements (i.e., BII; Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005).
Blendedness is one dimension within BII that captures the degree of perceived overlap between two
cultures (for review, see Cheng, Lee, Benet-Martínez, & Huynh, 2014). The cultural identities of
some biculturals are blended in that their self-concept is a mix of the prototypical characteristics
associated with each culture. For instance, among Latino Americans with high (vs. low) identity
blendedness, their self-reported traits were more strongly associated with traits typically attributed to
Latinos and with traits typically attributed to Americans (Miramontez, Benet-Martínez, & Nguyen,
2008). Blending is related to hybridizing because highly blended biculturals consider themselves
part of a combined culture. However, we argue that blending is not synonymous with hybridizing
because blending is about perceiving overlap between cultures in the first place, while hybridizing
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 21
crucially emphasizes the individual’s active role in fusing their cultures and creating something new.
Therefore, blending may be a necessary but not sufficient condition of hybridizing.
Cultural blending in self-views is not limited to immigrant contexts in which
biculturalism has often been studied; it may be extended to non-immigrant contexts transformed
by globalization. In non-Western contexts such as urban China, there is an increasing presence of
a global culture that coexists with the local culture in the same physical space (Chiu & Cheng,
2007). Urban Chinese students now commonly combine Western individualistic values with the
already hybridized contemporary Chinese values into their own personal values (Zhang, Noels,
Kulich, & Guan, 2015). In fact, their personal values profile tends to be more concordant with
perceived Western and contemporary Chinese cultural values than traditional Chinese cultural
values. While the latter represents the influence of traditional cultural heritage, the former
reflects influences of an imported culture and the changing Chinese culture.
Hybridizing may lead biculturals toward not only changes in self-concept, but also
greater cognitive complexity. Since hybridizing involves borrowing from aspects of different
cultures and transmuting them into new forms, it may help biculturals bridge knowledge from
diverse perspectives and recombine ideas into novel solutions. Evidence in support of this notion
comes from the link between identity blendedness and creative performance. Compared with less
blended Asian Americans, those who were more blended generated more creative dishes when
given both Asian and American ingredients (Cheng, Sanchez-Burks, & Lee, 2008). The
enhanced creativity that supposedly arises from hybridizing also generalizes to creativity
measures that are not directly tied to culture. More blended Chinese Americans showed
increased creativity on a culture-neutral unusual uses test (Guilford, 1967) after being primed
with both cultures versus a single culture (Saad et al., 2013). That the effect occurred after a
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 22
dual-culture prime suggests that perhaps as a precursor to hybridizing, blending enhances
creativity only in circumstances supportive of biculturalism or culture mixing.
The key to the positive psychological consequences of hybridizing may not lie in an
exclusive emphasis on the intersection of two cultures, which has been theorized to actually impede
cognitive complexity (Roccas & Brewer, 2002). Rather, it may lie in active efforts to choose
elements from each culture that meet one’s individual needs in constructing one’s hybrid culture.
Once again, the output could be qualitatively different from the source cultures from which it is
derived and thus goes beyond what an additive theory predicts. The individualistic approach implied
in hybridizing (cf. Bourhis, Moïse, Perreault, & Senécal, 1997) could explain some perplexing
findings in previous research. Compared with individuals strongly identified with only one culture,
those strongly identified with both cultures and those weakly identified with both are relatively more
cognitively complex in that they think in less black or white terms and are better at reconciling
competing perspectives (Tadmor, Galinsky, & Maddux, 2012; Tadmor et al., 2009). The
psychological benefits of strong ties with both cultures are often attributable to integrating cultures, a
process to be discussed below. An interesting possibility is that hybridizing may be responsible for
the cognitive benefits of weak ties with both cultures, perhaps because individuals with weak ties
feel they have more latitude to mix cultures in idiosyncratic ways, unencumbered by strong
accountability pressures from both cultures. It might even be that to hybridize is to draw on cultural
ingredients beyond those from the source cultures; a multitude of cultures could come into play in
forming one’s hybrid culture. This expanded conceptualization of hybridizing may underlie
cosmopolitanism, the phenomenon in which individuals express openness to and make creative
appropriations of multiple cultures regardless of their own origins (e.g., Gillespie, McBride, &
Riddle, 2010).
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 23
Integrating. In addition to fusing identities and creating new hybrid cultural experiences,
mixing one’s cultures also involves weaving and meshing one’s different identities together to
form a cohesive whole. In recent decades, research on the process of integrating multiple cultural
identities has focused on the relationships between one’s different identities, elucidating how
biculturals reconcile and draw complex connections between their cultural identities (Amiot, de
la Sablonnière, Terry, & Smith, 2007; Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005; Tadmor & Tetlock,
2006). Integration differs from both unidimensional and bidimensional additive models, which
regard cultures as independent entities, and from frame switching approaches, which treat one’s
cultural identities and experiences as inherently context-bound and separate. Integration is also
distinct from hybridity, which involves the formation of a new, blended cultural identity, because
integration focuses on the perception of similarity and connection of one’s unique cultural
groups. The integrative framework has begun to be examined with several models, including BII
(Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005; Benet-Martínez et al., 2002), which emphasizes perceived
similarity or harmony between cultural identities. In addition, Tadmor and Tetlock’s
acculturation complexity model (Tadmor & Tetlock, 2006; Tadmor et al., 2009) examines the
process of recognizing how each identity and each cultural groups’ perspectives are equally
valid, and then forming links between the identities. Finally, the cognitive-developmental model
of social identity integration (CDSMII; Amiot et al., 2007; Yampolsky et al., 2013, 2015)
underscores the overall cohesion between one’s cultural identities achieved through several
cognitive strategies that link the identities together.
In integration, one actively reconciles the differences between one’s cultural groups and
identities by resolving the conflicts and discrepancies between them, as well as by appreciating
the larger-scale cohesion that exists between these entities (Amiot et al., 2007; Tadmor &
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 24
Tetlock, 2006); in this way, one also achieves an overall harmony between these distinct parts of
oneself (Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005). There are several strategies or routes to integrating,
such as valuing the differing perspectives of each of one’s cultural groups as equally valid and
beneficial (Tadmor & Tetlock, 2006; Tadmor et al., 2009) and as complementary rather than
contradictory (Amiot et al., 2007; Yampolsky et al., 2013, 2015). To illustrate this
complementarity, another participant from Yampolsky and colleagues’ (2013) study
demonstrated their process of customizing their own Chinese Canadian identity while making
sense of each of their cultures through the lens of the other: “So what I like out of the Chinese
tradition is a lot of respect and seeking to understand tradition, which I think is very important,
but what I get out of my Western upbringing is the questioning at the same time. And so it
enriches each other because every time I see an established tradition…. I’ll discuss and be very
respectful, but at the same time as I’m discussing and being respectful, I’m not just staring at it
blank-faced and just taking it on, which would be totally destructive of tradition in the first place
‘cause you lose the sense of what it is.” Moreover, biculturals can connect their distinct cultural
identities by perceiving similarities between them (Amiot et al., 2007; Benet-Martínez &
Haritatos, 2005; Yampolsky et al., 2013, 2015). Biculturals also integrate their identities by
seeking to understand the origins and meanings of the similarities and differences between their
cultures (Tadmor & Tetlock, 2006; Tadmor et al., 2009). Another integrating strategy is the use
of large-scale, superordinate identities which can encompass one’s different cultural identities,
thereby facilitating the ability to link one’s cultures together (Amiot et al., 2007; Roccas &
Brewer, 2002; Tadmor et al., 2009; Yampolsky et al., 2013, 2015). For instance, an intercultural
couple consisting of a Jewish woman and a Muslim man may identify themselves as “people of
the book” as a means of encircling and bridging their different religious affiliations. In this
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 25
paper, we refer to integrating as the process of bridging the different aspects of one’s cultures
together (e.g., values, identities, practices, etc.) using the strategies numerated in these different
models.
The literature on biculturals’ integration of cultural identities has thus far demonstrated
that greater integration predicts tangible individual outcomes, including greater narrative
coherence and self-esteem, as well as subjective, psychological and interdependent well-being,
relative to compartmentalization or unidimensional identification (Yampolsky et al., 2013;
2015). Moreover, integrating cultural identities predicts greater creativity in novel uses tasks and
greater reported professional success, such as employee promotions (Tadmor et al., 2009;
Tadmor et al., 2012). These findings suggest that integrating cultural identities produces unique
and thus far adaptive outcomes for managing biculturalism. Integrating one’s cultures is an
involved, complex process whereby biculturals endeavor to understand and link the different
cultural parts of themselves and their lives together. Doing so enables biculturals to meaningfully
and cohesively join their cultural identities, values, practices and relationships together. Such an
intricate process necessitates the more fine-grained approach that transformative theory can offer
in order to better detect the unique products that result from integration.
Frame switching. Our final bicultural negotiation process is frame switching, activating
culturally related cognitive systems in response to situational cues (Hong et al., 2000). As
previously reviewed, past research provides ample evidence of biculturals frame switching, both
in the laboratory and in their daily lives. Although this past research established that frame
switching is one process biculturals use to negotiate their cultures, it has focused on the effects of
each cultural frame, not the process of switching between frames. In contrast, our transformative
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 26
theory emphasizes that the process of switching between cultural frames, distinct from the effects
of each particular frame, may result in unique experiences and characteristics for biculturals.
In searching for potential causal relationships between frame switching and outcomes for
biculturals, it may be useful to consider other forms of cognitive switching that are known to
produce lasting psychological changes. For example, bilingualism has been associated with
advantages in executive functioning (e.g., attentional control, cognitive flexibility, working
memory; see Adesope, Lavin, Thompson, & Ungerleider, 2010 for review) and increased
cognitive reserve, which is predictive of delayed onset of dementia symptoms (Bialystok, Craik,
& Freedman, 2007; Craik, Bialystok, & Freedman, 2010; Guzman-Velez & Tranel, 2015).
Paralleling our transformative theory, bilingualism researchers generally favor process-oriented
interpretations of such findings, with the most popular being that bilinguals’ repeated switching
between language systems causes these benefits (Adesope et al., 2010; Alladi et al., 2013;
Bialystok, 2001; Bialystok, Craik, & Luk, 2012). This explanation emphasizes that the process of
switching between two languages, rather than merely possessing them, augments the skills
underlying executive functioning an explanation that echoes the contrast between
transformative and additive theories. Frame switching involves a similar process of shifting
activation between cultural frames, and thus it is possible that switching may produce similar
lasting changes in biculturals as well. Researchers studying language and culture in tandem have
argued that the two are richly connected, as language can serve as a carrier of culture (Chen,
2015; Chiu & Chen, 2004). Supporting this notion, several studies with biculturals have shown
that language in the external environment acts as a cultural prime that elicits frame switching
(Chen, Benet-Martínez, & Ng, 2014; Lee, Oyserman, & Bond, 2010; Ross et al., 2002).
Furthermore, bilingual advantages appear to be most consistently found for bilinguals who likely
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 27
acquire multiple cultures along with their multiple languages, including those who are equally
fluent in both languages, acquire the second language at a young age, know more than two
languages, or acquire the second language as a result of migration (Bialystok et al., 2007;
Chertow, Whitehead, Phillips, Wolfson, Atherton, & Bergman, 2010; Guzman-Velez & Tranel,
2015). This research suggests that conclusions about bilingualism may at least sometimes be
conflated with the presence of biculturalism. While it may not be that biculturalism rather than
bilingualism is responsible for the observed advantages in these cases (Alladi et al., 2013;
Bialystok & Viswanathan, 2009), it is possible that biculturalism fosters the same advantages,
hence bilingual advantages being more reliably found in bicultural bilingual samples. The
parallel between frame switching and language switching, and the connections between language
and culture, suggest that the process of switching between cultures may foster similar outcomes
for biculturals as those seen in bilinguals. Our transformative approach to studying frame
switching highlights the mental abilities and characteristics that frame switching might draw on
and develop, thereby suggesting numerous possibilities for future research questions on
biculturalism.
Predicting Unique Products in Multiple Domains
A major strength of our transformative theory of biculturalism is its potential to generate
novel predictions about the psychological and social products of being bicultural. Although
research in line with this approach is already yielding fruitful results, questions remain about
which aspects of biculturals’ experiences are responsible for the characteristics that differentiate
them from monoculturals. Therefore, in this section we offer predictions linking specific
bicultural negotiation processes to unique products of biculturalism. For each of the three
processes, we propose hypotheses in the domains of the self, cognition, and motivation (see
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 28
Table 1). Although each prediction links a particular negotiation process to a distinct outcome, it
is possible that multiple processes relate to the same outcomes. These predictions also do not
exhaust all the possible outcomes in these three domains. We encourage researchers employing
the transformative theory to explore bicultural negotiation processes and outcomes beyond what
we propose here.
Predicted Effects on the Self
Each bicultural negotiation process may have important consequences for the way
biculturals configure their cultural identities. On top of that, we argue that the regular use of these
negotiation processes may cause characteristic changes to the self-concept more generally.
We predict that hybridizing might increase biculturals’ ability to self-expand, or change
their self-concept in light of new experiences (Aron & Aron, 1997). Encountering information
about the self that is inconsistent with one’s self-concept can be aversive (Elliot & Devine, 1994;
Swann & Read, 1981; Thibodeau & Aronson, 1992), but it can also present potentially rewarding
opportunities for personal growth via self-expansion (Aron & Aron, 1997). Although
motivations to maintain self-concept clarity (Campbell et al., 1996) and to expand the self can at
times conflict (Emery, Walsh, & Slotter, 2015), hybridizing may offer biculturals a way to
reconcile new and old information about the self without sacrificing its clarity. Biculturals who
hybridize their cultures frequently attempt to synthesize information from different sources into
something that fits them. Practice with hybridizing may teach biculturals that even conflicting
information can be brought together into a novel but nonetheless coherent end product, making
them adept at incorporating new information into their self-concept while retaining its clarity.
The process of hybridizing may therefore make biculturals better able to self-expand.
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 29
Integrating cultures may have lasting effects on the breadth and complexity of
biculturals’ personal and social selves. People differ in the number and complexity of their self-
schemas, self-knowledge structures that pertain to ones skills and characteristics (Markus, 1977;
Markus & Wurf, 1987). Given that integrating their two cultures enables biculturals to draw on
multiple repertoires of skills and requires them to link together large networks of self-relevant
knowledge, one hypothesis is that integrating results in biculturals possessing broader and more
complex self-schemas. As biculturals develop the abilities necessary to integrate their cultural
identities, they may generalize their integrating skills to social identities as well, resulting in
greater social identity complexity. Just as integrating multiple cultural identities may be the most
complex way to represent biculturals’ identity configurations (Roccas & Brewer, 2002;
Yampolsky et al., 2013, 2015), integrating or merging social identities constitutes the highest
level of social identity complexity, whereby multiple social identities are simultaneously valued
and salient across situations (Roccas & Brewer, 2002). Importantly, achieving this complexity
involves building connections between identities, cultural or otherwise. Therefore, biculturals
may use the process of integrating to apply greater complexity to the structure of their personal
characteristics and to their social identities. One benefit of doing so may be the sense of having a
coherent self composed of complementary rather than conflicting characteristics and social
identities. This overall cohesion may also facilitate the process of meaning making, or making
sense of the intricacies of one’s multifaceted experiences across different life domains
(Yampolsky, Amiot & de la Sablonnière, 2013). However, a more complex self-concept may
inherently pose problems in situations that require clear, decisive actions because biculturals may
experience more interference between aspects of themselves and require greater effort to
reconcile the broad network of self-knowledge.
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 30
Finally, frame switching may foster greater flexibility of the self, and we argue that this
flexible nature of the self-concept will generalize to biculturals’ social identities beyond the
cultural domain. Research shows that biculturals’ self-concepts shift in accordance with their
cultural context (Chen, Lam, Buchtel, & Bond, 2014; Ramirez-Esparza et al., 2006; Verkuyten &
Pouliasi, 2002) while still maintaining high consistency within contexts across time (English &
Chen, 2007). In this and other biculturalism research, the use of frame switching has been related
to defining the self in ifthen terms in which compartmentalized self-concepts are each applied
in different contexts (English & Chen, 2007). One hypothesis that follows is that biculturals who
negotiate their cultures by frame switching may apply the same strategy to negotiating their other
roles and social identities (e.g., being a mother and a doctor), showing more self-concept
flexibility across many of the contexts they regularly encounter. A second hypothesis, based on
the inhibition of alternatives involved in effective frame switching, is that when operating in a
particular context (e.g., at home with family), biculturals may also experience less residue from
non-relevant social identities (e.g., being a police officer). These two predictions suggest that
biculturals who frame switch may generally be characterized by a self-concept that is flexible
and tied to their social contexts. Such a self-concept may offer a simple, less demanding way of
living compared to maintaining an integrated, complex self-concept, but may also cause distress
if aspects of the self feel detached and conflicting (e.g., double-consciousness,
compartmentalization) (DuBois, 1903).
We have intentionally presented our predictions for the bicultural negotiation processes
in a way that contrasts their potential unique products. However, we do not intend to create the
impression that any of the negotiation processes is more beneficial overall than any other. Each
process almost certainly presents biculturals with as many challenges as benefits, and whether a
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 31
product is advantageous or disadvantageous will depend on the situation. In the case of
integrating, for instance, a bicultural faced with a choice that pits her identities against each other
(e.g., deciding whether to uproot and relocate her children to benefit her career) may be
significantly distressed about potentially damaging the integrated aspects of self she has worked
so hard to create and maintain. Notably, this situation is not any more readily dealt with by frame
switching, as situations that draw a bicultural in competing directions simultaneously can lead
one with a flexible, contextually bound self to experience distress over deciding on the
appropriate behavior.
Predicted Effects on Motivation
Next, we propose that the different negotiation processes may relate to biculturals’
motivations, or the goals and environments they seek. Though many of the motivational tendencies
we explore here may function as antecedents that predispose biculturals to using one negotiation
process over another, we maintain that these relationships are reciprocal and that biculturals who use
particular negotiation processes may habitually strengthen associated motivations.
In the self domain, we predicted that hybridizing would encourage biculturals’ capacity
for self-expansion. We further hypothesize that hybridizing increases biculturals’ motivation to
self-expand via a preference for novelty. Research on self-expansion motivation suggests that
one main route to fulfilling this drive is to engage in novel, exciting activities (e.g., adopting new
perspectives, learning new information, and gaining new skills; Aron & Aron, 1986; Mattingly &
Lewandowski, 2013). Such research shows that having recent novel experiences is related to a
subjective sense of self-expansion (Mattingly & Lewandowski, 2013) and to actual expansion of
the self-concept (Mattingly & Lewandowski, 2014). The process of hybridizing cultures could be
considered inherently self-expanding, as it involves the broadening of perspectives, knowledge,
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 32
and resources that underlie the motivation to self-expand (Aron & Aron, 1986; Aron,
Lewandowski, Mashek, & Aron, 2013). Therefore, by hybridizing their cultures, biculturals may
develop the skills they need in order to successfully self-expand in other domains, and may
subsequently be more motivated to seek out novel experiences as potentially rewarding
opportunities to self-expand. Recently, Zhang and colleagues (2014) found support for a
relationship between biculturals’ hybridizing and novelty seeking, as greater hybridity of
biculturals’ identities predicted a preference for novelty over familiarity under conditions of
existential threat. The authors posited this preference may result from hybridizing biculturals
deriving meaning through exploring novelty a tendency that may reflect their drive to self-
expand.
Drawing on construal level theory and a personal strivings approach, we predict that
biculturals’ use of abstract thinking from integrating their cultures may result in them being
motivated by more abstract goals. Goals can be conceptualized at higher- or lower-level terms
that differ in their abstract versus concrete nature, respectively (Emmons, 1992; Trope &
Liberman, 2003). Abstract goals focus on an ultimate purpose as a desired outcome (e.g., “be a
successful cultural psychologist”), whereas concrete goals focus on a specific action as a desired
outcome (e.g., “publish this article”). Individuals differ in the tendency to represent goals
abstractly versus concretely, with abstract representations involving more integration and insight
(Forster, Friedman, & Liberman, 2004; Liberman, Sagristano, & Trope, 2002; Nussbaum, Trope,
& Liberman, 2003). In the process of integrating their cultures, biculturals come to represent
their cultures in more abstract terms, as this enables them to appreciate how their cultures’
essential features may complement one another despite possible concrete differences (Amiot et
al., 2007; Tadmor & Tetlock, 2006). Importantly, biculturals who integrate their cultures remain
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 33
aware of their two cultures’ perspectives even while immersed in a particular cultural context
(Yampolsky et al., 2013), suggesting that abstract thinking may be rather habitual for them.
Therefore, integrating might foster a trait level of abstract motivation for biculturals that results
in them creating and maintaining more abstract goals.
Lastly, we posit that frame switching may foster biculturals’ personal need for structure
(Neuberg & Newson, 1993). As discussed in predictions on the self, frame switching can be
represented by ifthen scripts by which biculturals associate particular cultural contexts with
culturally-tied ways of thinking and behaving (e.g., if with Canadian friends, then behave more
extraverted). Frame switching’s rigid reliance on ifthen scripts may be best suited to structured,
unambiguous environments characterized by a single prominent culture. Situations that offer
mixed cultural cues, such as a party with family and friends from both cultures, likely undermine
biculturals’ ability to cleanly and effectively frame switch, possibly causing social anxiety and a
lack of self-confidence. Biculturals who favor integrating or hybridizing may thrive in these
culturally mixed situations as they present opportunities to bridge or merge their cultures in new
ways. However, biculturals who chronically rely on frame switching may come to avoid these
more culturally ambiguous or complex environments and develop greater personal need for
structure.
Predicted Effects on Cognition
Finally, the bicultural negotiation processes also lead to predictions in the cognitive domain.
We argue that these processes represent distinct cognitive skills that biculturals draw on in
negotiating their cultures. Here we posit that the regular use of any particular one of these processes
may alter how biculturals engage with and make sense of information more generally.
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 34
Hybridizing allows biculturals to bind elements of separate, pre-existing categories
together in order to create a new category that suits them better than either of the two original
categories. In doing so, biculturals may come to rely less on common social categories in their
cognitive representations of themselves and others, thereby increasing their use of hybrid
categories in processing social information about other individuals who do not fit neatly into
traditional categories either. This prediction might manifest, for example, in categorizing
multiracial individuals. Many people find it difficult to categorize multiracials because of their
racially ambiguous appearance. Even though many multiracials are not prototypical of either of
their monoracial categories, perceivers still rely on familiar monoracial labels more than
multiracial labels when categorizing multiracials. When people do use a multiracial label to
categorize multiracials, categorization is slower and requires more effortful processing (Chen &
Hamilton, 2012). Yet multiracial perceivers, compared to monoracial perceivers, are often less
reliant on traditional monoracial categories (Pauker & Ambady, 2009). This suggests that
biculturals who have more experience with hybridizing in their own lives may more readily
categorize multiracials using their hybrid multiracial label rather than categorizing them
according to only one of their races. This greater acknowledgment of hybrid categories when
faced with non-prototypical group members may also mitigate negative consequences associated
with intersectionality. If biculturals are able to recognize a Black woman’s hybrid category, for
example, they may be less likely to treat her as “invisible” (Sesko & Beirnat, 2010). Thus,
hybridizing may affect biculturals’ cognition by reducing their reliance on rigid social categories,
and possibly increasing their acceptance of other hybrid category members.
Cognitively, the integrating process involves biculturals forming links between often
conflicting perspectives in order to reconcile differences and unite their two cultures into a
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 35
greater whole within themselves. These abilities (i.e., adopting alternative perspectives,
searching for reconciliation, thinking in terms of the “big picture”) dovetail with several of the
essential facets of wisdom, or wise reasoning (Grossmann et al., 2012; Kross & Grossmann,
2011). Therefore, integrating cultures may foster biculturals’ propensity for wisdom more
generally, particularly when reasoning about conflict. Recent research on wise reasoning
demonstrates that one route to wisdom hinges on the ability to “transcend egocentric
viewpoints,” which people can achieve by adopting a self-distanced perspective in order to boost
their abstract thinking (Grossmann & Kross, 2012; Kross & Grossmann, 2011). These findings
tie directly to the process of integrating cultures and to our previous prediction regarding
integrating and abstract motivation: integrating cultures is an inherently abstract process that
requires biculturals’ awareness and active reconciliation of multiple perspectives, and may rely
on the same self-distancing or third-person perspective as wise reasoning. Biculturals who are
successful at integrating their cultures may therefore apply these underlying skills to resolving
conflicts in their everyday lives, thereby demonstrating more wisdom in their reasoning.
Switching between cultural frames likely requires biculturals to consistently monitor their
context for cultural cues that signal which cultural frame to operate within. Therefore, we predict
that through continual practice with frame switching, biculturals may develop increased context
sensitivity. This heightened context sensitivity may manifest in biculturals attending more to
contextual information (e.g., background of a visual scene; Masuda & Nisbett, 2006) and
considering the relationship between the context and a person or object (e.g., situational attributions)
to understand the world around them.
Potential Moderators of Bicultural Negotiation Processes
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 36
We previously noted that these three bicultural negotiation processes do not constitute an
exhaustive account of the ways biculturals navigate their two cultures. Here, we further acknowledge
that these processes are neither mutually exclusive, nor universal for biculturals. Individual and
situational factors are sure to influence how frequently and in what way biculturals use these
processes. Furthermore, whether a certain bicultural derives unique products from these processes
will depend on who they are as individuals as well as where and when they are attempting to
negotiate their cultures. In this final section, we consider individual and situational moderators of the
negotiation processes to highlight the diversity among biculturals, and move towards a more
nuanced understanding of their lived experiences.
Individual-level moderators. Individual differences in motivational forces influence the
viability of hybridizing, integrating, and frame switching. In this section, we explore how perceived
cultural distance, need for cognitive closure (NFCC), racial essentialism, and BII may moderate
biculturals’ negotiation experiences.
Although much of this article has focused on the common experiences and characteristics
that can result from trying to maintain any two cultures, the specific pairings of cultures undoubtedly
contribute to the variation amongst biculturals’ experiences. One aspect of this diversity is how
different biculturals perceive their paired cultures to be. The construct of perceived cultural distance
taps into subjective assessments of the amount of overlap versus discrepancy between two cultures
(Cheng & Leung, 2013; Galchenko & Van de Vijver, 2007; Suanet & Van de Viver, 2009).
Perceived cultural distance is likely to moderate the use and result of any bicultural negotiation
process. For instance, frame switching may not make much sense to use when two cultures are
perceived as highly overlapping. Instead, a certain minimum level of cultural distance may be a
prerequisite for biculturals to engage in frame switching as well as for frame switching to produce
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 37
the effects we previously proposed. In terms of integrating, perceived cultural distance could foster
or constrain how complexly biculturals configure and experience their cultures. If one’s cultures are
very close, common ground between them is obvious, potentially making integrating easier albeit
less complex (Amiot et al., 2007; Roccas & Brewer, 2002). More distant cultures, in contrast, may
have fewer obvious links between them, making full integration more cognitively demanding and
time-consuming. A bicultural who does not wish to spend a lot of time and energy mentally
engaging with their cultures may adopt an intermediate integration strategy (e.g., finding a middle-
way between their cultures), despite still valuing both cultures. Alternatively, a bicultural who is
motivated to fully integrate their distant cultures might devote a lot of effort to unraveling the
intricacies of both cultures, invoking numerous complex integration strategies in order to
synchronize them. For hybridizing, the degree of distance a bicultural perceives between their
cultures might affect the novelty of their hybridized culture. Previous research shows that drawing
from more distant sources and focusing on differences promotes creativity more than drawing from
more compatible sources and focusing on similarities (Cheng & Leung, 2013; Leung, Maddox,
Galinsky, & Chiu, 2008; Ward, Smith, & Finke, 1999; Ward, Smith, & Vaid, 1997). This suggests
that when biculturals hybridize cultures they perceive to be distant rather than overlapping, the
resulting new culture may be more novel, particularly if the new culture draws from conflicting
elements of the precursor cultures. In sum, perceived cultural distance is one feature that potentially
moderates biculturals experiences with all the negotiation processes.
Although some individual difference factors may differentially moderate the negotiation
processes, others may exert similar influences on certain processes. The motivation to make sense of
complex categories to which one might belong (Kang & Bodenhausen, 2015) might facilitate both
hybridizing and integrating. For example, BII (Cheng et al., 2014) and integration configuration
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 38
(Yampolsky et al., 2015) both involve motivations to preserve complexity in one’s bicultural
identity. In contrast, motivations to preserve clear-cut categories should hamper hybridizing and
integrating. Two well-researched candidates are NFCC and racial essentialism. People with higher
NFCC tend to strongly adhere to the norms of their respective cultures because doing so satisfies
their epistemic need for simple and unambiguous knowledge (Chiu, Morris, Hong, & Menon, 2000).
NFCC influences people with bicultural experiences in similar ways, except that because biculturals
are knowledgeable about multiple cultures’ norms, which norms to follow depends on which culture
is made salient (Chao, Zhang, & Chiu, 2010; Kosic, Kruglanski, Pierro, & Mannetti, 2004). Given
that keeping cultures separate can reduce complexity, biculturals who dislike complexity (i.e., high
NFCC) should inhibit hybridizing or integrating processes (cf. Tadmor, Hong, Chao,
Wiruchnipawan, & Wang, 2012). Likewise, racial essentialism, the lay theory that boundaries
among cultural or racial groups are fixed and cannot be crossed, may also suppress hybridizing and
integrating (Tadmor, Chao, Hong, & Polzer, 2013).
While we expect NFCC and racial essentialism to exert similar influences on hybridizing
and integrating, they might have different implications for frame switching. Because context-
bound identities or behaviors presumably confer cognitive closure by reducing ambiguity, NFCC
likely increases the reliance on frame switching (Chao et al., 2010). In contrast, the relation
between racial essentialism and frame switching may not appear straightforward at first blush.
On the one hand, oscillating between cultural frames seems to help preserve group boundaries
and thus reinforce racial essentialism. This reasoning suggests that racial essentialism is
compatible with frame switching. On the other hand, frame switching implies fluidity in the
construction of a bicultural’s racial categorization in the sense that one belongs to multiple
groups that are overlapping and context-variable. In other words, frame switching violates the
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 39
essentialist view that racial categories are fundamentally inalterable. Empirical evidence supports
this latter reasoning that racial essentialism can undermine frame switching. Biculturals who
subscribe to racial essentialism, for instance, are more likely to feel uncomfortable about rapid
frame switching (Chao, Chen, Roisman, & Hong, 2007). Racial essentialism has also been found
to adversely affect biculturals’ ability to frame switch. After Korean Americans were primed
with mainstream American culture, they were less likely to show culturally congruent responses
if they endorsed racial essentialism (No et al., 2008, Study 4). This finding is likely explained by
the perception that, according to an essentialist view, a racial minority group such as Korean
Americans cannot pass into the majority group of White Americans.
A final point concerning moderators of frame switching is the observation that not all
biculturals show the same pattern of switching in response to cultural primes. In particular, low
(vs. high) BII biculturals respond to cultural cues in a contrastive manner, suggesting that
different identity motives underlie switching behaviors depending on level of BII (Mok & Morris
2013; Zou et al., 2008). BII might also influence the extent of lasting changes that result from
repeated frame switching. Probably because identity integration generally confers a coherent
sense of self (Amiot et al., 2007), high BII biculturals may not always adapt their behavior to
cultural cues, even if they are capable of doing so (Mok & Morris, 2012). Thus, it might be low
BII biculturals who are more likely to show heightened context sensitivity or self-concept
flexibility (Zhang, Noels, Lalonde, & Salas, 2016).
Situational-level moderators. In addition to individual differences, situational forces are
also at play in shaping when biculturals hybridize, integrate, and frame switch. At the macro level,
we would expect that the broader cultural context may influence which transformative processes are
used. In individualist contexts, which prioritize self-consistency independent of the context (English
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 40
& Chen, 2007; Suh, 2002), authenticity (Kernis & Goldman, 2006), and unique self-expression
(Markus & Kitayama, 1991), strategies such as hybridization may be favored, given that the process
of hybridizing emphasizes individual creative expression and self-affirmation. On the other hand, in
collectivist contexts, which prioritize group cohesion (Markus & Kitayama, 1991) and the need to
adapt oneself to the context (English & Chen, 2007; Suh, 2002), strategies such as frame switching
may be favored, given that frame switching involves activating the social and identity script that
would appropriately converge to each context. Furthermore, the relationship between the two
specific cultural groups is probably an important moderating factor. For example, the way that
Jewish Muslim biculturals negotiate their cultures in areas of the world where these two groups are
in high conflict may differ greatly from places where these groups are in lower conflict. Biculturals
may need to perceive their cultures to be at least somewhat at odds or different from each other in
order to create the opportunity to hybridize or integrate in the first place. However, it is likely that
successfully hybridizing or integrating favors a low or moderate amount of actual conflict between
the two cultural groups. A high amount of conflict may interfere with biculturals’ ability to reconcile
their cultures, especially when the issues do not lend themselves to easy synthesis (e.g., choosing a
romantic partner: Giguère, Lalonde, & Lou, 2010; deciding when to move out: Lou, Lalonde, &
Giguère, 2012), and may also create an environment that discourages any mixing of the cultures
(e.g., Jaspal & Cinnirella, 2010).
Thus far, the literature has only begun to examine the role of more micro-level social factors,
including biculturals’ social networks (Mok, Morris, Benet-Martínez, & Karakitapoğlu-Aygün,
2007) and discrimination experiences (Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005; Cheng & Lee, 2009;
2013; Yampolsky & Amiot, 2016). Perceived discrimination experiences were shown to predict
lower BII (Cheng & Lee, 2009; 2013; Benet-Martínez & Haritatos, 2005) and greater
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 41
compartmentalization of one’s multiple cultural identities (Yampolsky & Amiot, 2016),
demonstrating that discrimination can potentially inhibit the complex processes of culture mixing by
eliciting identity-dividing and frame switching responses to manage these negative threats. In
contrast, living in an environment where biculturalism is widespread might discourage identity
compartmentalization and foster more hybridizing experiences instead. For example, Schwartz and
colleagues (2014) found that having Latino Americans in Miami respond in English versus Spanish
did not consistently lead to cultural frame switching. They speculated that this might be because
both languages are widely used in Miami and neither language is uniquely associated with a specific
set of cultural scripts. A highly bilingual climate where both languages are of similar status might
thus produce less frequent frame switching.
In terms of social network predictors, Mok and colleagues (2007) found that Chinese
Americans were more likely to report higher BII when their friendship networks included more
American friends and were more interconnected than divided. These findings demonstrate that one’s
social network composition has ramifications for bicultural identity processes. More recently,
Yampolsky and colleagues (2016) demonstrated that the context of close relationships contributes to
how biculturals identify with their different cultural groups. Their findings show that when
intercultural couples engage in more adaptive conflict resolution strategies, such as compromise,
couples are more likely to report greater bicultural identity integration, and greater integration of
their couple and cultural identities; at the same time, less adaptive conflict resolution strategies, such
as suppression, predicts greater compartmentalization. The authors also found additional social
factors that predict different identity processes for biculturals in mixed-culture couples. Greater
marginalization of the couple by family, friends, and the broader community in the couple’s network
predicts greater compartmentalization. Taken together, the existing literature suggests that the
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 42
dynamics of our relationships can serve as potent influences on how individuals navigate their
multiple cultures. There is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to uncover the many
possible factors that influence biculturals’ use of different bicultural negotiation processes. Future
research on topics such as relationships, groups, intergroup relations, and social institutions would
elucidate the interplay between social contexts and the manifestation of our transformative theory of
biculturalism.
The Future of Transformative Theory
The primary purpose of this article has been to propose a transformative theory of
biculturalism, demonstrating its promise to unify existing knowledge and spur new research in hopes
of gaining a richer understanding of biculturals’ lived experiences from a psychological perspective.
This theory, however, is in its infancy and as such has limitations along with potential to grow. One
limitation concerns the global generalizability of our theory. Our model was developed based on
biculturalism research that has mostly sampled biculturals with at least one North American culture,
most often studied in the context of a broader North American culture, and has predominantly relied
on combinations of North American with East Asian cultures, though we have referred to several
notable exceptions to these biases throughout this article. While we anticipate that the basic
assumptions and framework of the transformative theory should hold with diverse samples of
biculturals in various cultural contexts, we also predict that the way our model is reflected in
different bicultural groups’ lives will be as diverse as the biculturals we endeavour to better
understand. Nevertheless, we do not know for certain how well the transformative theory will hold
until more research is conducted using this model with a variety of biculturals across different
contexts. In a previous section we proposed a number of predictions guided by the transformative
theory, but it is just as important that future researchers find other ways of testing the assertions of
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 43
our theory. This should involve, but is not limited to, developing experimental manipulations of the
bicultural negotiation processes addressed here along with others that may yet be identified, using
such methods to differentiate the effects of negotiation processes from each other and from the
additive influence of each culture, and probing interactions between negotiation processes and
cultural influences. We believe our transformative theory has the potential to move the field of
biculturalism research toward a more complex and comprehensive understanding of how negotiating
multiple cultures makes biculturals’ characteristics and experiences unique, but the full value of our
theory, as with any, will be revealed through rigorous empirical research conducted by critical and
creative scientists.
Conclusion
Mixing between cultures is becoming increasingly commonplace across the globe, and in
response, researchers have developed more nuanced understandings of what biculturalism is and
why it matters for society. Building on this burgeoning literature, we put forth a transformative
theory of biculturalism that formalizes what some previous research already strongly suggests,
that biculturalism is more than the sum of its parts. But where does “more than the sum” come
from?
We argue that biculturals’ active experiences provide them with social identities,
cognitive tendencies, and psychological outcomes that amount to more than the mere aggregate
of their separate cultures. Our contribution highlights the unique experiences of being bicultural
in order to more fully understand biculturalism. The bicultural negotiation process of integrating
emphasizes drawing connections between cultures in an active way, and hybridizing centers on
actively fusing different cultures to make something new. Likewise, frame switching is about
actively moving between cultures in everyday life. This consideration of the self as an active
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 44
agent has its roots in the works of William James. Classic research on the self in psychology
empirically tested James’ theorized “self as known” through self-schemata (Markus, 1977) and
self-complexity (Linville, 1985), and his “self as knower” through self-regulation (Carver &
Scheier, 1981; Mishel, Shoda, & Rodriguez, 1989) and self-affirmation (Steele, 1988). Similarly,
current research on biculturalism has investigated the bicultural self not only as a vessel for the
self-concept, identity, and knowledge, but also as an active agent interacting dynamically with
the surrounding socio-cultural world. Understanding biculturals’ active engagement with their
world may be central to predicting how they think and behave and why.
People who identify as bicultural may do so for different reasons, from being recent
immigrants or ethnic minority members to growing up as children of interfaith families, but what
unites them is their experience of living in multiple cultural worlds, and this has important
implications for the scope of our theory. We hope that the predictions put forth based on a
transformative theory will stimulate new research that can apply broadly in the area of
biculturalism, providing insights on how processes of culture mixing within an individual may
lead to unique psychological outcomes. Studying the minds of biculturals may also illuminate the
dynamic nature of cultural engagement more broadly. In keeping with perspectives that culture
and the mind make each other up (Bruner, 1990), culture cannot simply be studied separately
from the individual in order to understand the mind. Actively engaging with culture can change
the mind in qualitative ways, and the case of biculturals may be one of the clearest illustrations
of how this process occurs and the potential impact it has on psychology.
TRANSFORMATIVE THEORY OF BICULTURALISM 45
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Table 1
Descriptions of bicultural negotiation processes and predictions by domain
Domain of Prediction
Bicultural
Negotiation
Processes
Description of Process
Self
Motivation
Cognition
Hybridizing
Synthesizing pre-existing
cultures into a new and
distinct form by actively
combining elements of both
cultures into a single end
product
Increase
ability to self-
expand
Preference for
novelty and
greater self-
expansion
motivation
Increase use
of hybrid
categories in
social
information
processing
Integrating
Forming connections
between cultures by
recognizing similarities and
reconciling differences,
thereby linking the cultures
while still retaining their
original forms
Increase
complexity of
self-concept
and social
identities
More abstract
(versus
concrete)
goals
Increase wise
reasoning
Frame
Switching
Activating one of the two
cultural systems in response
to cultural context
Increase self-
concept
flexibility,
and separation
of social
identities
Increase
personal need
for structure
Increase
context
sensitivity
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... It also provided a scientific method to make causal inferences of the influences of culture on cognition, behavior, and emotions. Due to this, West et al. (2017) note that CFS is a bridge between additive and transformative theories of cultural negotiating processes (described in more depth in "Future Directions"). ...
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Our research explores the experience of holding a Hybrid Multicultural Identity (a superordinate cultural identity; HMI) and the social contextual experiences hybrid multiculturals describe as influential to the development of an HMI. We conducted a Photovoice study with 10 hybrid multiculturals (age 18–32; 6 women and 4 men) living in a college town in the Midwestern US. The participants valued HMI for the psychological advantages they attributed to this identity. We also found the participants described three broad categories of their social environment that were key to the development of HMI: cultural composition in living environments, perceptions of macro-level marginalization, and culturally related interpersonal experiences. Our research documents (1) the lived experience of being a hybrid multicultural (2) the importance of cultural mixing for HMI development, and (3) how people with HMI describe primarily negative perceptions of the social environment as instrumental to the development of HMI.
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The need to belong is fundamental to human beings and constitutes a basis for subjective well-being. Belonging is a multifaceted concept that can refer to different entities and points of reference. Related concepts are identification and identity, connectedness and embeddedness, attachment, fitting in, and feeling “at home.” The present contribution will focus on the sense of belonging in the context of migration in its different facets – cultural, social, and spatial – and in relation to different points of reference, namely national, ethnic, and transnational belonging. Applying the lens of cultural psychology of semiotic mediation, the development of a sense of belonging will be discussed with regard to first-generation migrants and their second-generation offspring in a life-span perspective, drawing on concepts such as proculturation as well as the trajectory equifinality approach. By focussing on a single case of a mother and her adult daughter from a Portuguese migrant family living in Luxembourg, we will illustrate how both theoretical concepts can be applied to analyse narratives with regard to experiences of first and second generation in the context of migration. Bifurcation points will be identified and their importance for life trajectories and the development of a sense of belonging will be discussed.
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In my efforts to move towards an improved understanding of biculturalism, I have been particularly influenced by three of Jaan’s ideas. First, deriving from the notion that cultural means semiotically mediated, we are not “members of a culture,” but culture in terms of semiosis is part of our psyche. Second, the initation to thinking in terms of abductive class membership determination. This implies the permeability of borders, leading to the third element: co-genetic logic – the power of the triad. Borders co-define the relationship between the closed set (culture A) and the open set (non-A) which allows for the emergence of new meaning, while the bounded region in between expands and constricts over time. Especially in the field of biculturalism, we need to overcome the binary logic and recognize the power of the triad. Its components dynamically co-define each other. Jaan’s concept of inclusive separation succinctly describes bicultural negotiation processes.
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Prior research differentiates dialectical (e.g., East Asian) from non-dialectical cultures (e.g., North American and Latino) and attributes cultural differences in self-concept consistency to naïve dialecticism. In this research, we explored the effects of managing two cultural identities on consistency within the bicultural self-concept via the role of dialectical beliefs. Because the challenge of integrating more than one culture within the self is common to biculturals of various heritage backgrounds, the effects of bicultural identity integration should not depend on whether the heritage culture is dialectical or not. In four studies across diverse groups of bicultural Canadians, we showed that having an integrated bicultural identity was associated with being more consistent across roles (Studies 1–3) and making less ambiguous self-evaluations (Study 4). Furthermore, dialectical self-beliefs mediated the effect of bicultural identity integration on self-consistency (Studies 2–4). Finally, Latino biculturals reported being more consistent across roles than did East Asian biculturals (Study 2), revealing the ethnic heritage difference between the two groups. We conclude that both the content of heritage culture and the process of integrating cultural identities influence the extent of self-consistency among biculturals. Thus, consistency within the bicultural self-concept can be understood, in part, to be a unique psychological product of bicultural experience.
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Today’s diverse society often includes culturally rich environments that contain cues pertaining to more than one culture. These cultural cues can shape cognitive processes, such as creativity. Recent evidence shows that bicultural experience enhances creativity, and that for culture-related domains, this effect is particularly evident among biculturals who blend their two cultural identities. The present study tested whether enhanced creativity among more blended biculturals was due to increased idea generation (i.e., ideational fluency). Moreover, the authors tested whether these effects generalized to noncultural domains, which may indicate that bicultural experience enhances creativity in broader arenas. One hundred seventy-seven Chinese Americans completed a creativity task in either a monocultural or bicultural context (manipulated via Chinese or American symbols or both). Greater bicultural identity blendedness predicted domain-general creativity in bicultural but not in monocultural contexts, and this was mediated by ideational fluency. Implications for enhancing creativity in our diverse society are discussed.
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The present research examines perceived discrimination as a predictor of how multicultural individuals negotiate and configure their different cultural identities within the self. We focused on three multicultural identity configurations: having one predominant identity (categorization), compartmentalizing one’s different identities, and integrating one’s identities. Since discrimination is related to intraindividual discordance and is stressful, we examined the mediating role of stress in the associations between discrimination and the identity configurations in 259 multicultural individuals. Mediation analyses revealed that greater discrimination predicted compartmentalization through greater stress, while lower discrimination predicted greater identity integration through lower stress. Categorization was not predicted by discrimination or by stress. Stress appears to have a depleting role that hampers multiculturals’ capacity to reconcile their identities into a cohesive whole.
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This study tested whether priming of cultural symbols activates cultural behavioral scripts and thus the corresponding behaviors, and also whether the behaviors activated are context-specific. Specifically, to activate the cultural knowledge of Chinese-American bicultural participants, we primed them with Chinese cultural icons or American cultural icons. In the control condition, we showed them geometric figures. Then, the participants played the Prisoner's Dilemma game with friends or strangers (the context manipulation). As expected, participants showed more cooperation toward friends when Chinese cultural knowledge was activated than when American cultural knowledge was activated. By contrast, participants showed a similarly low level of cooperation toward strangers after both Chinese and American culture priming. These findings not only support previous evidence on culture priming of social judgment and self-construals, but also (a) provide the first evidence for the effects of culture priming on behaviors and (b) demonstrate the boundary condition of culture priming.
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Increased intercultural contacts within and across national boundaries have raised pressing questions for individuals and societies such as: How do individuals make sense of themselves as multicultural beings? How can societies cultivate the benefits of increased heterogeneity within its populace (e.g., creativity and productivity) and simultaneously resolve possible intergroup tensions? How can social policies be formulated to foster an overarching inclusive identity for all members from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds? Consider the fact that the 2005 riots in France (along with a shorter-lived repeat in 2007), and the terrorist attacks in Britain during the summers of 2005 and 2007, can be partially attributed to ethnic minority youths’ perceived exclusion from the mainstream society (Sciolino, 2007; Smith, 2005). There is no doubt that high rates of unemployment due to racial and religious discrimination, along with perceptions of police insensitivity, combined to fuel weeks of violence and car burnings across France. The anger and frustration felt by French-born and France-identified youth and by young adults of Arab and African ancestry regarding belonging and acceptance had long preceded these events, however. A Time Europe Magazine special report on the cause of the riots provided insight into the tensions behind identity and exclusion: “The young men behind the violence ‘are rioting, not because they hate the Republic,’ says Dounia Bouzar, an anthropologist who has worked extensively with [public housing project] delinquents, ‘but because they want to be included in it’ ” (Geary & Graff, 2005). Incidents such as the French riots underscore the pressing need to understand identity negotiations within multicultural settings. Although there have been attempts to examine these processes from a psychological standpoint, these issues have yet to be adequately addressed, and the available research is widely scattered within topics such as immigration, mixed-race peoples, ethnic identity, and intercultural communication. In this chapter, we propose a framework for examining bicultural identity negotiation processes, which we consider to be a subset of multicultural identity negotiation. Our objective in introducing this framework is to stimulate further research on this timely topic in the current era of hyperconnectivity within and across national boundaries. Through our model, we also aim to direct attention to the view of bicultural identities as continuously unfolding coconstructions linked to personal resources, situation-embedded goals, and even specific interaction partners.