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The Cost of Being “True to Yourself” for Mixed Selves: Frame Switching Leads to Perceived Inauthenticity and Downstream Social Consequences for Biculturals

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A growing population of biculturals—who identify with at least two cultures—often frame switch, adapting their behavior to their shifting cultural contexts. We demonstrate that frame switching biculturals are perceived as inauthentic by majority Americans and consequently seen as less likable, trustworthy, warm, and competent compared to biculturals who do not frame switch or a neutral control (Studies 1–3, N = 763). In Study 2, describing the bicultural’s behavior as authentic despite its inconsistency partly alleviated the negative effects of frame switching. In our preregistered Study 3, majority American women were less romantically interested in and less willing to date a bicultural who frame switched in his dating profiles (mediated by inauthenticity). The way biculturals negotiate their cultures can have social costs and create a barrier to intercultural relations.
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Original Manuscript
The Cost of Being “True to Yourself” for
Mixed Selves: Frame Switching Leads to
Perceived Inauthenticity and Downstream
Social Consequences for Biculturals
Alexandria L. West
1
, Amy Muise
1
, and Joni Y. Sasaki
2
Abstract
A growing population of biculturals—who identify with at least two cultures—often frame switch, adapting their behavior to their
shifting cultural contexts. We demonstrate that frame switching biculturals are perceived as inauthentic by majority Americans
and consequently seen as less likable, trustworthy, warm, and competent compared to biculturals who do not frame switch or a
neutral control (Studies 1–3, N¼763). In Study 2, describing the bicultural’s behavior as authentic despite its inconsistency partly
alleviated the negative effects of frame switching. In our preregistered Study 3, majority American women were less romantically
interested in and less willing to date a bicultural who frame switched in his dating profiles (mediated by inauthenticity). The way
biculturals negotiate their cultures can have social costs and create a barrier to intercultural relations.
Keywords
frame switching, authenticity, bicultural, multicultural, intercultural relations, intergroup relations
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am
large, I contain multitudes.)
—Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
As diversity increases in many nations, including the United
States (Horowitz, 2019), so too has the population of bicultur-
als—people who belong to at least two cultural groups. Bicul-
turals themselves are also diverse and can include immigrants
and their progeny, biracials, and people who are immersed in
multiple cultures. Being bicultural can be challenging—not
only must biculturals negotiate different cultural norms but
they also face misunderstandings and discrimination from oth-
ers. Mainstream Americans may be suspicious of biculturals’
dual cultural identification (Kunst et al., 2018) and assume
biculturals are confused about their identity and are untrust-
worthy (Albuja et al., 2018). Yet in addition to biases against
biculturals based on who they are, another source of bias may
come from what they do. We posit that biculturals’ behavior as
they negotiate their cultures can have powerful effects on the
way others perceive them (West et al., 2017, 2018).
Here, we focus on the bicultural phenomenon of frame
switching or adapting oneself in response to the immediate cul-
tural context (Hong & Khei, 2014). This process can occur con-
sciously or unconsciously (Doucerain et al., 2013; Mok &
Morris, 2013) and involves shifting between culturally norma-
tive styles of cognition, emotion, and behavior (e.g., Perunovic
et al., 2007). Frame switching enables biculturals to gain
acceptance and maintain relationships within each of their cul-
tural groups, fostering their well-being (LaFromboise et al.,
1993). Although frame switching has a clear function for bicul-
turals, its potential consequences are not well-understood. Does
frame switching come with social costs for biculturals, even as
they strive to be true to themselves?
Inconsistency Signals Inauthenticity
Western cultures emphasize the individual as an autonomous
agent, ideally uninfluenced by external forces (Nisbett et al.,
2001). Behaviors ought to reflect one’s singular, true self and
not change across situations (Cross et al., 2003). People who
behave inconsistently are seen as inauthentic (Kashima et al.,
2004), and authenticity is upheld as a virtue (Kernis & Gold-
man, 2006). This is problematic for biculturals because frame
switching requires changing the way they behave according
to the cultural context, and this inconsistency might undermine
their perceived authenticity and have downstream social costs.
1
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2
University of Hawai’i at M¯anoa, Honolulu, HI, USA
Corresponding Author:
Alexandria L. West, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada M3J 1P3.
Email: awest21@yorku.ca
Social Psychological and
Personality Science
1-10
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
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DOI: 10.1177/1948550620944049
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Social Costs of Inauthenticity
One reason biculturals frame switch is to gain acceptance by
being mindful of each cultures’ norms and values. Paradoxi-
cally, frame switching may undercut biculturals’ acceptance
in Western society because switching between cultural frames
violates the dominant culture’s expectation of behavioral con-
sistency (English & Chen, 2011). The social consequences of
frame switching may be far from trivial as inauthenticity comes
with many costs.
At a person-perception level, frame switching may damage
general impressions of biculturals as a fallout of being seen as
inauthentic. Extant research with majority Americans shows
that perceived authenticity strongly relates to impressions of
likeability and trustworthiness (Krumhuber et al., 2007). Fur-
ther, authenticity is related to perceptions of warmth and com-
petence (West et al., 2018), which are considered universal
dimensions in impression formation (Cuddy et al., 2008). Thus,
we hypothesize that a bicultural’s frame switching will under-
mine their perceived authenticity, and subsequently, their like-
ability, trustworthiness, warmth, and competence.
Frame switching may have additional, powerful conse-
quences for biculturals, particularly in romantic relationships.
In Western societies, feeling and being perceived as authentic
is fundamental to forming and maintaining romantic relation-
ships (Josephs et al., 2019), and perceived inauthenticity can
diminish relationship satisfaction, commitment, and support
(Lopez & Rice, 2006; Wickham, 2013). Our final study exam-
ines the consequences of frame switching on biculturals’ online
dating prospects, an impactful real-world context in which con-
cerns about authenticity are heightened (Toma et al., 2008).
In the current research, we test our key prediction that frame
switching undermines a bicultural’s perceived authenticity,
subsequently damaging general impressions and their romantic
relationship prospects in America. All studies’ materials, data,
syntax, and the preregistration for Study 3 are available on
Open Science Framework (osf.io/4397c/); pretests, power anal-
yses, additional and meta-analyzed results are also in the
Online Supplementary Materials (OSMs).
Study 1
We hypothesize that participants will see a bicultural as less
authentic if he frame switches than if he does not and that this
reduction in perceived authenticity will have downstream con-
sequences such that the bicultural will be seen as less likeable,
trustworthy, warm, and competent.
Method
Participants
Majority Americans (N¼150) participated online via Prolific.
Power analyses (a¼.05) based on the effect size of frame
switching (vs. no switching) on authenticity obtained in a pilot
study (d¼2.04; West et al., 2018) indicated 99.9%power with
N¼150. To be eligible, participants had to be White, U.S.
citizens, born and residing in the United States, English as first
language, and had parents born in the United States, Canada, or
Western Europe excluding Southern Europe (Lalonde et al.,
2013; n¼9 excluded). We excluded participants who failed
more than one of four attention checks (recall the bicultural’s
name and cultures, n¼8) or indicated that they did not com-
plete the study honestly and attentively (self-report item, n¼
0). Final sample N¼133 (57 females, M
age
¼34.38, SD
age
¼13.46).
Procedure
Following informed consent, participants were randomly
assigned to read one of three vignettes: (1) Switching (n¼
44), the bicultural’s behavior differed depending on which cul-
tural group he is with; (2) No Switching (n¼46), the bicultur-
al’s behavior was the same regardless of which cultural group
he was with; or (3) Neutral (n¼43), only background informa-
tion and none on how a bicultural behaved with his cultural
groups. After reading the vignette and answering attention
checks, participants reported their impressions of the bicultur-
al’s authenticity and provided their impressions of their like-
ability, trustworthiness, warmth, and competence. Finally,
participants completed demographics before debriefing.
Materials
Bicultural vignettes. Participants read vignettes featuring Miguel
Wong, a U.S.-born Mexican Chinese bicultural American
(West et al., 2018). We selected two minority cultures as the
focus of switching to avoid any confounding effects of in-
group/out-group biases (e.g., concerns about disloyalty). Both
cultures represented minority out-groups for participants,
which isolates the effects of frame switching from group biases
that may occur if the bicultural was switching between his
majority Americans and a minority culture. Vignettes began
with the same description of Miguel as an American graduate
student who identifies equally with his father’s Chinese culture
and his mother’s Mexican culture. The next part of the vignette
differed by condition.
The Switching condition described, “Miguel behaves differ-
ently depending on which cultural group he is with, so his beha-
vior is more typically Chinese when he is with Chinese people,
and more typically Mexican when he is with Mexicans” and
then provided examples of how his behavior changes with each
culture.
The No Switching condition described, “Miguel doesn’t
tend to behave any differently depending on which cultural
group he is with, so his behavior is largely the same regardless
of whether he is with Chinese people or Mexicans” and pro-
vided examples of how he behaves with each culture.
The Neutral condition vignette did not provide any addi-
tional information.
Pretesting ensured that the descriptions of Miguel’s specific
behaviors did not differ in desirability by condition.
2Social Psychological and Personality Science XX(X)
Authenticity. We adapted a four-item measure of subjective
authenticity (English & Chen, 2011; a¼.94) to assess a tar-
get’s perceived authenticity rather than one’s own authenticity,
for example, “Miguel is being himself with others” (1 ¼
strongly disagree to 7 ¼strongly agree).
General impressions
Likeability. Participants responded to nine items gauging how
likeable they found the bicultural (Cila & Lalonde, 2019; a¼
.88), for example, “Miguel seems like a really nice guy” (1 ¼
strongly disagree to 7 ¼strongly agree).
Trustworthiness. A single item asked, “Overall, I think
Miguel is a trustworthy person” (1 ¼strongly disagree to 7
¼strongly agree).
Warmth and competence. Participants also rated two funda-
mental trait dimensions: warmth (six items; a¼.87) and com-
petence (seven items; a¼.84; Cuddy et al., 2007) on 5-point
scales (1 ¼not at all to 5 ¼extremely).
Results
See Table 1 for descriptive statistics.
A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed that
authenticity ratings differed significantly across conditions,
F(2, 130) ¼82.11, p< .001, Z2
p¼.56. Consistent with our pri-
mary hypothesis, participants saw Miguel as less authentic
when he frame switched compared to when he actively did not
frame switch, t(130) ¼12.38, p< .001, d¼2.17, and to when
no information was given about his behavior, t(130) ¼9.08, p<
.001, d¼1.59.
One-way ANOVAs on likeability, trustworthiness, warmth,
and competence showed significant effects of condition, Fs(2,
130) > 4.18, ps < .02, Z2
ps > .06 (Table 2—total effects). Across
all measures, participants in the Switching condition formed
less favorable impressions of Miguel compared to those in the
No Switching condition, likeable t(130) ¼2.07, p¼.04, d¼
0.36; trustworthy t(130) ¼3.20, p¼.002, d¼0.56; warm
t(129) ¼3.00, p¼.003, d¼0.53; competent t(129) ¼3.56,
p¼.001, d¼0.63, and compared to those in the Neutral con-
dition, likeable t(130) ¼2.79, p¼.006, d¼0.49; trustworthy
t(130) ¼1.98, p¼.05, d¼0.35; warm t(129) ¼2.51, p¼.01,
d¼0.44; competent t(129) ¼2.64, p¼.009, d¼0.47.
To test whether frame switching negatively affected general
impressions by reducing authenticity, we conducted mediation
analyses using PROCESS (Version 3) following procedures for
multicategorical independent variables (Hayes & Preacher,
2014). Conditions were coded into two orthogonal contrasts:
Switching versus No Switching and Switching versus Neutral.
Supporting our prediction, confidence intervals for all indirect
effects were below zero (Table 2—indirect effects), demon-
strating that frame switching significantly decreased evalua-
tions on all traits by diminishing Miguel’s perceived
authenticity.
Study 2
Study 1 demonstrated that majority Americans saw a frame
switching bicultural as less authentic compared to when he
actively did not frame switch and when no information was
given about his behavior. This loss of perceived authenticity
consequently damaged general impressions of the frame
switching bicultural. However, statistical mediation in cross-
sectional designs is limited to only testing a correlation
between the mediator and outcome (Spencer et al., 2005); thus,
our next study manipulates the mediator to establish a causal
chain between frame switching to authenticity to general
impressions. If the consequences of frame switching are truly
due to perceived inauthenticity, then assuring participants that
a frame switching bicultural is still being authentic should miti-
gate the harsher impressions found in Study 1. We predicted
that majority Americans would form more favorable impres-
sions of a frame switching bicultural when told that he is
behaving authentically with each culture compared to when his
authenticity is not affirmed.
Method
Participants
Majority Americans (N¼435) participated online via Prolific.
Eligibility and exclusion criteria were consistent with Study 1;
final sample N¼390. Power analyses based on an initial study
(see OSM) indicated that N¼390 provided 80%power (a¼
.05) to detect the smallest observed effect—authentic switching
versus switching on competence, d¼0.29.
Procedure
Overall, the design and procedure followed Study 1. The major
difference was adding a new Authentic Switching condition
(n¼129) that was based on the previous Switching condition
vignette but included an additional paragraph affirming the
bicultural’s authenticity. This study also included the same
Switching (n¼132) and No Switching (n¼129) conditions
from Study 1, allowing us to test whether the previous effects
replicated along with the current hypothesis. Thus, there were
three randomly assigned conditions: Switching, Authentic
Switching, and No Switching. After reading one of the
vignettes, participants rated the bicultural’s likeability, trust-
worthiness, warmth, and competence. They also rated the
Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for Study 1.
Outcome Variable
Switching
M[95% CI]
No Switching
M[95% CI]
Neutral
M[95% CI]
Authenticity 4.30 [4.06, 4.54] 6.40 [6.17, 6.64] 5.87 [5.62, 6.11]
Likeability 5.23 [4.98, 5.47] 5.58 [5.34, 5.81] 5.71 [5.46, 5.95]
Trustworthiness 5.02 [4.70, 5.35] 5.76 [5.44, 6.08] 5.49 [5.16, 5.82]
Warmth 3.81 [3.65, 3.98] 4.12 [4.00, 4.31] 4.10 [3.94, 4.27]
Competence 3.71 [3.55, 3.86] 4.10 [3.95, 4.26] 4.01 [3.85, 4.17]
West et al. 3
bicultural’s authenticity as a manipulation check before com-
pleting demographics and debriefing.
Materials
Bicultural vignettes. The Switching and No Switching vignettes
were identical to those in Study 1. The new Authentic
Switching vignette provided the same content as the Switching
vignette, followed by information affirming the bicultural’s
authenticity:
Miguel is not trying to pretend or misrepresent himself when he is
with either cultural group, and he has no intention to deceive or
manipulate others through his behaviour. Rather, Miguel’s beha-
vior with each cultural group reflects different sides of himself that
are both equally a part of who he truly is.
Pretesting these vignettes confirmed the effectiveness of the
manipulation—Miguel was deemed more authentic in the
Authentic Switching (vs. Switching) condition.
General impressions. Measures of likeability (a¼.91), warmth
(a¼.89), and competence (a¼.86) were the same as in Study
1. To improve our assessment of trustworthiness beyond a sin-
gle item, we adapted a three-item measure (Fletcher et al.,
2000; a¼.93). All response scales ranged from 1 (strongly dis-
agree)to7(strongly agree).
Authenticity. The authenticity measure from Study 1 provided a
manipulation check; results ensured that the authenticity
manipulation in the Authentic Switching condition was
successful.
Results
See Table 3 for descriptive statistics.
One-way ANOVAs revealed significant differences
between the three conditions on all four general impressions:
likability, F(2, 385) ¼5.28, p¼.005, Z2
p¼.03;
trustworthiness, F(2, 387) ¼8.42, p< .001, Z2
p¼.04; warmth,
F(2, 385) ¼6.70, p¼.001, Z2
p¼.03; and competence,
F(2, 385) ¼8.37, p<.001,Z2
p¼.04. Negative effects of the
Switching (vs. No Switching) condition also replicated on all
impressions, ts(385–387) > 3.17, ps < .002, ds > 0.32. Assuring
participants of Miguel’s authenticity when frame switching
(i.e., Authentic Switching vs. Switching) partially mitigated the
negative consequences of frame switching, Miguel was judged
less harshly in terms of likeability, t(385) ¼2.19, p¼.03, d¼
0.22, and warmth, t(385) ¼2.65, p¼.008, d¼0.27, but not
trustworthiness, t(387) ¼1.00, p¼.32, d¼0.10, or compe-
tence, t(385) ¼0.98, p¼.33, d¼0.10. Further, affirming
Miguel’s authenticity when frame switching partially nullified
the benefits of actively not frame switching (i.e., Authentic
Switching vs. No Switching), as his perceived likeability and
warmth did not differ significantly between these two condi-
tions: likeability, t(385) ¼0.97, p¼.34, d¼0.10; warmth,
t(385) ¼0.85, p¼.40, d¼0.09. However, actively not frame
switching still produced advantages over authentically frame
switching (i.e., No Switching vs. Authentic Switching) for
Miguel’s perceived trustworthiness, t(387) ¼2.94, p¼.004,
d¼0.30, and competence, t(385) ¼2.95, p¼.003, d¼0.30.
Thus, affirming the bicultural’s authenticity countered some, but
not all, of the costs from frame switching as well as the benefits
from actively not frame switching.
Study 3
Next, we raise the stakes on the social consequences by exam-
ining how frame switching negatively impacts biculturals’
romantic relationship prospects. We also address two limita-
tions of the prior studies. First, Studies 1–2 used vignettes
explicitly describing the bicultural’s frame switching and so
may have had high demand characteristics—participants may
have felt expected to react negatively to the bicultural’s incon-
sistency. Although we would argue that the demand character-
istics are likely outweighed by the social desirability of not
appearing prejudiced (McConahay et al., 1981), we improve
our manipulation in Study 3 to be less explicit by using online
Table 2. Total and Indirect Effects of Frame Switching (vs. No Switching and vs. Control) for Study 1.
Total Effect
of Condition
Switch vs. No Switch
via Authenticity
Switch vs. Neutral
via Authenticity
Outcome Variable FpZ2
pb(SE) 95% CI b(SE) 95% CI
Likeability 4.18 .02 .06 1.14 (.18)
1.37 (.19)
[1.51, 0.79]
[1.77, 1.02]
0.85 (.16)
1.02 (.17)
[1.17, 0.56]
[1.36, 0.72]
Trust 5.20 .006 .07 1.52 (.22)
1.34 (.16)
[1.94, 1.10]
[1.66, 1.04]
1.13 (.19)
1.00 (.15)
[1.53, 0.77]
[1.31, 0.72]
Warmth 5.18 .007 .07 0.71 (.12)
1.27 (.20)
[0.95, 0.49]
[1.67, 0.90]
0.54 (.10)
0.97 (.17)
[0.75, 0.36]
[1.33, 0.66]
Competence 6.84 .002 .10 0.45 (.12)
0.83 (.20)
[0.69, 0.23]
[1.22, 0.42]
0.35 (.09)
0.63 (.16)
[0.54, 0.17]
[0.96, 0.32]
Note. For total effects, df
1
¼2, df
2
¼130. For indirect effects, nonitalicized coefficients refer to the unstandardized indirect effects, and italicized coefficients below
refer to the partially standardized indirect effects. The 95% bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals (10,000 samples) that do not contain zero indicate a
statistically significant effect. All indirect effects above are significant.
4Social Psychological and Personality Science XX(X)
dating profiles that display frame switching (or not) in more
discrete ways. Second, reading third-person vignettes may not
reflect how people naturally learn about others. Study 3 simu-
lates a more realistic situation: seeing a bicultural’s frame
switching in action in dating profiles that one could find easily
online. We predict that (1) frame switching (vs. No Switching
vs. Neutral) will negatively affect majority Americans’ percep-
tions of a bicultural’s authenticity and (2) majority Americans
will form less favorable general and dating-relevant impres-
sions of a frame switching bicultural and these effects will be
mediated by authenticity. Our preregistration is available here:
(osf.io/8yp7x).
Method
Participants
Heterosexual, mainstream American women (N¼292) partici-
pated online via Prolific or MTurk. Power analyses approxi-
mated that N¼300 provided 94%power (a¼.05) to detect
the effect of Switching versus No Switching on authenticity
(d¼0.50) observed in a pretest.
As preregistered, we excluded participants who did not meet
eligibility criteria: majority American, heterosexual women
(age 18–40) not currently in a relationship (n¼49 excluded).
We excluded participants who indicated that they did not com-
plete the study honestly and attentively (self-report item; n¼1)
or did not provide post-debrief consent (n¼2). Attention check
items were also included, and all participants passed. Final
sample N¼240.
Procedure
Participants were led to believe that they would see five single,
American men’s profiles from one or more dating websites. In
reality, all participants only saw dating profiles ostensibly cre-
ated by Miguel Wong from Studies 1–2. Participants were ran-
domly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) Switching (n¼
81): Miguel had profiles on two cultural-niche dating websites,
each highlight different aspects of himself depending on the
cultural context of each site; (2) No Switching (n¼79): Miguel
had nearly identical profiles onthesametwocultural-niche
sites and did not emphasize either culture over the other; (3)
Neutral (n¼80): Miguel had one profile on a general (not cul-
tural-niche) dating site and did not emphasize either culture,
thereby establishing his bicultural background without
demonstrating his (in)consistency. The No Switching condition
presented the same content in each profile with slight variations
in how statements were worded to isolate the effects of actively
not frame switching from a more mundane form of consistency
(i.e., exactly duplicating content).
Participants opened website links to pdfs of Miguel’s pro-
file(s) and were instructed to review them carefully. After
freely perusing the profiles, we directed participants’ focus to
key aspects with attention checks about the profile photo and
content. Participants then rated Miguel on authenticity, general
impressions from prior studies, and new dating-relevant
impressions. Further, we assessed hypothetical dating inten-
tions toward Miguel. Finally, participants were informed there
were no other profiles currently available to rate and provided
demographics before debriefing.
Materials
Bicultural dating profiles. All participants saw either one (Neutral)
or two dating profiles (Switching or No Switching). All profiles
contained the same basic information about Miguel’s demo-
graphics, lifestyle, and cultural background. His profile photos
(Figure 1) and subtle aspects of the profile content varied
between conditions.
In the Switching condition, Miguel had profiles on two real
cultural-niche dating websites: MexicanCupid.com and China-
LoveCupid.com. His MexicanCupid profile photo showed him
wearing a shirt with a Calavera (Day-of-the-Dead skull), and
the profile content emphasized his interest in more Mexican-
associated foods, hobbies/sports, and travel. In contrast, his
ChinaLoveCupid.com profile photo showed him wearing a
shirt with a Chinese dragon, and the profile content emphasized
his interest in more Chinese-associated foods, hobbies/sports,
and travel. Importantly, nothing stated in either profile was
mutually exclusive—for instance, saying he visited Mexico
City in one profile does not contradict the trip to Beijing
described in his other profile.
In the No Switching condition, Miguel also had two profiles
on the same two cultural-niche websites. In both his Mexican-
Cupid and ChinaLoveCupid profile photos, he was wearing a
blank shirt, and the content described his interest in interna-
tional foods, exercise and sports in general, and a trip to Syd-
ney. Again, the intention here was to demonstrate Miguel’s
active nonswitching with culturally neutral content.
In the Neutral condition, Miguel had just one profile on the
fabricated, culturally neutral LoveCupid.com, which we cre-
ated by covering elements of the ChinaLoveCupid.com layout.
His photo showed him wearing the same blank shirt, and the
profile content was the same as the No Switching condition.
Pretests ensured that participants noticed Miguel’s frame
switching between profiles in the Switching condition and
made the intended cultural associations (e.g., recognized high-
lighting of Mexican/Chinese culture) and did not see Miguel as
more or less American in the Switching versus No Switching
profiles.
Table 3. Descriptive Statistics for Study 2.
Outcome Variable
Authentic
Switching
M[95% CI]
Switching
M[95% CI]
No Switching
M[95% CI]
Likeability 5.56 [5.40, 5.72] 5.31 [5.16, 5.47] 5.67 [5.51, 5.82]
Trustworthiness 5.12 [4.95, 5.30] 5.00 [4.82, 5.17] 5.49 [5.32, 5.67]
Warmth 4.03 [3.92, 4.13] 3.83 [3.72, 3.93] 4.09 [3.99, 4.20]
Competence 3.89 [3.79, 3.98] 3.82 [3.72, 3.92] 4.09 [4.00, 4.19]
West et al. 5
Authenticity. Measured the same as previous (a¼.93). Two
additional exploratory mediators, deceptiveness and manipula-
tiveness, assessed malicious forms of inauthenticity.
Dating-relevant impressions. Impressions of Miguel as a potential
dating partner were assessed using a four-item measure of
Interpersonal Attraction and Intentions to Meet (Alves, 2018;
a¼.94), for example, “How much would you like to meet
Miguel?” (1 ¼not at all to 9 ¼extremely). We also created two
new items to assess how attractive (physically and more
broadly) participants found Miguel to be (a¼.84) and another
two items to assess how interested participants were in Miguel
as a dating partner (a¼.95), for example, “Miguel seems like
someone I would be open to dating” (1 ¼strongly disagree to 7
¼strongly agree). Participants also reported how likely they
would be to recommend Miguel as a dating partner to a friend
using an existing dating endorsement item (1 ¼strongly dis-
agree to 5 ¼strongly agree; Rycyna et al., 2009).
Dating intentions. Next, participants indicated how likely they
would be to engage in three dating behaviors with Miguel (a
¼.91). Imagining they had come across Miguel’s profile(s)
outside of this study, participants reported their willingness
to (1) send Miguel a message, (2) respond to a message from
Miguel, and (3) go on a date with Miguel (1 ¼strongly dis-
agree to 7 ¼strongly agree).
General impressions. Participants also evaluated Miguel’s like-
ability, trustworthiness, warmth, and competence using four
single-item measures (1 ¼strongly disagree to 7 ¼strongly
agree), for example, “Overall, I think Miguel is a likeable
person.”
Results
See Table 4 for descriptive statistics.
Effects on authenticity. One-way ANOVAs revealed significant
differences between conditions on ratings of authenticity,
F(2, 237) ¼56.21, p<.001,Z2
p¼.32. Participants who wit-
nessed Miguel’s frame switching saw him as less authentic
compared to both control conditions (No Switching and Neu-
tral): Switching versus No Switching, t(237) ¼9.68, p<
.001, d¼1.26, Switching versus Neutral, t(237) ¼8.55, p<
.001, d¼1.11. Miguel was not seen as any more or less authen-
tic when he actively did not frame switch (No Switching) com-
pared to when no information about his behavior was given
(Neutral), t(237) ¼1.15, p¼.25, d¼0.15. Thus, frame switch-
ing had strong negative effects on authenticity, the proposed
mediator.
1
Consequences for dating-relevant impressions. ANOVA results
indicated significant differences between conditions on each
of the dating-relevant impressions, Fs(2, 237) < 8.48, ps<
.001, Z2
ps > .07 (Table 5—total effects). When Miguel frame
switched instead of actively not switching or when only one
noncultural-niche profile was presented, majority American
women formed less favorable dating-relevant impressions.
Miguel’s frame switching reduced participants’ Interpersonal
Attraction and Intentions to Meet, ts(237) > 3.70, ps < .001,
ds > 0.48; their attraction to him physically and more broadly,
ts(237) > 2.90, ps<.004,ds > 0.38; their interest in him as a
dating partner, ts(237) > 2.70, ps < .007, ds > 0.35; and their
endorsement of him as a dating partner, ts(237) > 5.61, ps<
.001, ds > 0.07. To test the role of authenticity as mediating
Figure 1. Study 3 profile photos (left to right): (1) Mexican profile photo in the Switching condition, (2) Chinese profile photo in the Switching
condition, (3) profile photo in the No Switching and Neutral condition. Note. For full profiles, see Online Supplementary Material or Open
Science Framework page.
6Social Psychological and Personality Science XX(X)
these negative effects, simple mediation models were con-
structed in line with the analyses described in Study 1. Support-
ing our hypothesis, confidence intervals for all of the indirect
effects were below zero, showing that frame switching signif-
icantly diminished majority Americans’ dating-relevant
impressions (vs. No Switching and vs. Neutral) because they
saw Miguel as less authentic (Table 5—indirect effects). These
results show that frame switching in a dating context can make
majority Americans feel that a bicultural is being less authentic
and, in turn, a less appealing potential romantic partner.
Consequences for dating intentions. The strength of participants’
intentions to communicate with and date Miguel significantly
varied between conditions, F(2, 237) ¼7.77, p¼.001, Z2
p¼
.06 (Table 5—total effects). Participants felt that they would
be less likely to send or respond to a message or go on a date
with Miguel when he frame switched compared to when he
actively did not frame switch and compared to neutral control,
ts(237) > 2.91, ps < .004, ds > 0.38. Further, simple mediation
results revealed that frame switching reduced participants’ dat-
ing intentions (vs. No Switching and vs. Neutral) because
Miguel’s frame switching undermined his perceived authenti-
city (Table 5—indirect effects). Thus, majority Americans
were not only less impressed with Miguel as a potential partner
when he frame switched but felt they would also be less likely
to actually engage with him romantically if they had found
these dating profiles on their own in the real world.
Consequences for general impressions. Finally, the results show a
significant effect of condition on each of the general
Table 4. Descriptive Statistics for Study 3.
Outcome Variable
Switching
M[95% CI]
No Switching
M[95% CI]
Neutral
M[95% CI]
Authenticity 4.07 [3.84, 4.30] 5.69 [5.45, 5.92] 5.49 [5.26, 5.73]
Interpersonal attraction and intentions to meet 4.58 [4.19, 4.97] 5.94 [5.54, 6.33] 5.62 [5.23, 6.02]
Attractiveness 3.80 [3.52, 4.09] 4.79 [4.50, 5.08] 4.39 [4.11, 4.68]
Dating interest 3.33 [2.98, 3.68] 4.35 [4.00, 4.71] 4.01 [3.66, 4.37]
Dating endorsements 2.80 [2.58, 3.03] 3.82 [3.60, 4.05] 3.71 [3.49, 3.94]
Dating intentions 3.12 [2.77, 3.48] 4.08 [3.72, 4.44] 3.86 [3.51, 4.22]
Likeability 4.91 [4.70, 5.12] 5.89 [5.68, 6.09] 5.73 [5.53, 5.94]
Trustworthiness 4.14 [3.89, 4.39] 5.59 [5.34, 5.84] 5.34 [5.09, 5.58]
Warmth 4.71 [4.46, 4.96] 5.58 [5.32, 5.83] 5.21 [4.96, 5.46]
Competence 5.14 [4.92, 5.36] 5.87 [5.65, 6.10] 5.70 [5.48, 5.92]
Table 5. Total and Indirect Effects of Frame Switching (vs. No Switching and vs. Control) via Perceived Authenticity for Study 3.
Total Effect
of Condition
Switch vs. No Switch
via Authenticity
Switch vs. Neutral
via Authenticity
Outcome Variable FpZ2
pb(SE) 95% CI b(SE) 95% CI
Interpersonal attraction and intentions to meet 12.66 <.001 .10 1.47 (.24)
0.79 (.12)
[1.98, 1.02]
[1.03, 0.57]
1.30 (.23)
0.69 (.11)
[1.79, 0.90]
[0.92, 0.69]
Attractiveness 11.85 <.001 .09 0.76 (.17)
0.56 (.12)
[1.11, 0.45]
[0.80, 0.35]
0.67 (.15)
0.50 (.11)
[0.99, 0.39]
[0.72, 0.30]
Dating interest 8.48 <.001 .07 0.88 (.20)
0.53 (.12)
[1.32, 0.52]
[0.80, 0.32]
0.77 (.18)
0.47 (.11)
[1.16, 0.45]
[0.69, 0.28]
Dating endorsements 23.84 <.001 .17 0.60 (.14)
0.53 (.12)
[0.88, 0.35]
[0.77, 0.32]
0.52 (.13)
0.47 (.11)
[0.78, 0.30]
[0.69, 0.27]
Dating intentions 7.77 <.001 .06 0.83 (.20)
0.50 (.12)
[1.25, 0.46]
[0.75, 0.28]
0.73 (.18)
0.44 (.11)
[1.13, 0.40]
[0.67, 0.25]
Likeability 24.71 <.001 .17 0.91 (.16)
0.89 (.12)
[1.26, 0.63]
[1.14, 0.67]
0.80 (.15)
0.78 (.11)
[1.11, 0.53]
[1.02, 0.57]
Trustworthiness 37.90 <.001 .24 1.19 (.18)
0.93 (.11)
[1.55, 0.85]
[1.16, 0.71]
1.04 (.18)
0.82 (.11)
[1.41, 0.71]
[1.05, 0.59]
Warmth 11.41 <.001 .09 0.98 (.18)
0.82 (.13)
[1.35, 0.66]
[1.08, 0.59]
0.86 (.17)
0.72 (.12)
[1.20, 0.56]
[0.98, 0.50]
Competence 11.84 <.001 .09 0.82 (.16)
0.78 (.12)
[1.16, 0.53]
[1.02, 0.57]
0.72 (.15)
0.69 (.11)
[1.03, 0.46]
[0.92, 0.69]
Note. For total effects, df
1
¼2, df
2
¼237. For indirect effects, nonitalicized coefficients refer to the unstandardized indirect effects, and italicized coefficients below
refer to the partially standardized effects. The 95% bias-corrected bootstrap confidence intervals (10,000 samples) that do not contain zero indicate a statistically
significant effect. All indirect effects above are significant.
West et al. 7
impressions, Fs(2, 237) > 11.41, ps <.001,Z2
ps>.09(Table
5—total effects). Specifically, frame switching cost Miguel
in terms of his likeability, trustworthiness, warmth, and compe-
tence compared to when he did not frame switch and compared
to neutral control, ts(234–237) > 2.77, ps < .006, ds > 0.36.
Mediation analyses confirmed that these consequences of
frame switching on general impressions, compared to No
Switching and to Neutral, are all mediated by a loss of Miguel’s
perceived authenticity when he frame switches (Table 5—indi-
rect effects). These findings directly replicate the second pret-
est’s results and conceptually replicate each of the earlier
studies’ results, adding strong evidence that majority Ameri-
cans dislike frame switching because they infer that inauthen-
ticity drives the bicultural’s behavior.
General Discussion
Biculturals frame switch as a way to navigate their complex
cultural worlds. Across four experiments, however, we demon-
strate that frame switching is perceived as inauthentic and, in
turn, has social costs. In all studies, the hit to authenticity led
to worse impressions of a bicultural’s likeability, trustworthi-
ness, warmth, and competence. Affirming the bicultural’s
authenticity in Study 2 partly mitigated frame switching’s neg-
ative effects on likeability and warmth, but not trustworthiness
or competence. Study 3 targeted the impactful arena of roman-
tic relationships, demonstrating that frame switching in dating
profiles diminishes biculturals’ perceived authenticity and
reduces their chances of dating success with majority Ameri-
cans. These results illustrate how frame switching creates a par-
adox for biculturals living in Western cultures: It allows them
to fit in with their cultural groups, but it can backfire when
behaving inconsistently violates perceivers’ expectations and
values. That is, frame switching biculturals can incur powerful
social penalties to impression formation and romantic
relationships.
These findings illuminate a novel barrier to intercultural
relations in Western society. Previous research has shown that
majority Americans are suspicious of biculturals by default
because of their dual identities (Kunst et al., 2018) that are
assumed to confuse biculturals about who they truly are (Skin-
ner et al., 2019). While these biases may be at play, our results
showed that the negative effect on authenticity and its down-
stream consequences held when frame switching was com-
pared to a neutral control condition in which participants
only knew about the bicultural’s dual cultural identities but did
not know about his behavior with his cultural groups. This
implies that majority Americans’ reactions were driven by the
way the bicultural behaved beyond any biases they may hold
against his particular cultures or against his dually identified
bicultural status.
Recent studies have uncovered that “passing” behavior,
whereby a biracial presents as only one racial identity based
on the context, also evokes negative reactions from majority
Americans (Albuja et al., 2018). In our studies, we were able
to isolate a different source of bias against biculturals—
switching between their multiple identities—providing some
of the first evidence that biculturals’ overt behavior across cul-
tural contexts affects the way they are seen by others. Cumula-
tively, the previous and current work unveil the quagmire that
biculturals face in Western society—they are punished by
majority members not only when they deny one of their iden-
tities but also when they present both identities and adapt them-
selves to their cultural contexts by frame switching. This raises
the question: Is there any socially accepted way to be “true to
yourself” for mixed selves?
Limitations and Future Research
These studies have some limitations. We only created one
bicultural target used across the studies and so we have not
examined how target gender or how other minority cultures
might change reactions to frame switching. Because Study 3
participants were heterosexual women, we do not know how
men or non-heterosexual people would react to prospective
bicultural partners’ frame switching. We anticipate that the
shared Western understanding of authenticity and its incompat-
ibility with frame switching would be strong enough to influ-
ence most majority Americans’ reactions to biculturals, but
future research is needed to uncover potential moderators of
frame switching’s negative effects. Additionally, the control
conditions in these studies depicted a particular form of “not
frame switching,” whereby the bicultural’s behavior was
intended to be not directly linked to either culture, rather than
aligned with one culture over the other (e.g., always more Chi-
nese, as in assimilation) or uniquely mixed together (i.e., hybri-
dizing; West et al., 2017). Future studies should pit frame
switching against these and other cultural negotiation strategies
for a more complex understanding of how biculturals’ behavior
is perceived.
Notably, Study 2 failed to explicitly affirm the biculturals’
authenticity to mitigate the damage of frame switching on trust
and competence, even though Studies 1 and 3 establish authen-
ticity as a statistical mediator. It is possible that our manipula-
tion did not cover aspects of authenticity more relevant to trust
and competence, or that other mediators may factor more heav-
ily for these two outcomes. Alternatively, affirming authenti-
city may have weaker benefits for a frame switching
bicultural because Americans may not hold an authentic mixed
self in as high regard as they would an authentic singular self
that personifies their understanding of authenticity. Of these
two downstream consequences, implications for trustworthi-
ness are particularly impactful because trust is regarded as fun-
damental to harmonious relationships (Rempel et al., 1985).
This fits well with the results of Study 3, which examined a
romantic relationship domain and also suggests that frame
switching may lead to particularly harsh penalties in contexts
where trust is important. Future research may investigate the
fallout of frame switching for bicultural politicians, job appli-
cants, and those already in intercultural romantic relationships.
In contrast, Study 2 successfully restored impressions of like-
ability and warmth by affirming authenticity—results with
8Social Psychological and Personality Science XX(X)
implications for ameliorating intercultural relations. At least
for these traits, our results demonstrate that Americans can
form favorable impressions of a bicultural despite their frame
switching. Due to the limits of cross-sectional mediation, these
data are not ideally suited to comparing alternate models (e.g.,
parallel or sequential mediation between perceived authenticity
and other trait impressions). Future longitudinal studies should
examine how impressions may change and develop over the
course of multiple interactions with a frame switching bicul-
tural to more comprehensively test the role of perceived
authenticity over time.
Conclusion
A growing population of biculturals endeavor to be true to their
mixed selves. However, the strategies biculturals use to suc-
cessfully navigate their multiple cultures can have social costs.
As many nations become increasingly diverse, it is more
important than ever to identify and break down these barriers
to intercultural relations so that all people can thrive while
being true to themselves.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
ORCID iD
Alexandria L. West https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6476-012X
Amy Muise https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9000-4106
Supplemental Material
The supplemental material is available in the online version of the
article.
Note
1. Miguel was also rated as more deceptive and manipulative in the
Switching condition (vs. No Switching and vs. Neutral). When
authenticity, deceptiveness, and manipulativeness were entered
simultaneously into parallel mediation models, only authenticity
produced unique indirect effects consistently across all outcomes.
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Author Biographies
Alexandria L. West is a PhD candidate in psychology at York Uni-
versity. Her research tests how the processes biculturals and intercul-
tural couples use to negotiate their cultures affect them
psychologically and socially.
Amy Muise is an assistant professor and York Research Chair in Rela-
tionships and Sexuality at York University. She studies romantic rela-
tionships, sexuality, and motivation.
Joni Y. Sasaki is an assistant professor of psychology and a director
of the Culture and Religion Lab at the University of Hawai’i at Ma
¯noa.
She uses an integrated biological and sociocultural approach to con-
duct basic psychological research on multiple forms of diversity—
including ethnic, religious, and biological diversity.
Handling Editor: Yuri Miyamoto
10 Social Psychological and Personality Science XX(X)
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