National Diversity in Organisations: A study about integration between host and international students

Diploma Thesis, 2003

105 Pages, Grade: 7.5 from 10


Table of contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Short overview of diversity research
1.2 Aim and Contribution of the final thesis
1.3 Structure

2 Intergroup behaviour
2.1 Social identity
2.2 Social categorisation
2.2.1 The concept of familiarity and social discrimination
2.3 Social comparison
2.3.1 In-group favouritism
2.3.2 In-group bias
2.4 Conclusion

3 The Acculturation
3.1 Multicultural ideology
3.2 Acculturation attitudes
3.3 The uni- and bidimensional model
3.4 Acculturation strategies
3.5 The Interactive Acculturation Model (IAM)
3.5.1 Host community acculturation orientations
3.5.2 Relational outcomes of host and foreign acculturation orientations
3.6 Conclusion

4 Research on immigrant- and international student populations
4.1 Overview of empirical studies
4.2 Applied social psychology theories
4.2.1 Social categorisation: minority group formation
4.2.2 Social identity: minority group identification
4.2.3 Social comparison: from national to international
4.3 Conclusion

5 Research design
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Aim of the research
5.2.1 Short outline of the Interactive Acculturation Model and its application
5.3 Participants and procedure
5.3.1 The interviews
5.3.2 The questionnaires

6 Findings
6.1 The group of German students
6.1.1 Applied acculturation strategies
6.2 The group of foreign students
6.2.1 Applied acculturation strategies
6.3 The group of Dutch students
6.3.1 Expected acculturation strategies
6.4 Relational outcomes
6.4.1 University life
6.4.2 Social life

7 Conclusion
7.1 Summary of results
7.2 Discussion
7.3 Limitations
7.4 Future research
7.5 Practical implications
7.6 Concluding remarks



This thesis focused on international students (Germany, Belgium, Cuba, USA, Ecuador and the Bermudas) residing in the Netherlands for the period of their studies and Dutch host students studying at the faculty of Economics and Business Administration University Maastricht, the Netherlands. The aim of this study was to examine whether the relationship between international students (n=10) and host students (n=5) is concordant (consensual) or discordant (conflictual or problematic). The acculturation orientations of both groups have been assessed using Berry’s (1992, 1997) four acculturation strategies as there are: integration, assimilation, separation and marginalisation. Bourhis´ et al. (1997) Interactive Acculturation Model has been applied to explore the relational outcomes between the groups.

In this study it was shown that integration is the strategy most preferred by host students. However, international students reflect separation (n=5), integration (n=3) and a mixture of integration and assimilation features (n=2). Accordingly, the acculturation profiles of host and nationally diverse students are concordant (consensual) between host- (n=5) and international students (n=5) and discordant (conflictual or problematic) between host- (n=5) and international students (n=5).

The findings suggest that Dutch language skills, a Dutch partner, multinational living arrangements and interest in- and openness towards the Dutch society enhance integration and assimilation orientations. On the contrary, the geographical closeness to the home country, a close relationship to family and friends from the home city, the multilingual skills of the Dutch society, a high percentage of friends with the same nationality and linguistic background support separation orientations among international students. In addition, the large (numerical) size and homogeneity (in terms of nationality and language) of the group of German students represented at the faculty influence the acculturation orientations of international students and enhance separation orientations.

1 Introduction

Nowadays, increasing national diversity appears to be a highly demanding management topic. The proportion of non-native citizens grows substantially in countries all over the world. This move is on the one hand, a direct result of the current unbalanced allocation of wealth and on the other hand, due to the globalisation of the market. Therefore, one has to carefully distinguish between immigrants, who leave their home country due to poor living standards and political reasons and individuals that come to study or work in a foreign country for a limited time period. These two circumstances caused an increased movement of individuals between countries and as a consequence augmented national diversity. As such, each local government is faced with multiculturalism and the task to master the integration of different nationalities into the native society. The consequences of enhanced national diversity also affect local organisations, either profit or non-profit. Organisations can rarely avoid the increasing internationalisation and have to adapt their organisational structure to a multicultural environment. Thus, the integration of different nationalities into an organisation is a challenging but unavoidable task.

National diversity enriches the daily social life in that it provides each local organisation with different and novel ideas, opinions and beliefs. Pelled, Eisenhardt and Xin (1999) support this view and claim that due to increased diversity, members of the host culture are more likely to hear and experience views that diverge from their own. At the same time, the presence of many different cultures may cause emotional conflicts between groups as the native group may feel their heritage culture threatened. As a consequence, one can infer that the integration of nationally diverse individuals into the host society contains many hurdles that have to be overcome in order to create a harmonious life between the foreign and the native group.

The Netherlands is famous for its tolerance and is one of the countries that have adopted the ideal of multiculturalism as policy goal (Baubock, Heller & Zolberg, 1996, as cited in Arends-Toth and van de Vijver, 2003). Its acceptance of national diversity is appealing to many foreigners with the wish to acquire a residence in this country. The government displays its openness towards immigrants through its policies. In addition, Dutch organisations either profit, non-profit as well as educational institutions attract foreign workers and students by offering an international working and studying environment. Thus, the Netherlands provides an interesting context for inquiries in the field of diversity research.

1.1 Short overview of diversity research

Internationalisation comes at a cost. It is the integration of different nationalities, linguistic backgrounds and cultural norms and customs that represent a challenging task for every international organisation. This challenge has activated researchers to investigate the factors influencing the relationship between host nationals and nationally diverse groups (e.g. Ying, 2002; Goto, 1997; Simard, 1981) and especially the effect of cross-cultural contact on minority groups (e.g. Schmitt, Spears & Branscombe, 2003).

These investigations can be directly linked to the acculturation attitudes and strategies developed by Berry (1992, 1997) and the Interactive Acculturation Model defined by Bourhis, Moise, Perreault and Senecal (1997). In this context, Bourhis et al. (1997) and Montreuil and Bourhis (2001, as cited in Arends-Toth and van de Vijver, 2003, p. 252) state that “the relationship between the foreign and the native group depends on the acculturation attitude and the resulting acculturation strategy chosen by each group and can be consensual, problematic or conflictual”.

Diversity research is based on theories concerning the formation of social groups developed by Tajfel (1978a) and the classification of individuals into categories. Referring to social categorisation, social identity and social comparison theory it is possible to make predictions about the behavioural patterns between nationally diverse- and native groups. According to social categorisation theory (Tajfel, 1978b), individuals classify themselves and others into social groups according to criteria that make sense to the individual. Examples are characteristics such as race, gender, age, status or religion. Categorisation is perceived as a tool that systemises and simplifies an individual’s environment.

Furthermore, social identity makes an individual strive to reach a satisfactory concept or image of himself. Thus, social identity theory according to Tajfel (1972) and Turner (1975b) as cited in Turner, Brown and Tajfel (1979) explains that part of the human beings self-concept that is derived from the knowledge of his membership of a group. Social comparison theory instead, defined by Festinger (1954, as cited in Tajfel, 1978b), is a tool that links the two concepts of social categorisation and social identity to provide meaning to the individual about his opinions and abilities. This is achieved through a comparison of social groups. As a result, characteristics such as intergroup favouritism and in-group bias (Turner et al., 1979) occur of which social discrimination (Schmitt et al., 2003) is a direct consequence.

1.2 Aim and Contribution of the final thesis

The topic of this thesis is national diversity in organisations. In particular, this study deals with the question, whether the acculturation orientations of host- and international students in a University setting, are concordant (consensual) or discordant (conflictual and/or problematic). Moreover, the underlying reasons and motives of students that lead to certain acculturation behaviour will be discussed.

The research takes place at the faculty of Economics and Business Administration University Maastricht, the Netherlands. The faculty has been chosen because it represents an international educational organisation that intends to embody students from all over the world as well as native Dutch students. As an international faculty, it offers several study programs in English such as International Business, International Economics, International Management and Econometrics. Only a few studies are offered in Dutch. The focus will be on first-year students because the integration process of the international students is not yet stabilised. Their responses to the host culture are emotionally charged, as they are experiencing for the first time being away from the safety of belonging to the majority.

The study deals on the one hand, with the acculturation expectations of host students towards international students. On the other hand, the acculturation behaviour of international students that come to the Netherlands with the purpose of studying will be assessed. Within this thesis “international students” are referred to as “individuals from other countries who are studying in a host country” (Spencer-Rodgers, 2001, p. 644). Thus, the terms non-natives, internationals and nationally diverse individuals will be used interchangeably and refer to those individuals that stay in the Netherlands for a limited time period only. The issue of immigrants will not be addressed here.

More specifically, the relative fit of acculturation orientations between host- and international students will be assessed with the use of the Interactive Acculturation Model (IAM) invented by Bourhis et al. (1997). Their model is based on Berry’s (1992, 1997) bidimensional model. The acculturation attitudes and strategies deployed by the students will be determined in terms of qualitative research. In addition, focused interviews will be used that allow the assessment of the underlying emotions and motives of the students that lead to certain acculturation behaviour.

The relationship between host and international students at the faculty of Economics and Business Administration depends substantially on the respective acculturation attitudes and strategies chosen by the two groups. Hence, the relational outcome between the groups has a strong influence on the formation of social groups and on social discrimination to arise. The practical implications of the application of the Interactive Acculturation Model are to support a better understanding of the relationship between non-natives and host nationals. Since international Universities have to ensure a supportive educational environment for host as well as international students, the usefulness of the model in its attempt to examine the current relationship between host and nationally diverse groups is obvious: knowledge about the relative fit of acculturation orientations between the student groups is expedient since it puts the University into the position to intervene and launch new programs and rules in order to constantly improve the relationship between the students.

1.3 Structure

The research of this thesis is based on a literature review in the field of diversity research and the focus will be on national diversity based on characteristics such as race, language and culture. Part I comprises a literature review and covers important theories. Part II addresses the research undertaken.

Part I

Chapter 2 provides an overview of the three main social psychology theories, social identity, social categorisation and social comparison. These concepts form the basis for intergroup behaviour and are applied by all human beings. Behavioural patterns of individuals and social groups that lead to intergroup conflicts can be explained on the basis of these theories.

Chapter 3 provides an insight into the idea of multiculturalism in general and specifically considers the implications for foreigners who wish to acquire a residence in a foreign country. However, the existing literature covers mainly the issue of immigrants and excludes those individuals that stay in a country for a limited time period only. Therefore, only those parts of the literature are selected that are applicable to these individuals as well. Furthermore, the concepts of acculturation attitudes and strategies will be defined in the context of multiculturalism. Berry’s (1992, 1997) bidimensional model addresses the viewpoint of foreigners and will be supplemented by the Interactive Acculturation Model (IAM) by Bourhis et al. (1997) which incorporates both, the non-native and the native orientations.

Chapter 4 provides a short overview of national diversity research on immigrant and international student populations. Moreover, the theories of social identity, social categorisation and social comparison will be related to an international student population residing in a host country for study purposes. The effects of cross-cultural interaction on international students will be discussed.

Part II

Chapter 5 comprises the research design and covers the aim of the research including a detailed overview about the model applied, the participants and the procedure of the research undertaken.

The first part of chapter 6 covers the findings of the three groups of German, foreign and Dutch students. First, the degree of integration applied by German and foreign students will be assessed according to the information gathered in the interviews. The results achieved in each category will be presented and the underlying reasons for each decision discussed. Referring to these outcomes the students will be placed into one of the four acculturation strategies. Second, the acculturation expectations of the Dutch students will be presented according to Berry’s (1992, 1997) acculturation attitudes. The Dutch students will also be classified into one of the four acculturation strategies.

In the second part of chapter 6, the respective acculturation orientations of the three groups will be put into the Interactive Acculturation Matrix defined by Bourhis et al. (1997) to assess the relational outcomes between the three groups. Each relational outcome and its consequences for intergroup behaviour will be discussed.

Chapter 7 addresses the conclusion of this study. The results obtained will be presented, related to theory and discussed. Finally, the limitations of this study and suggestions for future research will be made.

Part I: Literature Review

2 Intergroup behaviour

There exists a widespread belief that interaction between individuals is a process that only affects the persons directly involved. This belief is not representative as it omits the fact that individuals not only identify themselves with “who they are” but as well as “where they belong to”. Accordingly, a part of the self-identification process is formed via the membership in a social group.

Therefore, interaction between individuals is not merely an act of “individuals dealing with individuals” instead, “individuals behave primarily as members of their well defined and clearly distinct social category they belong to” (Tajfel, 1978, p. 27). As a consequence, individuals are not evaluated on their individual characteristics, but mainly according to their membership in a social group.

Intergroup behaviour arises out of the formation of social groups that are a direct result of the self-identity process. Through self-identification, individuals seek to evaluate their position in the society and quite often try to define themselves via the membership of a group that is regarded as positive. Furthermore, social categorisation supports the persistence of intergroup behaviour. It refers to the strict categorisation of individuals into well-defined, social groups (Tajfel, 1978b). In-groups are perceived as superior and out-groups as inferior, which is the cause for intergroup conflict (Tajfel, 1978a). Intergroup conflict is mainly the result of social comparison between groups and incorporates the aim of groups to achieve the same valued objective. Hence, interindividual behaviour leads to group interaction as each individual represents the group he belongs to.

Intergroup behaviour is the result of social psychological processes. These processes are common to members of social groups and are involved in the relationship between groups. The following chapter provides a detailed overview about the three main psychological processes social identity, social categorisation and social comparison. These theories form the basis for studies in intergroup behaviour and provide the underlying reasons for certain behaviour patterns between different social groups.

2.1 Social identity

The social identity theory defined by Tajfel (1978, p. 63) is based on the assumption that “a part of an individual’s self-concept is derived from his membership in a social group together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership”. Group membership is the founding principle for an individual to define and evaluate himself. In addition, belonging to a group helps an individual to find his place in the society. Thus, “a social group provides a social identity for its members” (Turner & Brown, 1978, p. 203).

Groups are formed on the basis of many different characteristics such as race, gender or age. Apart from that they can be separated into majority and minority groups. Such a classification is based on a “normative hierarchy” (Moscovici & Paicheler, 1978, p. 256), which combines the idea of status and legitimacy, of number and of deviation from the norm. A majority group membership is usually valued as satisfying as it situates its members automatically inside the group. On the opposite, a minority group places its members outside the group and can move the individuals either towards the top if it is an elite or towards the bottom if this particular group is perceived to be oppressed (Moscovici & Paicheler, 1978). The membership in a suppressed minority group however, is perceived as unsatisfactory for an individual’s social identity and increases the potential need to cope with discrimination in everyday life (Ruggiero & Taylor, 1997). As a result, social identity can be either positive or negative and it is assumed that in general individuals strive to define themselves positively. Nevertheless, social identity depends on the related subjective status of the group. The classification into minority or majority groups is dependent on the frame of reference. Social comparison is the tool to evaluate the in-group’s prestige and status in the society. The comparison is based on characteristics that have similar value to the groups. Examples are the colour of skin, wealth, nationality or the level of education. The concept of social comparison will be explained in detail in paragraph 2.3.

The development of a positive self-identity is related to the perceived status of other groups. Positive comparisons of differences between groups that favour the in-group lead to satisfactory self-identity. Negative comparisons instead favour the out-group and create unsatisfactory self-identity. This process creates a consensual status system (Turner & Brown, 1978) that is based on mutual comparisons addressing valued dimensions that are equally desired by groups. Thus, the consensual status system determines whether the membership of a certain group provides a positive or negative self-identity.

As a result, individuals that define themselves via a group membership that is consensually perceived as unsatisfactory usually show the tendency to leave this group. The movement from a low to high status group is referred to as upward “social mobility” (Tajfel, 1978, p. 52). Social mobility is defined as an individual’s perception that he can improve in important ways his position in a social situation, or more generally move from one social position to another, as an individual. This awareness may lead to an exclusion from one particular group and is an individualistic strategy rather than a group movement (Tajfel, 1978a).

However, there exist other alternatives instead of leaving the group. Subordinate groups do not necessarily orient themselves towards the majority group. Instead, the process of “social creativity” (Turner & Brown, 1978, p. 204) is applied and redefines the current situation of a minority group through altering the elements of social comparison. This goal may be achieved with the use of various strategies developed by Turner and Brown (1978):

First, a comparison of in- and out-groups can take place on a new dimension. Thus, groups can choose a new dimension that incorporates valued characteristics by both groups but in a different field. Second, the altering of one’s own values is another alternative to move from a negative to positive self-identity. The consensually agreed on status is not necessarily valid for every member of the minority but can be adjusted by changing one’s own attitude towards the in-group. Lastly, individuals can alter their attitudes towards the out-group in that they neglect the dominant group as a relevant point of reference.

2.2 Social categorisation

According to Jetten, Spears and Manstead (1998), social categorisation theory has its roots in social identity. As a consequence, for individuals to know how to feel about others, they must first define themselves (Tsui, Egan & O’Reilly III, 1992). This aim is achieved through the process of social categorisation, which acts as a system of orientation. Through the classification of others and one’s self into social groups, the individual tries to simplify and systemise his social environment. The division into groups helps to create and define one’s own position and status in the society (Tajfel, 1978b). Furthermore, Turner (1987, as cited in Jetten et al., 1998) proposes that an individual’s sense of self is influenced by the salient range of social groups with which individuals can compare themselves and that the aim of categorisation is to maximise differences between categories and minimise differences within categories.

As mentioned above, based on their membership of a certain social group, individuals can define themselves in terms of social identity. The purpose of such a classification is “to bring order into one’s social environment in terms of groupings of persons in a manner which makes sense to the individual” (Tajfel, 1978, p. 61). Individuals may classify themselves according to criteria such as race, age, gender, status, religion, education or nationality. It is even possible to express a preference for a certain group without actually engaging in personal interaction. This is the case, when the social group’s formation is based on visible characteristics such as race, age or gender. Personal interaction is necessary when the classification is based on criteria such as education or other shared similarities that are not directly visible.

Hyman (1942, as cited in Frey, Dauenheimer, Parge and Haisch, 2001) makes a differentiation between membership and reference groups. The membership groups are the ones to which an individual belongs. The reference groups instead incorporate all the characteristics that lead to satisfaction and positive self-assessment. These two groups may converge, e.g. are represented in one single group. However, if they diverge the individual’s identification with the membership group may lead to a latent dissatisfaction. This circumstance might give the individual reason to leave the membership group in order to attain a positive self-identity.

There exist a wide variety of groups and each group acts as an important mediator in the process of self-identity. In addition, individuals are members of numerous social groups and the decision to join a certain group lies in the group’s actions, intentions and system of beliefs (Tajfel, 1978b). These must be equivalent or at least similar to that of the individual. A positive self-identity is usually achieved if the individual is a member of its reference group. The in-group is then perceived to be superior in comparison to out-group members.

In addition, social groups usually compare themselves with similar others based on characteristics relevant and important for both groups. Therefore, the function of similar out-groups is to provide a relevant point for reference and thus, comparison. Yet, the more similar the two groups are the greater the potential threat to the in-group’s distinctiveness. As a result, increasing similarity between out-groups stimulates people to differentiate themselves from others on a relevant basis to maintain or enhance group distinctiveness (Jetten et al., 1998). Therefore, individuals tend to seek intergroup distinctiveness insofar the self-categorisation process permits the individual to assume a positive self-identity (Tsui et al., 1992). That is, “group identity becomes most meaningful when it is clear how the in-group differs from another group” (Jetten et al., 1998, p. 1481).

One of the consequences is that the classification into different categories results in certain general features of social stereotyping (Tajfel, 1978b). Tsui et al. (1992, p. 552) describe this phenomenon with the use of a quote by Stephan and Stephan (1985): “people who regard themselves as superior experience anxiety concerning interaction with others who are regarded as inferior. This anxiety may threaten self-esteem and lead people to avoid contact with the out-group and to increase stereotyping and assumed dissimilarity of out-group members”. That is why categorisation is also often related to “value differentials” (Tajfel, 1978, p. 62). Since the own group is perceived to be similar to one’s own system of beliefs, the similarities with the own group and the differences to the out-groups are accentuated. A clear social division between “us” and “them” results and firm distinctions are made and contrasted with the out-group (Tajfel, 1978b). These differences are then associated with positive (in-group) and negative (out-group) evaluations. As a consequence, individuals tend to have more contact with members of their own social group rather than with the out-group. However, to lessen the influence of social categorisation on intergroup behaviour, Gaertner et al. (1993, as cited in Gaertner, Rust, Dovidio, Bachman & Anastasia, 1994, p. 226) suggest the “common in-group identity” model. This model is based on the assumption that the transformation of the members’ cognitive representations of the memberships from separate groups to more inclusive groups, leads to more successful contact between groups. That is, equal status and cooperative interaction lead from “us” to “them” to a more inclusive “we” (Gaertner et al., 1994).

2.2.1 The concept of familiarity and social discrimination

Tajfel and Billig (1974) claim that in most experimental studies on intergroup behaviour the importance of competition and co-operation has been stressed. In nearly all studies, it has been found that after an artificial conflict between groups was created, the experimenters discovered intergroup stereotyping. The in-group experienced positive and the out-group negative stereotyping. However, Tajfel and Billig (1974) doubt that in-group favouritism is solely based on previous hostility or competition between the groups. Instead, they are convinced that intergroup discrimination can arise due to the mere existence of social categories. Hence, in their view social categorisation is the primary cause for in-group favouritism and stereotyping.

The authors argue further and say that insecurity or security of individuals in a certain situation plays an important role in the context of social categorisation (Tajfel & Billig, 1974). A group that feels secure in its social position is assumed to intensify social discrimination whereas an insecure group will lessen this effect. The two conditions of security and insecurity can be compared with a group that is familiar and another that is unfamiliar with a certain situation. According to the results of Tajfel and Billig (1974), groups that are familiar with a situation tend to discriminate more against the out-group than do less familiar groups. Individuals whose environment is familiar to them, concentrate more on their social environment and thus, on social norms. The habituation to the new circumstance is already completed and the group perceives itself superior to the out-group, which experiences the situation as novel. A group that is relatively unfamiliar with a situation will feel and act more insecure in comparison to others that are familiar with the situation. Thus, greater familiarity with a situation exerts a stronger use of social categorisation that is usually applied in habitual situations. Unfamiliarity on the contrary causes anxiety and uncertainty in behaviour. As a result, the group will behave rather unobtrusively and concentrate on processing the new environment they are faced with. Therefore, it is assumed that insecurity in a certain situation will moderate the social responses towards the group with greater familiarity. Thus, in a novel situation, social categorisation and intergroup discrimination is less relevant for the insecure group.

Moreover, “intergroup anxiety” as defined by Stephan and Stephan (1985, as cited in Greenland & Brown, 1999, p. 505) has a strong influence on social discrimination as well. Intergroup anxiety denotes the anxiety an individual may feel when anticipating or experiencing contact with someone from another group. Anxiety may increase even more if the relationship is based on a history of discrimination, when the perceived differences between groups are large or the individual had minimal previous contact with that particular group.

2.3 Social comparison

According to Festinger’s (1954, as cited in Frey et al. 2001, p. 86) definition of social comparison theory, “there exists a drive in the human organism to evaluate his opinions and abilities”. This is achieved through a comparison with others.

Social comparison is necessary for individuals in order to react appropriately in various situations of social reality. The aim of the comparison is to avoid inappropriate behaviour that might lead to conflicts in social interaction. Thus, individuals constantly evaluate their social behaviour, opinions, beliefs and abilities to achieve a positive status in the society (Tajfel, 1978b). The purpose of this assessment is to scrutinise the correctness of the own social behaviour. The behavioural correctness can be assessed through a comparison with others based on reliable characteristics that make sense to the individual. Usually, a comparison is made between similar others. However, the pre-condition for social comparison to take place is “that the groups must be sufficiently similar on contextually relevant dimensions to be socially comparable…because…extremely high levels of similarity or difference can undermine the probability of intergroup comparison and differentiation” (Jetten et al., 1998, p. 1482/1483). Thus, people or groups that possess similar beliefs, abilities or opinions are a valued reference for comparison.

Festinger (1954, as cited in Frey et al., 2001) differentiates between two kinds of reality tests to scrutinise social behaviour in comparison to others. There exist objective and social criteria. The objective criteria can be reliably measured and enable a direct and verifiable comparison. Such objective criteria can be the points scored on an exam or the job related promotion. With the use of objective factors, individuals can assess their beliefs and opinions on a reliable basis without the social judgement of other individuals. If objective criteria are not present or are invalid, individuals can compare themselves on an interpersonal basis with relevant others to obtain judgement about their social behaviour. This implies that individuals are dependent on the opinions and beliefs of others to reassure the correctness of their abilities. Social criteria are of special importance when the membership of a social group is of great importance for the individual. The individual will then tend to compare himself based on subjective, social criteria that conform to the opinion of that group. Hence, an increased dependency on the judgement of this particular group enhances the use of social criteria for comparison.

Nevertheless, social criteria are quite often applied even when objective criteria are at hand. In a situation where objective features differ from the subjective opinion of a group, the probability that an individual relies on and trusts in the opinion of the group rises. Such a reaction may be due to the individual’s low level of self-confidence in his own abilities. Through conforming his opinion to that of the group instead of relying on the objective data, the individual moves closer to the group. The purpose of such behaviour is to avoid punishment from the group and creates a feeling of real affiliation to the group.

2.3.1 In-group favouritism

In-group favouritism is a descriptive concept referring to any tendency to favour the in-group over the out-group in behaviour, attitudes, preferences or perception (Turner et al., 1979). The positive attitude towards the in-group and the absence of these feelings toward the out-group lead to in-group favouritism and out-group derogation. Although it is assumed that the concepts of in-group favouritism and out-group derogation are universal, these features may vary between individuals and groups (Brewer & Brown, 1998, as cited in Arends-Toth & van de Vijver, 2003, p. 253). There is evidence that the level of in-group favouritism depends on the status and the social position of the group. It is assumed that a high social status position enhances the group to display in-group favouritism. Low status groups instead tend to show less in-group favouritism. The explanation for this behaviour can be found in the social hierarchy of a society. Low status groups tend to favour the high status groups because of its high acceptance in the society. As long as the high status is believed to be legitimate, groups will tend to evaluate themselves on that status relevant dimension within the society. Thus, low status groups will show less in-group favouritism because their position in the society is less accepted and shows tendencies of a disadvantaged group.

The status distinctions reflect the desire of every group of individuals to be dominant and have control over others. High status groups display a greater tendency of in-group favouritism to preserve their position in the society and maintain their superior status. In addition, high status groups perceive out-groups as a threat to their ethnic identity and social power. As a result, in-group favouritism leads to enhanced social discrimination and in-group bias.

2.3.2 In-group bias

The tendency to favour one’s own group over other groups is usually referred to as in-group bias (Turner, 1978). More specifically, in-group bias refers to a comparison to the out-group based on criteria that are unfair or unjustifiable in that they go beyond objective evidence in that situation. Hence, in-group bias is based on intergroup differentiation that is a direct result of social comparison.

To retain positive self-esteem, members of social groups try to differentiate themselves from other groups in that they apply negative stereotypes to out-groups. The aim of this process is to achieve a consistent positive level of self-identity that each group provides to its members. A positive self-identity is necessary for each human being and avoids individuals leaving the group. Social stereotyping is based on simple judgmental factors resulting in biased evaluations in which in-group features for example are over- and out-group characteristics under evaluated.

Social categorisation is a tool through which an individual identifies himself. It contributes positively or negatively to his image. Similarity of opinions, values and beliefs in in-groups is assumed to be the pre-condition for intergroup differentiation to occur. Because interpersonal communication and interaction tend to be greater within groups than between groups, intensive interpersonal attraction, understanding and trust results (Turner et al., 1979). However, in order to maintain that level of self-esteem individuals need to compare themselves with others. This comparison takes place on some valued dimension and attempts to differentiate the own group from out-group members in order to preserve the positive identity of the in-group (Turner, 1978). Furthermore, the author argues that the intensity of intergroup differentiation is based on two factors. First, it is the importance of the available comparative dimension to the in-group’s social identity and second, the degree to which the out-group is perceived as a relevant comparison for the in-group.

Thus, the comparison between groups must take place on a dimension whose values are similarly important for both groups. According to Turner (1978) the cause for intergroup discrimination lies in the process of differentiating the own group from other groups towards the same positively valued pole. Thus, groups striving for the same valued difference create intergroup competition, which is the basis for social discrimination and a direct result of social categorisation and social comparison.

2.4 Conclusion

Group membership is the founding principle for an individual to define and evaluate himself. Thus, belonging to a group helps an individual to find his place in society. A social group provides a social identity for its members. It is therefore important to distinguish between interindividual and intergroup behaviour. In addition, social groups can be separated into minority and majority groups.

Individuals categorise themselves on the basis of certain characteristics such as race, gender and age to differentiate themselves from others. In that process individuals usually strive for a satisfactory, positive self-identity. Majority groups usually contain all those positive characteristics that make members of such groups feel superior in comparison to minority groups, whose features are perceived as unsatisfactory to its members.

Social categorisation is a tool that helps the individual to simplify and systemise its social environment. This aim is achieved through classifying oneself and others in social groups. Social categorisation as such, forms the basis for intergroup stereotyping and discrimination since the categorisation is based on characteristics that make sense to the individual. The own group is usually perceived as superior and thus, protected by its members. Therefore, social discrimination is applied to keep the positive level of the in-group.

Furthermore, social comparison supports individuals to evaluate their opinions and abilities in order to avoid inappropriate behaviour that might lead to conflicts in social interaction. Groups that are perceived to be similar are used as a reference in order to scrutinise the correctness of the own social behaviour. This assessment or comparison is done on the basis of characteristics that make sense to the individual.

3 The Acculturation

Multicultural ideology is the basis for multiculturalism and the degree of multiculturalism represented by the host society has an influence on the acculturation process of non-native citizens and also displays the attitude of the host group towards foreigners. Thus, the openness towards non-native inhabitants is not only dependent on a countries' policies but mainly on the attitude towards multiculturalism reflected by the host society.

The degree of acculturation of non-native persons can be assessed with the use of Berry’s (1992, 1997) bidimensional model and is supplemented by the Interactive Acculturation Model (IAM) defined by Bourhis et al. (1997).

Berry’s (1992, 1997) bidimensional model is based on four acculturation strategies reflected by nationally diverse groups during their integration process. These strategies are namely: integration, separation, assimilation and marginalisation. Referring to this model, one can assess to what extent certain foreign groups are willing to integrate into the host society.

Bourhis et al. (1997) instead provide a more extensive version of this model and additionally include the acculturation strategies expected by the host group. Thus, on a 4x4 dimension one can assess whether the acculturation strategies applied by the foreign group and the acculturation strategies expected by the host group match. The relational outcomes can be consensual, conflictual or problematic.

The following chapter starts with a description of the multicultural ideology in general and especially focuses on the Netherlands. Furthermore, the acculturation attitudes and strategies are explained which form the basis for Berry’s (1992, 1997) uni- and bidimensional model.

The rest of the chapter is devoted to a detailed description of Berry’s (1992, 1997) uni- and bidimensional model and will be complemented by Bourhis’ et al. (1997) Interactive Acculturation Model (IAM) that covers both, the foreign and the host group’s view.

3.1 Multicultural ideology

Multicultural ideology as defined by Citrin, Spears, Muste and Wong (2001, as cited in Arends-Toth and van de Vijver 2003, p. 252) refers to the “overall evaluation of the majority group addressing the degree to which they possess positive attitudes toward foreigners and cultural diversity”.

A multicultural ideology is the basis for multiculturalism. It is the ideology that makes individuals strive for a balance of unity and diversity in the native country (Arends-Toth and van de Vijver, 2003). It incorporates a positive view on cultural maintenance but also fulfils the need of the native society to integrate diversity into the host culture in an equitable way. These factors should be embedded in a multicultural environment and in the attitude of the dominant native group to actively support mutual differences, equal chances and opportunities. Hence, multiculturalism is a policy goal set by the government, which has to be reflected by the society. As a consequence, a country that identifies itself with the idea of multiculturalism should be more tolerant towards cultural diversity.

The Netherlands is famous for its acceptance, as it is one of the countries that have adopted the ideal of multiculturalism as policy goal (Baubock et al., 1996, as cited in Arends-Toth and van de Vijver, 2003). Therefore, tolerance and openness towards nationally diverse persons should be reflected by the behaviour of the Dutch society itself. However, findings of various authors, for instance Citrin et al. (2001, as cited in Arends-Toth and van de Vijver, 2003) indicate that multiculturalism in most Western countries is endorsed in government policies but only partly represented in the society. This condition might be supported by the fact that the native society perceives multiculturalism as a threat to their culture. Thus, it is important to note that the native society itself decides about the level of acceptance and the government cannot force the acceptance of cultural diversity and the concept of multiculturalism.

3.2 Acculturation attitudes

The integration of distinctive non-native groups into the host culture is a topic that is of great importance for each international organisation. However, it is not only the organisation as an entity that has an influence on the integration process but also the attitude of each member of the host group. In particular, it is the difference or the affinity in expectations about the nature of integration between the groups that may lead to a problematic or consensual live together. It is assumed that similar expectations of both groups lead to more open and tolerant behaviour towards nationally diverse persons. When expectations diverge, one can infer a conflictual relationship between the foreign minority and the native majority group.

Berry uses the term “acculturation” defined first by Redfield, Linton and Herskovits (1936, as cited in Berry, 1997, p. 7) to describe those phenomena that result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups. The acculturation process affects the native group but the changes are most consequential for the foreign group. It is the minority group that will experience the consequences in daily life when the relationship with the native group is conflict laden rather than harmonious.

The acculturation attitudes introduced first by Berry (1992, 1997) are the fundamental issues facing aliens when adapting to a native culture. These attitudes determine the extent of integration into the domestic culture. The two underlying assumptions of acculturation attitudes according to Bourhis’ et al. (1997) refined version are cultural maintenance and cultural adaptation. Cultural maintenance concerns the decision to keep the culture of origin. In fact, it is about the decision whether or not the foreign culture is of value and should be retained. Cultural adaptation instead refers to the extent to which a foreign group wants to have contact with and participate in the mainstream culture. It addresses the issue of intergroup contact and refers to the question of whether a relationship with the host group should be sought or avoided. The degree of adaptation into the host culture and the cultural maintenance of the foreign group are therefore key indicators for the resulting relationship.

3.3 The uni- and bidimensional model

In the context of acculturation attitudes, Berry’s (1992, 1997) uni- and bidimensional model has to be considered. The unidimensional model according to Gordon (1964, as cited in Arends-Toth & van de Vijver 2003, p. 250) “implies a process of change along a single dimension, a shift from cultural maintenance to full adaptation to the culture of the majority”. The acculturation of foreign minorities is portrayed with maintenance of the own culture on the one side and adaptation of the domestic culture on the other. The shift from one to the other usually occurs at the cost of loosing the heritage culture (Bourhis et al., 1997).

The bidimensional model on the contrary is based on the assumption that “cultural maintenance and cultural adaptation constitute a relatively independent dimension: increasing identification with one culture does not necessarily require decreasing identification with the other culture” (Berry, 1997; as cited in Arends-Toth & van de Vijver 2003, p. 250). The bidimensional model can be related to “biculturalism” defined by Gordon (1964, as cited in Bourhis et al., 1997, p. 375). Biculturalism is the midpoint of the unidimensional continuum and implies the maintenance of the own culture while an adaptation into key elements of the host culture takes place. The bidimensional model considers the degree of identification with the foreign and the domestic culture of foreign minority groups but assesses them separately. Thus, acculturation in terms of the bidimensional model takes place on two dimensions, rather than on a continuum containing two extreme points. According to the findings of Arends-Toth and van de Vijver (2003), host groups tend to support the unidimensional model whereas foreigners advocate the bidimensional model.

Furthermore, the authors argue “that people derive many of their self-conceptions and positive feelings about themselves by referring to their membership of emotionally significant social categories or groups, the in-groups” (Arends-Toth & van de Vijver, 2003, p. 5). In that context, each social group tries to achieve a positive distinctiveness of the in-group in comparison to other groups, the out-groups. The distinction between the in- and out-group is achieved with the use of social comparison.

Within social comparison theory, one can distinguish between high and low-status groups. In the context of multiculturalism, the native society is perceived as the high status group because of its well-accepted and superior social position compared to the low status of the foreign minority group. Foreign groups are considered to be low status groups since their position in the domestic society is tolerated but not integrated on an equivalent level. Specifically, it is assumed that high-status majority groups want to maintain or extend their culture and comparatively superior status and power in the society (Arends-Toth & van de Vijver, 2003). As a result, the greater one’s social status the greater one’s tendency to display intergroup favouritism. This aim is achieved by demanding on foreigners to adapt to the mainstream dominant culture. Whenever this aim cannot be attained, it results in a segregation or exclusion of the minority group from the native society. In fact, the acculturation attitudes displayed by the majority towards the minority are heavily dependent on the perceived status and cultural similarity of the foreign group. Consensual preferences arise when the majority and the minority culture are perceived to be similar, diverging preferences for an integration strategy result when cultural differences are large (Arends-Toth & van de Vijver, 2003). According to Triandis (1992, as cited in Goto, 1997) many factors contribute to the similarity in cultures between majority and minority groups. The absence of past history conflict, small cultural distance of the individuals, knowledge of each other’s culture, equal status contact and previously successful interaction are indicators for perceived similarity between groups. On the contrary, minority groups whose behaviour diverges from the socially approved standards set by the native group are perceived to be less similar. As a result, adapting to the standards set by the majority usually leads to consensual acculturation preferences: “I’ll like you, if you are like me” (Goto, 1997, p. 107).

3.4 Acculturation strategies

In the context of acculturation it is important to provide a detailed description of Berry’s (1992, 1997) bidimensional model. Since “the tension between minority members’ identification with their ethnic group and their identification with the superordinate group (dominated by the majority) does not necessitate a categorical preference for one of the two identities” (Suleiman, 2002, p. 754) the four acculturation strategies integration, assimilation, separation and marginalisation have been developed to describe the different levels of adaptation. The four strategies are the ones applied by the foreign group and are defined as follows: the integration strategy reflects a desire to maintain key features of the own culture while also adopting key features of the majority group. In terms of self-categorisation theory, Suleiman (2002) circumscribes integration as belonging to both the ethnic minority and the mainstream society. Assimilation occurs when maintenance of the own culture is seen as undesirable while adaptation to the culture of the majority group is highly important. The separation strategy reflects a preference to maintain features of the own culture while rejecting the culture of the majority group. Marginalisation refers to a rejection of both the own and the majority culture. In this case, according to Suleiman (2002, p. 754) “the self may be categorised primarily in terms of other relevant social categories”.

The four strategies clearly display that integration is a subjective term and can be interpreted differently among groups. Integration does not have a universal meaning. Instead the different levels of integration must be distinguished and be separated into the four distinctive strategies to clearly reflect its meaning to the minority and the majority groups. This conclusion is based on the results of Arends-Toth and van de Vijver (2003). In their article it is stated that the majority group demands foreigners whose cultural background is perceived to be different from the host culture to assimilate. However, when the foreign culture is perceived to be similar to the host society, the majority group enforces integration. At the same time, the foreign group supports quite often the integration strategy independent of cultural similarities or dissimilarities. As a consequence, the decision for instance, to adapt to the local culture in public and keep one’s own culture alive in private is an alternative for most foreigners but may not be a satisfying solution for the host group (Arends-Toth & van de Vijver, 2003).

Referring to the findings of Arends-Toth and van de Vijver (2003), a consensual preference for one of the strategies would be characterised by positive and effective communication and low intergroup tension. A problematic relationship instead would occur if the preferences for one of the strategies to some extent diverge between the minority and the majority group.

In addition, the level of acceptance of multiculturalism depends on the different situations with which the majority and the minority group are faced. For the native society, the acceptance of cultural diversity is seen as a threat to the superior cultural and social status. A nationally diverse group instead favours the idea of multiculturalism since it offers many advantages such as maintaining their own culture and obtaining higher social status in the society. Thus, the idea of multiculturalism incorporates different values for each group.


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National Diversity in Organisations: A study about integration between host and international students
Maastricht University  (Organisation and Strategy)
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Antje Artmann (Author), 2003, National Diversity in Organisations: A study about integration between host and international students, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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