Character  &  Context

The Science of Who We Are and How We Relate
Editors: Mark Leary, Shira Gabriel, Brett Pelham
Apr 30, 2018

‘Pride and Prejudice’ Paths to Inclusion: Diverse Cultural Practices and Perceived Discrimination Matter

Image of multicultural group of young adults walking together

In recent years discussions about inclusion have been front and center, capturing media headlines in the form of protests and multi-million dollar commitments from leaders. From college campuses to industries that range from technology and business to arts and entertainment such protests and institutional commitments have sparked spirited debates about best practices to facilitate inclusion.

For example, a coalition of African American students and allies from over 80 colleges and universities submitted demands tied to fostering inclusion. A common demand indicated by students and allies involved creating and sustaining support for diverse cultural practices. Specifically, many African American students and allies have championed the need for campus centers, academic courses, dormitories and extracurricular groups that celebrate and explicitly include perspectives, histories and values associated with historically underrepresented groups (e.g., African American or Latina/o/x American ideas and practices). Although championed with passion, the call for diverse cultural practices has been critiqued. Some critics have noted the potential for such practices to foster separation rather than inclusion or to provide comfort or ‘coddling’ without affording actual solutions to feeling included within the broader institution.

My research sought to examine this debate. Specifically, it asked whether diverse cultural practices on college campuses can serve as a path toward inclusion among African American and Latina/o/x American college students. Given the importance of intergroup interactions and attitudes in conveying a sense of inclusion among historically underrepresented groups, this research also examined the effect of these diverse cultural practices on outgroup closeness and support for multicultural policies including affirmative action among Asian American and White American college students.

First, among African American and Latina/o/x American college students, I examined two types of relevant experiences tied to one’s membership in a historically underrepresented group: engagement in practices and activities associated with a sense of pride in one’s racial/ethnic identity and experiences tied to prejudice or perceived discrimination associated with one’s racial/ethnic identity. Pride relevant experiences (defined as enforcing positive and counter-stereotypical aspects of a group member’s identity) refer to diverse cultural practices such as African American and Latina/o/x American academic courses, extracurricular groups and living communities (e.g., dormitories). Prejudice relevant experiences (defined as enforcing negative and stereotypical aspects of identity tied to marginalized group membership) refer to perceived instances of discrimination.

Using a sample of 1,967 African American and Latina/o/x American college students drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen (NLSF) dataset, I coded both pride relevant experiences associated with ingroup identity (i.e., African American or Latina/o/x American) as well as prejudice relevant experiences associated with ingroup identity. Campus inclusion was assessed using a composite measure that included satisfaction with and connection to the campus as well as behavioral intentions to contribute to the institution. The study controlled for prior academic achievement, broad involvement in extracurricular activities, and other factors likely to be related to a sense of inclusion within a college campus environment.

I found that both pride and prejudice relevant experiences mattered for long-term sense of campus inclusion. Consistent with arguments in favor of efforts to promote campus inclusion through diverse cultural practices, I found that pride experiences, by fostering feelings of closeness with racial/ethnic ingroup members, were positively related to campus inclusion. However, in contrast to arguments against such practices, pride experiences did not harm feelings of closeness with racial/ethnic outgroup members, which were also positively associated with campus inclusion. Instead, I found that prejudice experiences were negatively related to outgroup closeness. Moreover, supporting the efficacy of institutional policies and practices that reduce prejudice experiences and promote pride experiences, I found that a sense of inclusion predicted key academic and health outcomes (i.e., self-reported grade point average, four-year graduate rates using Registrar’s data, depression, missed school days, and self-rated health).  

Additionally, analyses using a sample of 1,957 White American and Asian American college students, also from the NLSF dataset, provided some evidence of the impact that opportunities to engage with diverse cultural practices on college campuses have on members of non-historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. These analyses show that such practices (i.e., taking a class associated with Latina/o/x American and African American histories and perspectives) are positively related to multicultural policy support as well as closeness to historically underrepresented outgroups. These findings will be published in a June 2018 issue of the Journal of Social Issues that commemorates the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech to psychologist on the role that science can play in the Civil Rights Movement.

Together, my research adds to national and international conversations about the best practices or paths toward inclusion on college campuses. My work suggests that the paths are multiple; it supports the efficacy of efforts aimed at reducing prejudice as well as the promise of initiatives aimed at including diverse cultural perspectives, histories, and spaces on campuses. In short, the research suggests that both pride and prejudice matter and both offer paths toward inclusion and in turn thriving in academic and health outcomes.

Dr. Tiffany N. Brannon is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of the Culture and Contact Lab at University of California-Los Angeles

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Why is this blog called Character & Context?

Everything that people think, feel, and do is affected by some combination of their personal characteristics and features of the social context they are in at the time. Character & Context explores the latest insights about human behavior from research in personality and social psychology, the scientific field that studies the causes of everyday behaviors.  

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