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Reminding Americans with and with no recent immigrant predecessors about their immigrant history, and its impact on their attitudes of immigrants


According to research on attitudes toward immigrants, Americans consider immigrants to be an outgroup to the country, and experience negativity toward them for multiple reasons. The perception of immigrants as an outgroup is, however, ironic as most Americans have immigrant predecessors. We hypothesized that Americans with recent immigrant predecessors would be more likely to include immigrants as their ingroup, if reminded of these predecessors, but Americans with no recent immigrant predecessors, if asked about whether they had any such predecessors, would distinguish themselves from immigrants to a greater extent. Half of our participants were primed with questions about the immigrant status of their recent predecessors, and then rated immigrants and Americans on a set of traits and emotions (primed condition), and the other half rated the two groups before answering questions about their predecessors (control condition). Results showed that participants with recent immigrant predecessors (immigrant participants) rated immigrants more positively in the control condition, and participants with no recent immigrant predecessors (not-immigrant participants) in the primed condition showed a decrease in negativity to immigrants, but only when they rated Americans before rating immigrants. Thus, the results suggest that immigrant participants are likely to consider immigrants part of their ingroup, and do not require a reminder of their predecessors for this. Furthermore, asking not-immigrant participants about the immigrant status of their predecessors, does not appear to highlight the ingroup outgroup division between them and immigrants, but rather, remind the former of how many Americans have immigrant predecessors. Future directions are discussed.

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