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Title: Responses to ethnic diversity for ethnic majority members : effects on self-regulation, values and epistemic needs
Author: Wiechmann, Marcel
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 0227
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2018
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Ethnic diversity has reached unprecedented levels in Western societies, and it is expected to increase even further (Coleman, 2013). Diversity creates complex combinations of social categorisation which, in turn, create cognitive challenges for members of both majority and minority groups. However, as people engage with ethnic diversity on a regular basis they might develop the cognitive skills needed to overcome these challenges (Crisp & Turner, 2011). This thesis reports a research program that investigated the processes underlying this cognitive response to diversity. As a first step, I investigated whether experiencing ethnic diversity would lead to enhanced self-regulation. Living in an ethnically diverse environment might frequently require the suppression of stereotypical information, and stereotype inhibition can be considered an act of selfregulation. Studies 1-3 investigated the influence of diversity experiences of White British participants on impulsiveness, delay of gratification and Stroop performance. In general, findings revealed that experiences of diversity affected self-regulation only when diversity was first made salient. However, contrary to predictions, participants with more experiences of diversity showed impaired rather than enhanced self-regulation when diversity was made salient. Integrating these findings with the existing literature suggested that individuals respond to diversity not by developing enhanced cognitive inhibition, but instead by acquiring a mindset characterised by a low reliance on rules and categorical thinking. This hypothesis was supported by the remaining studies in this thesis: Participants who had experienced frequent positive contact were less likely to rely on rules, conventional values and social conformity (Studies 4-6). Further studies showed that frequent positive contact was also associated with a low need for cognitive closure (Study 7a and 7b) and a low need for personal structure (Study 8). These findings indicate that participants who have experienced more diversity felt a low need to enforce structure by simplifying information through the use of categorical thinking. This thesis offers a novel perspective on research on the cognitive impact of diversity by exploring the everyday experiences of diversity for ethnic majority members. Furthermore, it offers a novel attempt to specify the underlying cognitive mechanisms responsible for the enhanced cognitive flexibility observed among individuals who have experienced higher levels of social diversity.
Supervisor: Crisp, Richard J. ; Totterdell, Peter ; Jones, Christopher R. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available