A stranger in the Cuckoo’s nest

By Michael de Quadros Duarte (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul)

Global crises, whether economic, social or caused by natural disasters, have made the migration movement grow globally. Although migration is a right guaranteed in the universal declaration of human rights, the migratory waves of recent decades have caused social and political conflicts in Europe and the Americas. Brazil is no different and although it is a multicultural country (mainly due to its colonial history), there are still historical reports of prejudice against immigrants (1). The 1907 “expulsion law” of São Paulo senator Adolpho Gordo, which allowed that any immigrants were legally expulsed of the country just because of your political positions (“anarchists”, “communists” and “socialists”), is an example of the state and society’s actions to expel immigrants from the country (2). Also, in the legal field in 2017, the amendment of Law №13,445 made it possible for thousands of immigrants to access the country. The alteration of this law is considered an important milestone for the increase in the registration of foreigners in Brazil (3).

This exponential growth in the immigrant population, both in Brazil and in other countries, has generated a series of internal conflicts and crises, mainly related to health systems and the labor market (4,5). This intergroup tension has been the focus of interest of Psychology, which through theoretical and empirical studies seeks to understand the phenomenon of anti-immigration (6,7).

The instruments generally used in Psychology are the Right-wing Authoritarianism Scale (RWA), that measures authoritarianism, and the Social Dominance Scale scale (SDO), that measures the preference for group-based hierarchy and inequality. Personality Scales are also used to assess some individual characteristics of people. These variables are understood in the literature as associated with measures of attitudes toward immigrants over the world (5,8,9). These studies are generally focused on theoretical, comparative, correlational and prediction analysis, with few studies aiming at analyzing the phenomenon in an integral and interconnected manner (4,5).

Using different analysis methods allows researchers to explore data collected from different perspectives, advancing on some points where previous methods have been exhausted. With this intention, we conducted a study in Brazil among 175 native Brazilians. Of these participants, 120 were women (68.6%) and 55 were men (31.4%), aged between 18 and 71 years (M = 30.4; SD = 11.9). The objective of this study was to analyze the association and the explanatory potential of these main measures, such as those of authoritarianism and social dominance, through a network analysis, which helps us to see how each one of these variables influences anti-immigration behavior.

In this analysis using the graph theory, the variables are represented graphically by points and lines, where each point (vertex) represents a variable and each line (edge) represents the connection between the points (10,11). The thickness of the lines and the proximity of the points represent how strong are the associations. The colors representing the direction of the association, blue (positive) means that when one of the two behaviors increases the other increases too, and the red (negative) means that when one of the two behaviors decreases the other increases.

Figure 1. Network representing the variables assessed in our study

We also conducted an analysis of expected influence. This analysis is important in complex networks to understand which measures have more power or influence on people’s behavior in relation to immigration (12). In this analysis, the variables that had the greatest influence on the network were extreme prejudice, egalitarianism and openness to experience. This result indicates that extreme prejudice, egalitarianism and openness to experience have a strong impact on the whole network, indicating that they could be the focus of the interventions to promote the reduction of negative attitudes towards immigrants.

Figure 2. Expected influence of variables assessed

What the analyses showed us was that denial of prejudice, that was measured with the Brazilian version of Modern Racism Scale (13,14), is strongly related to an increase in prejudice (r = 0.60), extreme prejudice (r = 0.56) and anti-egalitarianism (r = 0.48) and a decrease in positive attitudes toward immigrants (r = — 0.35). These results point to the importance of interventions aimed at raising awareness about the forms of prejudice existing in society and how their ignorance can generate exclusion and perpetuate prejudice, especially by denying their existence (15).

In the same way, the measures of prejudice were strongly linked to conservatism (r = 0.44; r = 0.64) and anti-egalitarianism (r = 0.43; r = 0.49), and extreme prejudice was also strongly associated with social pro-dominance (r = 0.58). These measures are part of the Social Dominance Scale (SDO), which in its concept understands that dominance of certain groups over others is very common across distinct societies16. This indicates that there is a strong association among those who believe that some groups are superior to others in the world and that what is established by the authorities should not be questioned, affecting the belief that immigrants should be expelled from the country.

On the other hand, positive attitudes towards immigrants appeared strongly linked to egalitarianism (r = 0.67). These results reinforce the findings of studies conducted both in Europe6, North America17 and Latin America7. They also point out that some variables related to how people understand the world and social organization are important for understanding prejudice and how to establish relationships with people from other groups, whether ethnic, religious or cultural composition (6,17).

But how does this information help us? Is it possible to fight prejudice with science? This information helps us a lot and science helps us to see a possible way to intervene. Our results indicate that we have to run strategic interventions focused on the discussion of egalitarianism, openness to new experiences and social welfare to contribute to the reduction of the existing conflicts between groups (18).

About the author

Michael de Quadros Duarte is a phD student at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). His main research interest is attitudes towards immigration.

About the ISPP & its Blog

The International Society of Political Psychology is an interdisciplinary organization representing all fields of inquiry concerned with exploring the relationships between political and psychological processes. If you are interested in contributing an article or have any questions about the blog, please email them or visit the ISPP Blog’s webpage.


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