Section II: Ethnicity as Concept and Process

Dynamics of Ethnic Identification

Daniel Glaser

The study of race relations and of national and religious minorities has largely focused upon dominant group prejudice against minorities. This interest is illustrated by the development and application of race prejudice, ethnocentrism and social distance questionnaires, as well as by other methods of investigation of prejudiced personalities and discriminatory behavior. Much less attention has been given to the orientations of minority group members toward members of dominant groups, although there have been a few investigations, impressionistic essays, and quasi-anthropological accounts of minority group sub-cultures and personality types. The reconceptualization presented here grew out of an attempt to analyze the orientations of minority group members, but this led to a single theoretical framework applicable to analysis of the orientations of minority and dominant group members.

One might justify use of a single conceptual model to analyze all parties in inter-ethnic relationships by an interest in conceptual parsimony or by the fact that science grows (and also, at times, is retarded) through reconceptualization of its problems. An additional justification may be that use of a single paradigm for analyzing all roles in emotion-laden interaction promotes affective neutrality in the analyst. In the field of ethnic group relations sociologists readily deviate from the primary scientific objectives of describing and explaining social phenomena in favor of justifying preestablished normative positions. While the latter interest is bound to affect the selection of problems for investigation, its possible influence in distorting perception and interpretation is well known.

Ethnic Identification and Orientation

In this discussion, “ethnic group” refers to racial, national or religious groups. “Ethnic identification” refers to a person’s use of racial, national or religious terms to identify himself, and thereby, to relate himself to others. “Ethnic orientation” refers to those features of a person’s feelings and action towards others which are a function of the ethnic category by which he identifies them. Ethnic identification and orientation are seen as two aspects of a single behavioral complex to be called “ethnic identification pattern” (or, more briefly, “identification pattern”).

Ethnic categories provide a universalistic frame of reference  for ordering social relationships. However, ethnic categories vary in specificity and diffuseness, as well as in affective arousal. They also denote overlapping and sometimes alternative ascriptions for one individual, such as White, Nordic, German, Bavarian, Christian and Catholic; or White, American and Jewish. In addition, they include ascription by negative identities, as non-Jew, non-Russian and non-Negro. A person may have a different identification pattern for each ethnic identity which he may ascribe to himself or to others, and each ascription alternative may have a different salience at different moments.

In hypotheses set forth there regarding the dynamics of ethnic identification, three components are distinguished in the identification pattern: “ethnic ideology,” “association preferences,” and “feelings aroused by ethnic contacts.”

The term “ethnic ideology” is applied to all ideas and images which ascribe attributes to particular ethnic groups. Every person is seen as having an ideology for each of the distinct ethnic identities which may be ascribed to him or which he may ascribe to others. These ideologies vary from systematic ideas about the relative superiority, inferiority or equality of particular ethnic groups (including formulations in terms of biology, history or theology) to vaguely formulated quasi-aesthetic opinions and stereotyped images. They also may consist of clutters of inconsistent and disorganized ideas about out-groups, called “ethnocentric ideology” by Levinson, in which the out-groups are not distinguished from each other with much specificity.[1]

The phrase “association preferences” designates tendencies to avoid association with persons of particular ethnic identities and to seek to limit association to persons of other ethnic identities, in so far as association is not a function of factors independent of ethnic preference. Theoretically, we are concerned with the variance in inter-personal association which can be accounted for by ethnic orientations, and it is admitted that this may often be difficult to determine precisely. As will be seen in our analysis, we conceive of much (if not most) interaction as a function of institutional and situational phenomena which are independent of the ethnic association preference of the participants. We are concerned with the process by which a person’s total interaction experience alters his association preferences.

The third component of ethnic identification patterns consists of the totality of feelings which distinguish a person’s experiences in contact with other persons whom he categorizes as of a particular ethnic identity. Feelings with which we may be concerned include hostility, fear, disgust, envy, affection, respect, vague uneasiness or complete indifference (that is, the absence of affect arousal on the basis of ethnic identity). These feelings, of course, vary in different situations with respect to anyone ethnic group, since such feelings also are aroused by inter-personal status ascriptions, achievement orientations, empathy and interaction processes independent of ethnic orientations. Although feelings are the ultimate referents of many concepts central to behavioral science theories, they are difficult to distinguish precisely into specific categories because they are highly variable and purely private experiences. The feelings of a research subject are known operationally only through his verbal recall or an observer’s imputation, neither of which is precise, although modern techniques for objectifying such observation may increase their specificity, reliability and presumed validity.[2] Part of our analysis is concerned with ways in which feelings which are a function of influences other than ethnic orientation alter subsequent feelings aroused by ethnic contacts.

An Identification Pattern Continuum

The first general hypothesis of our analysis is as follows: When a person’s ethnic identification pattern with respect to any one of his ethnic identities is stable, all three components of this pattern converge in what may be conceived as their location on a continuum which ranges from a completely “segregating” pattern at one extreme to a completely “assimilated” pattern at the other, with “marginal” and “desegregating” patterns between these two extremes. An outline of this continuum is provided by Figure 1.

Figure 1. An Outline of the Hypothesized Ethnic Identification Pattern Continuum, Indicating Interrelations Between Components When Identification Pattern Is Stable

              Identification Pattern    Components
Points on
the Continuum
Feelings Aroused
by Ethnic Contacts
Segregating (e.g., dominant
group bigot;
minority group chauvinist).
Autonomous ethnocentric
ideology; assumed
superiority of own
Prefers members of own
Feelings of security, adequacy
and affection with
own group; easily provoked
to hostility, disgust
and/or fear with
Marginal (e.g., dominant
group member inconsistent
in “accepting”
minority group members;
minority group
member inconsistent
in identifying himself
with “his” group).
Pluralistic objective, but
often uncertain and
ambivalent in valuation
of minority identities.
Inconsistent; a function
of anticipated consequences
in each situation.
Frequent anxiety, fear of
being unaccepted in any
Desegregating (e.g., militant
apostate or expatriate
from dominant
group; minority
group member consistently
seeking to avoid
being identified with
segregating members
of his group).
Autonomous low valuation
of his ascribed
identity; ideology supporting
preference for
more inclusive identity (e. g., “all Americans,” “humanity”).
Will suffer considerable
disadvantage, if necessary,
to avoid exclusive
association with
his ascribed group.
Sense of righteousness, but
self-conscious wariness
to avoid non-acceptance,
with out-groups;
easily provoked to hostility
and/or disgust with
segregating persons of
any group.
Assimilated (persons who rarely, if ever, consciously
self and others by
ethnic categories as
basis for differential
treatment of others).
Primary ethnic identification
with “all humanity”; therapeutic
orientation toward all
ethnocentric persons.
No preferences along
ethnic lines.
All reactions on a purely
personal basis, or on
basis of non-ethnic group
orientations, rather than
on basis of ethnic identification.
Sequences of
<————————– Reflexive          Conversion ————————–> Ideological Conversion

The following is a brief description of persons classifiable at separate points on the identification pattern continuum. It should be noted that most individuals may be in intermediate positions, that is, between any adjacent pair of the four points which will be described.

a. Segregating. The extreme segregating individual conceives of himself as distinctly differentiated from other members of his society by virtue of the particular racial, national or religious identity which he ascribes to himself. He is highly conscious and proud of this identity and may have a highly ramified ethnocentric ideology in which his group appears to be superior on the basis of theological, historical, biological or other considerations. He is likely to develop intense counter-hostility towards those whom he conceives as hostile to his group. (If he has paranoid personality traits, this may be expressed in delusions of persecution by an ethnic group.) He makes a conscious effort to confine his friendships, marriage and other intimate associations to members of his own group. The polar segregating individual is highly autonomous in valuing his ethnic identity as an end in itself, in that he will assert and strive to maintain this distinct identity even when it leads to social, economic or other disadvantages. Case studies from students suggest that this pattern is particularly frequent in Jewish and Christian fundamentalist religious groups, and in some first and second generation Central European national minorities, as well as among “200 per cent Americans” who look down on all “foreigners.”

b. Marginal. The marginal individual is inconsistent and uncertain in his racial, national or religious identification pattern. He sometimes manifests segregating traits and sometimes shows “desegregating” traits. Ideologically he favors a pluralistic society in which he can feel identified with several ethnic groups. Practically, he makes some effort to avoid a particular ethnic identity when he is in groups in which this identity might limit his acceptance. By comparison with the segregating individual he seems uncertain and “other-directed” in identifying himself. He is likely to be frequently conscious of the problem of deciding which identity is the most appropriate to promote for himself in a given time and place, and he may have guilt feelings and fears of discovery as a result of duplicity and inconsistency in identifying himself to others. Thus, ethnic identity may be a source of anxiety of the marginal individual, and of psychological “insecurity” (in Plant’s sense).[3] This pattern seems highly frequent among Negroes at nonsegregated universities, among non-religious Jews, and among dominant group members in close business or professional association with members of minority groups.[4]

c. Desegregating. The stable desegregating individual consciously seeks to avoid a particular racial, national or religious identity which may be ascribed to him by others, or which he himself may formerly have made. He is likely to be critical of all segregating persons, especially those of his “own” ascribed ethnic identity, and he shares out-group prejudices towards them. This is what Lewin called “self hatred” in Jews, and it also is encountered frequently in the Negro middle and upper classes and in American-born Orientals not living in homogeneous ethnic communities.[5] A similar desegregating pattern is found in rebellious children of “old American” families which have found a niche for themselves in “Bohemian” or other cosmopolitan circles as well as in militant apostates and expatriates from religious and national groups. Our student case studies suggest that such persons often are more regretful than angry when prejudiced persons ascribe to them the ethnic identity which they wish to shed. While the desegregating individual avoids prejudiced persons, and thus may be acutely conscious of the ethnic identity of others, it should be stressed that, unlike the marginal individual, the desegregating person is autonomous in the valuation he attaches to shedding narrow identities. This is indicated by the fact that he will forego marked economic or social opportunities if they are dependent on his assuming what he considers an exclusive identity. In the words of the segregating members of his ascribed group the desegregating individual “goes out of his way” not to be identified with his “own” group.

d. Assimilated. The pure assimilated person is an ideal-typical conception formed by extrapolating our continuum to its extreme, but rarely encountered empirically except with respect to the most diffuse ethnic identities (e .g., “Nordic”), although the American Creed may be interpreted as implying that an assimilated pattern is ideal. The polar assimilated person only reacts on an individual basis towards others, or on the basis of non-ethnic categories. He has only a therapeutic orientation towards persons who single him out ethnically for prejudicial treatment, and he has neither a hostile attitude nor ethnocentric pride in regarding the group with which they identify him. Many people seem to be assimilated with respect to an ethnic group when it is not salient to them, but often reveal another identification pattern when situations arise in which they are in competition or conflict with persons of an out-group, or when they themselves are singled out on the basis of an ethnic identity. By the standard sociological definitions of assimilation, a person is not fully assimilated if he is conscious of trying to be assimilated: in the latter case, we would consider him “desegreating.” However, as Znaniecki has suggested regarding nationalism, only the desegregating person’s deliberate promotion of what could be called an anti-ethnocentrism ideology can lead to the stable elimination of ethnic orientations.[6] This brings us to further hypotheses.

Dynamics of Ethnic Identification

Our second general hypothesis is: Change in a person’s identification pattern occurs in accordance with the continuum described above. This means that a person cannot change from a segregating to an assimilated identification pattern without first becoming marginal and then desegregating. However, change can occur in either direction on the continuum. Change from desegregating to marginal to segregating is common.

A corollary of this second hypothesis is that change in the separate components of identification pattern also occurs in accordance with our continuum. As our next hypothesis indicates, we expect this corollary to be more rigorously and consistently valid than the hypothesis from which it is derived. This is because we do not assume simultaneous change in all components of a person’s identification pattern, but rather that some components lag behind others when the pattern is changing. It will be recalled, however, that our first hypothesis is that all three components tend to converge at the same point on the continuum during any period when the identification pattern is stable.

Our third general hypothesis refers to the sequence in which separate components change when an ethnic identification pattern is unstable, namely: Change in an identification pattern tends to occur in one of two sequences, as follows: the first sequence, which we call “reflexive conversion,” involves first, a change of feelings aroused by contact with persons of a particular ethnic identity, then a change in association preferences, and lastly, a change in ideology the alternative sequence, which we call “ideological conversion,” involves a change in ideology first, then a change in association preferences, and lastly, a change in feelings aroused by contact with persons of a particular ethnic identity.

Reflexive conversion begins with any inter-ethnic association in which persons accept status ascriptions and interaction processes incongruent with those which could be anticipated from their ethnic identification patterns. One increasingly frequent example in our schools, industries and armed forces, is that of prejudiced whites who conform to institutionally prescribed standards of subordination of equalitarian cooperation on the basis of rank when interacting with Negroes as individuals in institutionalized positions. A second example, different in certain respects but analogous from the standpoint of our hypothesis, is that of Jewish and Gentile youths who develop marginal or desegregating identification patterns with respect to their ethnic identities during their high school years in communities where Jews and Gentiles are intermingled, but who readily conform to the different behavior expectations which they encounter in segregated fraternities, sororities and religious foundations at major universities.

As Rose and others have pointed out, the explanation for conforming behavior which violates prior ethnic orientations is to be found in “legal, economic, political and social structural forces.”[7] However, because of what Turner has called “reflexive role taking”[8] in interpersonal interaction, such conforming behavior may induce reflexive conversion which changes ethnic orientations. Feelings are empathized on the basis of the relationships which the participants have to each other as a result of their personalities and their positions in social systems. Thus, because of events which are independent of a subject’s ethnic identification patterns, a change may occur in what we have called the third component of his identification pattern, the feelings distinguishing his experience in contact with persons of a particular ethnic identity. Several studies have documented how segregating persons of both minority and dominant groups may become more at ease and experience more friendly feelings with out-group members after interaction in situations structured to promote equalitarian relationships and cooperation.[9] Conversely, there is evidence suggesting that persons may be aroused to feelings of hostility or disgust in association with ethnic groups as a result of unfavorable structuring of their experience with these groups.[10]

For association preferences to change as a result of change in the feelings experienced in contact with members of a particular ethnic group, there must be generalization from this experience. This process has been dealt with by psychologists in terms of stimulus generalization, enhancement of contrast and other learning principles, notably by Campbell.[11] While this may seem to be purely a psychological problem, sociologists have indicated complexities not taken into account by the more abstract psychological formulations. Lohman and Reitzes have shown that the same white individuals may have favorable orientations towards Negroes at a workplace which has long been successfully integrated, yet be hostile in a neighborhood where presence of the Negroes is defined as a threat to the monetary and “social” value of their home.[12] This suggests that change in association preference is situation-linked when it develops reflexively from feeling experience, and that feelings are a function of the way in which situations are defined. The Cornell studies of inter-ethnic contact[13] and reports on the development of emotions in race riots, lynchings and other collective behavior suggest that where ethnic orientations are not rigidly structured by culture, the definition of the situation and feelings aroused there may change rapidly on the basis of subtle cues and circular reactions. A corollary of our hypothesis on the two conversion processes is that a change in association preferences may change ideologies, but also, that a change in ideology may change association preferences. A deduction from the foregoing is that a person’s ethnic association preferences become relatively autonomous and independent of situations only when these preferences develop from stable ideological convictions. If sociological and anthropological study, for example, makes for firm ethnic tolerance, it is through ideological conversion.

Ideologies, of course, are the words and images by which we justify our behavior. As C. Wright Mills and George A. Kelly have so cogently stated, such words are not “mere” rationalizations, but rationalizations essential to voluntaristic (as opposed to reflexive) action.[14] Since ideologies are acquired in communication, they can be considered part of one’s cultural heritage. But like so much of modern normative culture, the ethnic ideologies which most persons encounter are not uniform. Divergent formulations of ethnic norms are communicated in Western society, and inconsistencies exist between formulations on various levels of generality, such as those which Myrdal called “the American dilemma.” Situations repeatedly arise in which people are faced with the need to make a decision as to the policy which they should pursue in interacting with persons whom they identify ethnically. In order to decide they communicate with themselves and seek communication with others so as to formulate a justification for a course of action. Individual decision habits and the urgency of the need for a decision, of course, determine the range of such communication, that is, whether one makes a “snap” or a “considered” judgment. Vivid illustrations of such search for justification for a decision in an ethnic relations dilemma are presented by Kohn and Williams, who summarize reports of researchers assigned to “eavesdrop” on waitresses and bartenders deciding how to cope with Negro patrons in establishments where Negro patronage is not customary.[15]

Change in ideology can occur as the last stage in reflexive conversion, but only when an individual rationalizes the fact that his feelings in interaction with members of particular ethnic groups and his association preferences have become inconsistent with his prior ideology. It has been observed that people can maintain behavior and have experiences inconsistent with their ideologies for long periods through failure to define persons contradicting an ethnic stereotype as instances of the class of persons which have been stereotyped.[16] Apparently a person alters his ideology on the basis of such inconsistency only when he must communicate with himself due to confrontation by challenges or dilemmas. We have the impression that the change in ideology which follows recognition of inconsistency generally is one of qualification rather than of metamorphosis, although one qualification may sometimes lead to another until considerable change occurs. Thus the initially prejudiced white may first admit that Joe, his co-worker, is an exception to the Negro stereotype, then that Negroes are all right in the plant but he wouldn’t want them as neighbors, and finally, that they’re good neighbors but he wouldn’t want one for a son-in-law.

Ideological conversion, as a change in a subject’s entire ethnic identification pattern, begins with the persuasive communication of new ideas and images regarding an ethnic group. This communication may occur independently of any experience in interaction with the ethnic group to which the ideologies refer, as has been shown in studies of the acquisition of ethnic prejudices by children.[17] Evidence about reduction of prejudice by classroom or other communication is not consistent, although one presumes that some ideological change in some persons is achieved by some teachers, ministers and others. At any rate, the studies on verbal acquisition of prejudice by children suggest that if a person’s ideas about a particular ethnic group change, favorably or unfavorably, his association preferences change also, if no other influences or circumstances inhibit ready increase or decrease of inter-ethnic association. They also indicate that change in ideological conception of an ethnic group evokes anticipatory feelings, that is, a favorable or unfavorable affective set at the initiation of contact with members of the group, thus changing the third component of identification pattern. It should be noted that these effects of anticipatory orientations may be apparent only at the initiation of inter-ethnic contact, since they may be offset by subsequent reflexive conversion.

Resistance and Counter-Change

When ideological conversion leads to new inter-ethnic contact, consequences of such contact unanticipated in the ethnic ideology frequently result in reflexive conversion in opposition to the ideological conversion. For example, the dominant group youth, ideologically convinced that he should radically oppose segregating practices with respect to a minority group, may experience uneasiness or unpleasantness in contact with the minority group members. This may be due to cultural differences, status differences and, possibly, to segregating identification patterns in the minority group.

Findings that efforts to change ethnic ideology by communication are frequently ineffective may be results of social, economic or political circumstances which prevent any drastic change in the pattern of the subject’s interaction with various ethnic groups; ideological change which is initiated may be offset by reflexive conversion back to the status quo. Sometimes, however, ideological change is so powerful as to override all other influences patterning inter-ethnic transactions. Thus the emanation of a hostile ideology towards Jews in Nazi Germany and towards Japanese in the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor was so intense that many dominant group members in the two countries deliberately and markedly changed what had been amicable relationships with members of these minorities. With termination of extensive equalitarian interaction, the hostility and disgust aroused by ideological conversion could not be changed reflexively.

Almost by definition, a segregating ideology is one which makes for resistance to change. Studies of the effectiveness of alternative methods of reducing prejudice suggest that segregating persons are reflexively converted to more marginal or desegregating orientations only by contact with out-group members who strikingly contradict stereotypes, and only if prolonged intimate equalitarian interaction with such out-group members is strongly promoted or enforced by institutional arrangements. One reason for the ineffectiveness of lesser efforts to initiate reflexive conversion may be that the segregating person approaches out-group members hypercritically, especially if the out-group member is perceived in a potentially competing status position. Both in the latter circumstances, and also, where the out-group member is seen in a low status position, the segregating person is likely either to avoid interaction, or to approach the interaction with a set which will impede its being an experience different from that which he anticipates.

Ideological conversion of a strongly segregating person also is difficult, since he is likely to be selective in his reception and interpretation of symbolic communication. For the segregating person who happens to have paranoid personality tendencies or deep-seated feelings of insecurity (as in the so-called “authoritarian” personality), his delusions of persecution may find expression in scapegoating out-groups, or he may achieve a sense of security through identification with in-groups. Under these conditions one would expect especially strong resistance to perceptions which would initiate either reflexive or ideological conversion. The theoretical possibility of conversion in these cases, however, even without basic personality change, is suggested by the observation that such personality disturbances often are served by non-ethnic objects of hostility. It should be stressed that ethnic ideologies are culturally transmitted. Hence, their acceptance by a person must be a function of the extent to which they have been communicated to him, and his relationship to the sources of communication, as well as a function of the extent to which they serve his personality needs. This is illustrated, of course, by the prevalence of different ethnic ideologies in different cultural regions and sub-regions.

The post-war reversal of our wartime orientation towards the Japanese has been dramatic, especially in the military occupation of Japan. Here apparently a change from a segregating to a desegregating “official” American ideology towards the Japanese was reinforced by reflexive conversion, as social structural forces promoted intimate contact and interdependence between our troops and the Japanese. Contrastingly, in the late war years and immediate post-war years in Europe, circumstances promoted reflexive conversion which opposed and largely negated official efforts to convert our troops ideologically to a desegregating orientation towards the French and British and a segregating orientation towards Germans.[18]

It is likely that two additional factors making for resistance to change in ethnic identification pattern are relative reinforcement and relative investment in an existing and in alternative identification patterns. “Reinforcement” is used here in its psychological learning theory sense; it includes both primary and secondary reinforcement to refer to the number of times and the priority and intensity with which a particular set of habits is favorably promoted in a subject’s experience. “Investment” is used here in a manner analogous to the way in which it is employed in the analysis of occupational choice.[19] It refers collectively to the valued social relations, respect of reference groups, economic and other rewards, and various valued opportunities. which an individual conceives as dependent upon his maintenance of a particular identification pattern.

Investment sometimes is difficult to distinguish from reinforcement, but it is conceived of here as the more conscious of the two phenomena. Reinforcement probably is a factor in reflexive conversion, but investment is a factor in ideological conversion. Investment is conceived as creating ambivalence in the acceptance of new ideas, that is, preventing consistent endorsement of new ideas and disavowal of prior beliefs. In situations where a subject has prolonged interaction with persons of different ethnic identity and identification pattern, investment encourages marginality in his ethnic identification pattern. This phenomenon is readily observed in second and third generation descendants of Jewish and other immigrants, who are more assimilated than their parents and grandparents. These children and grandchildren become marginal with respect to the identity which their ancestors ascribed to them, in that they try, on the one hand, to behave in ways which will not alienate their more segregating older relatives, and on the other hand, they are reflexively and ideologically influenced towards desegregation by their social and professional life with peers of diverse ethnic identity and identification pattern.


A social psychological analysis of ethnic relations has been presented which attempts to integrate parsimoniously many discrete and earlier observations. It is believed that this analysis comprehends most firmly established social psychological knowledge on inter-ethnic relationships, particularly the major findings on dynamics of anti-minority prejudice, as well as available data on minority group behavior. Change in ethnic orientations was interpreted in terms of two processes of conversion which encompass and interrelate reflexive and voluntaristic action. Models of this type are needed for the solution of a broader theoretical problem of the behavioral sciences: the claim that most prevailing theory rests on either a purely reflexive or a completely rational image of man, both of which are likely to be invalid.

It is recognized that in reducing the complexities and variations of ethnic prejudice, discrimination and self-conception, in both minority and dominant group members, to a single continuum with three component variables and two change sequences, we create a somewhat oversimplified image of the interpretative interaction actually conducted by any specific persons in inter-ethnic relationships. Moreover, simultaneous reflexive and ideological conversion processes, in the same or opposing directions, in the continuous interaction and role-taking of everyday life, complicate analysis into the component processes delineated here. Errors and difficulties of these types may be the price of induction in every study of nature. If our generalizations can be shown to have high validity, however, they may provide what Blumer has called “stabilized patterns of interpretation.”[20] By making us aware of certain tendencies to regularity in human behavior, the latter may facilitate new observations of deviation from general patterns on the basis of which the generalizations may be revised.

The formulations presented here were developed gradually over several years, but crystallized from the analysis of some 350 student papers entitled “The Development of X’s Prejudice” or “X’s Conception of His Minority Group Identity.” In these papers, “X” was the student himself or another person about whom he chose to write. Other discussions have also been drawn upon for support at various points. Yet, in Pierce’s sense, these operations have more or less adequately validated our definitions, although not our hypotheses.[21] We have found cases illustrating each pattern type and each conversion process, but we have not been able to institute the quantitative controls on observation which could more rigorously test the implication that the relationships hypothesized do not merely exist, but strongly predominate in inter-ethnic relationships.

We could perhaps feel confident that our interpretation has nearly universal validity, since no negative cases were encountered. There is a real danger that our hypotheses, however, like many others in the behavioral sciences, are not readily contradicted by case data. This is because any case report covers such a minute fraction of a subject’s total life experience, and so many aspects of experience are relevant to our hypotheses, that the experience selected for interpretation may unwittingly be limited to that which supports theoretical expectations. For example, when a personal document describes a subject in a manner which suggests that all components of identification pattern are at the same point on the continuum, one considers this as support for our first hypothesis, but if inconsistency is found in the components, one seeks to trace conversion processes, classifies the case as of marginal identification pattern, or deplores the missing details in the case document. Despite such deficiencies, it may be argued that no other conceptualization of the social psychological aspects of ethnic group relationships is more adequately supported by evidence, for no other interpretation is as comprehensive and as interconnected conceptually in accounting for data in this field, and no conceptualization approaching this one in breadth has been much more rigorously validated.[22]

Inasmuch as data on human behavior are always fragmentary, and are selected on the basis of implicit or explicit theory which dictates what is deemed significant in total experience, the major value of our conceptualization may be its utility in sensitizing students and practitioners in the field of ethnic group relations to both minority and dominant group aspects of problem situations, and to both reflexive reactions and symbolic communication. This promotion of a wider range of attention, especially concerning minority roles, may make it a useful supplement to Merton’s discrimination-prejudice typology of dominant group orientations as a paradigm for social action, particularly in manipulating situations of inter-personal contact across ethnic lines.[23] The crucial test, from the standpoint of applied science, will be whether such focussing of attention contributes to more accurate prediction and control of problem phenomena.

A more adequate test of our hypotheses would result from highly reliable questionnaires or observation procedures which indicated the possibility of scaling subjects on each component of the identification pattern continuum. If scalability were demonstrated, administration of such scaling instruments to a panel sample of subjects on several successive occasions could reveal whether these components tend to be identical in position on the conceived continuum when all components are stable. It could also show the sequence of change. The major value of such research would lie in the possibility of its yielding unanticipated results, necessitating revision of our hypotheses. In addition, such instruments would permit one to relate change in identification pattern to other data, such as circumstances of inter-ethnic interaction.

Taken from American Sociological Review, Volume 23, February, 1958. Pages 31-40 with the permission of the author and The American Sociological Association, Washington, D.C.

  1. Cf. T.W. Adorno et al., The Authoritarian Personality, New York: Harper, 1950, Ch. IV.
  2. More valid and reliable measures of grossly classified feeling states may, of course, be procured from physiological data. Cf. Robert E. Rankin and Donald T. Campbell, "Galvanic Skin Response to Negro and White Experimenters," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, (July, 1955), pp. 30-33.
  3. James S. Plant, Personality and the Cultural Pattern, New York: Commonwealth Fund, 1937, pp. 11 ff.
  4. The classic description of this pattern is E.V. Stonequist, The Marginal Man, New York: Scribners, 1937. Our "marginal" is closest to the "ambivalent" Jewish sub-type distinguished in the much broader reference assigned to "marginal man" by A. Antonovsky in "Toward a Redefinition of the 'Marginal Man' Concept," Social Forces, 35 (October, 1956), pp. 57-62. Marginality of middle-class Negroes in northern communities is vividly indicated in E. Franklin Frazier, "The Negro Middle Class and Desegregation," Social Problems, 4 (April, 1957), pp. 291-301.
  5. Kurt Lewin, "Self Hatred Among Jews," Contemporary Jewish Record, 4 (June, 1941), pp. 219-232. Cf. E.F. Frazier, Black Bourgeoisis, Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1957, pp. 226-228.
  6. Florian Znaniecki, Modern Nationalities, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1952, Ch. 7.
  7. Arnold Rose, "Intergroup Relations vs. Prejudice," Social Problems, 4 (October, 1956), p. 176.
  8. Ralph H. Turner, "Role-Taking, Role Standpoint, and Reference-Group Behavior," American Journal of Sociology, LXI (January, 1956), pp. 316-328.
  9. See, for example, D.M. Wilner, R.P. Walkley and S.W. Cook, Human Relations in Interracial Housing, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955; I. and E. Division, "Opinions About Negro Infantry Platoons in White Companies of Seven Divisions," in G.E. Swanson, J.M. Newcomb and E.L. Hartley (eds.), Readings in Social Psychology, Rev. Ed., New York: Holt, 1952, pp. 502-506.
  10. E.g., A.B. Riddleberger and A.B. Motz, "Prejudice and Perception," American Journal of Sociology, 62 (March, 1957), pp. 498-503.
  11. Donald T. Campbell, "Enhancement of Contrast as Composite Habit," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 53 (November, 1956), pp. 350-355; and "A Demonstration of Bias in Estimates of Negro Ability," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51 (November, 1955), pp. 585-588.
  12. J.D. Lohman and D.C. Reitzes, "Deliberately Organized Groups and Racial Behavior," American Sociological Review, 19 (June, 1954), pp. 342-344.
  13. M.L. Kohn and R.M. Williams, "Situational Patterning in Intergroup Relations," American Sociological Review, 21 (April, 1956), pp. 164-174.
  14. C.W. Mills, "Situated Actions and Vocabularies of Motive," American Sociological Review, 5 (December, 1940), pp. 904-913; G.A. Kelly, The Psychology of Personal Constructs, New York: Norton, 1955.
  15. Op cit.
  16. M.N. Richter, Jr., "The Conceptual Mechanism of Stereotyping," American Sociological Review, 21 (October, 1956), pp. 568-571.
  17. E.g.: E.L. Horowitz, "Development of Attitude Toward Negroes," Archives of Psychology, 1936, No. 194, adapted in G.E. Swanson, et al., op. cit., pp. 491-501; W.B. Brookover and J.B. Holland, "An Inquiry Into the Meaning of Minority Group Attitude Expressions," American Sociological Review, 17 (April, 1952), pp. 196-202.
  18. See D. Glaser, "The Sentiments of American Soldiers Abroad Towards Europeans," American Journal of Sociology, 51 (March, 1946), pp. 433-438; D. Glaser, "A Study of Relations Between British and American Enlisted Men at SHAEF," unpublished Master's dissertation, University of Chicago, 1947.
  19. H.S. Becker and J.W. Carper, "The Development of Identification with an Occupation," American Journal of Sociology, 61 (January, 1956), pp. 289-298.
  20. H. Blumer, "Sociological Analysis and the 'Variable'," American Sociological Review, 21 (December, 1956), pp. 689-690.
  21. Cf. A. Pierce, "Empiricism and the Social Sciences," American Sociological Review, 21 (April, 1956), pp. 135-137.
  22. Cf. R.H. Turner, "The Quest for Universals in Sociological Research," American Sociological Review, 18 (December, 1953), pp. 604-611; H. Hyman and P. Sheatsley, "Methodological Critique" in R. Christie and M. Jahoda, Studies in the scope and Method of "The Authoritarian Personality," Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1954, pp. 50-196.
  23. Robert K. Merton, "Discrimination and the American Creed" in R.M. MacIver, ed., Discrimination and National Policy, New York: Harpers, 1949, pp. 99-126. Merton's "Prejudiced Discriminator or...All-Weather Illiberal," of course, is our "Segregating" bigot, while his "Unprejudiced Non-Discriminator or All-Weather Liberal" seems to cover all of the "Desegregating" to "Assimilated" segment of our continuum. His intervening "Fair-Weather" types resemble our "Marginal" members of dominant groups. His incisive analysis of the functions and fallacies of these types when coping with minority problems may be usefully supplemented by differentiation of minority group orientations and strategies. Our processual conceptualization may facilitate interrelationship of the orientations of each ethnic group in a problem situation.


Ethnicity Copyright © 2020 by Daniel Glaser. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book