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Polyculturalism and perceived effects of globalization in Macau.

Globalization is the process of integrating social relations and economies across countries worldwide, and is understood to also involve movement of peoples, knowledge, and other cultural products (Giddens, 2002; Rothenberg, 2003). People from different parts of the world experience globalization in distinct ways and, thus, develop attitudes that differ greatly regarding this social phenomenon. Some perceive globalization as having culturally erosive effects, where the forces of globalization inevitably lead to the decline of local cultures as these are overwhelmed by more dominant cultures (Chiu, Gries, Torelli, & Cheng, 2011). Others, however, perceive enriching effects, as increased cross-cultural contact brought about by globalization provides stimuli and opportunities for enhancing social and cultural processes. Social psychologists have begun identifying the psychological processes that shape people's responses to globalization. In line with this effort, in this study I explored the role of the theory of polyculturalism, that is, people's belief that cultures are dynamic, interconnected, and mutually influence each other (Morris, Chiu, & Liu, 2015; Rosenthal & Levy, 2010), in explaining differences in people's perceptions of the effects of globalization.

Literature Review

Psychological Responses to Globalization

Widespread social change is known to have profound effects on individuals (Tomasik & Silbereisen, 2009) and cultures (Hamamura, 2018). Social psychologists have studied the effects of globalization, which is one form of social change. Chiu and colleagues (2011) and Hong and Cheon (2017) have summarized psychological responses to globalization as falling within the range of two opposing reactions: First, there are exclusionary reactions associated with the perceived threat of cultural erosion or contamination (Shi,

Shi, Luo, & Cai, 2016). These emotional responses tend to be negative and behavioral intentions may involve avoidance, rejection, and even aggression. Second, there are integrative reactions associated with the view that other cultures may be resources for enriching and/or solving problems in one's own culture (Leung, Maddux, Galinsky, & Chiu, 2008).

Researchers have identified factors that relate to these contrasting psychological responses in reference to specific forms of cultural mixing. In his review, Cheon (2019) suggested that the response to multicultural experiences depends on how these either disrupt or support the social categorization and social identity reinforcing functions of a culture. Some factors disrupting these functions are individual differences, like need for cognitive closure (Tadmor, Hong, Chao, Wiruchnipawan, & Wang, 2012), or essentialist theories of race, that is, the belief that races are fixed biological constructs (No et al., 2008), and identification with one's own culture (Cheon, Christopoulos, & Hong, 2016), which are all associated with negative responses to cultural mixing. In contrast, factors that reduce the perception of threats to the identity-reinforcing function of culture, like easing concerns for keeping the culture pure (Cho, Morris, Slepian, & Tadmor, 2017), are associated with openness to culturally mixed experiences. These factors are also likely to apply in identifying and assessing the experience of mixing cultures in globalization.

Polyculturalism and Intergroup Attitudes

Those who hold the polyculturalism belief assume that cultural boundaries are not rigid and fixed, in contrast to another commonly held and much-studied belief, multiculturalism, whose adherents emphasize, acknowledge, and respect cultural differences (Rosenthal & Levy, 2010). In both polyculturalism and multiculturalism, the importance of culture as part of individual and group identity is stressed; as such, the two beliefs are typically correlated (Rosenthal & Levy, 2012) and even have interacting effects in some social contexts (Tjipto & Bernardo, 2019). However, because the connections among cultures is emphasized instead of differences between them (Cho et al., 2017), polyculturalism is associated with being more open to culturally mixed experiences than is multiculturalism, and with being more successful at functioning in cross-cultural contexts (Bernardo & Presbitero, 2017). Polyculturalism is also associated with interest in, and appreciation for, diversity; comfort with cultural differences (Rosenthal & Levy, 2010, 2012); willingness for intergroup contact; positive behavioral intentions with people from minorities (Rosenthal, Levy, Katser, & Bazile, 2015) and foreign cultures (Bernardo, Rosenthal, & Levy, 2013); and cognitive empathy for others in cross-cultural situations (Salanga & Bernardo, 2019). In these studies the relationship between polyculturalism and positive intergroup processes has been observed after accounting for the influence of multiculturalism.

Individuals who endorse polyculturalism may see increased forms of cross-cultural contact in globalization as exemplars of the dynamic connectedness and mutual influence of cultures. When people place this emphasis on connectedness among cultures they assume that cultural boundaries are less rigid. This reduces the likelihood of them perceiving cultural contact in globalization as threatening; thus, I hypothesized that belief in polyculturalism would be associated with positive attitudes toward globalization, defined in this study as perceived effects of different facets of globalization, in particular, the increasing presence in Macau of foreign entities in business/trade, foreign media/culture, and migrants from other countries.


Participants and Procedure

Approval for the research was sought from and granted by the University Research Ethics Committee of the University of Macau. I conducted a cross-sectional survey of undergraduate students at a university in Macau. The survey was posted online and was available during one semester, and participants completed it at a time convenient to them. All participants gave their informed consent prior to answering the survey and received credit toward a course requirement for taking part.

Participants were 598 undergraduate students (329 women, 55%; 269 men, 45%) in Macau, with a mean age of 19.48 years (SD = 1.98, range = 18-32). Among the students 122 (20.4%) had relatives who had worked abroad, 190 (31.6%) had relatives who had migrated abroad, and 525 (87.8%) had travelled to a foreign country at least once.


The measure of perceived effects of globalization was originally developed in English and translated into Chinese (traditional orthography) for the current study using back-translation procedures performed by two Chinese-English bilingual psychology graduate students. The other scales had existing Chinese translations (Bernardo et al., 2016). All scales had good internal consistency, as shown in Table 1.

Perceived effects of globalization. I developed a nine-item scale to assess perceived effects of globalization. Per the literature, three domains for the effects of globalization were defined: trade, culture, and migration. For each domain the exemplification in Macau society was specified: presence of foreign business, presence of foreign media and arts, and presence of migrants from other countries. For each domain, three groups representing geographical areas outside Macau were identified: European, North American, and Asian. The scale was introduced with the following background explanation: "Globalization has resulted in loosening of national boundaries, and this is true even in Macau. As a result there is an increase in different forms of foreign presence in Macau. Below, we have listed some of the examples of this increasing foreign presence. Please think about each item, and then please decide whether you think the increasing foreign presence is harmful, neutral, or good for Macau. We leave it up to you to define 'harmful' or 'good' as we want to know your general opinion."

There are three subscales, each with three items, on the perceived effects of globalization related to economy/trade (e.g., "The increasing number of European [e.g., French, German] businesses in Macau"), culture (e.g., "The increasing exposure of North American culture [e.g., music, movies, arts] in Macau"), and migration (e.g., "The increasing number of Asian migrants in Macau"). Participants answer using a 7-point Likert scale ranging from -3 (very harmful) to +3 (very good). As shown in Table 1, each of the subscales for the domains had high internal consistency.

Polyculturalism. The polyculturalism scale I used (Rosenthal & Levy, 2010) has five items (e.g., "Different racial, ethnic, and cultural groups influence each other"). Responses are made on a 6-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree).

Theories of race. I used an eight-item scale (No et al., 2008) that includes four items representing genetic theories of race (e.g., "To a great extent, a person's race biologically determines his or her abilities and traits"), and four representing social constructivist theories (e.g., "Races are just arbitrary categories and can be changed if necessary"). Responses are made on a 6-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree).

Control variables. Several control variables were considered to provide the most rigorous test of the hypothesis. In addition to age and gender, background information that related to the participants' cross-cultural contact was requested: They were asked if they had (a) relatives working abroad, (b) relatives who had migrated abroad, and (c) had travelled to any foreign country. Because people's beliefs about race (No et al., 2008) are associated with rejection of cultural mixing (Cheon et al., 2016), I also included this as a control variable.


The descriptive statistics are summarized in Table 1. The correlations between the various scales indicate no multicollinearity. Hierarchical regression analyses were performed to test the hypothesis, with one analysis for each of the three subscales of perceived effect of globalization. Perceived effect of globalization was regressed on the control variables in the first step of the hierarchical regression; polyculturalism was added to the model in the second step.

The results of the regression analyses are summarized in Table 2. None of the control variables was consistently associated with perceived effects of globalization, although age, gender, and having travelled abroad were associated with particular perceived effects. Most important, polyculturalism significantly predicted the perceived effects of global trade and global culture. There was also a trend indicating that polyculturalism also predicted perceived effects of migration. In all three cases, the additional variance explained by polyculturalism was small, but in the hypothesized direction.


My results contribute to the growing social psychology literature related to globalization by showing that among students in Macau polyculturalism is associated with perceived positive effects of globalization related to trade/economics and media/culture. There was a trend regarding the hypothesized relationship with migrants, and this weaker relationship might reflect the view that migration is a stronger threat to cultural heritage relative to economics/trade and media/culture. It should be noted that the effect sizes were small, so further studies should be conducted to determine whether these effects are replicable. Overall, the results indicate that the belief that cultures are dynamically connected might dispose people toward more positive reactions to globalization.

The study's limited research design should be acknowledged. The dependent variable was quite narrowly defined, so that alternative measures and dimensions of perceived effects of globalization should be considered in future studies. As a sector of the population, university students might also have abstract notions about these effects, so adults who are older than my participants and who have more direct experiences relating to the effects of globalization should be sampled in future research. Societies also differ in the forms in which globalization is experienced, and the hypothesis could be more rigorously tested using samples from different cities/countries.

These limitations notwithstanding, I believe some implications of the findings are interesting. First, the individual who holds a generalized belief about the interconnectedness of cultures (polyculturalism) does not presume these connections to be either good or bad. It is possible that the participants who endorsed polyculturalism might have been constructing these connections by bringing together various conceptual elements to evaluate it as having either a positive, negative, or neutral valence. Nevertheless, the notion that the boundaries of cultures are not fixed seems to be associated with the tendency for those who subscribe to this view to see increased foreign presence in the business and culture of one's country as more positive than do those who believe cultural boundaries are fixed. The small effect sizes also suggest that there might have been other factors that were making these positive consequences more salient for the respondents. Some of these other factors have been studied in social psychology research. For example, Tadmor et al. (2012) found that positive intergroup consequences of exposure to various cultures in the context of globalization (e.g., lower level of stereotyping, less intergroup bias) are associated with a reduced need for cognitive closure, but this increased cognitive flexibility has also been associated with perceived increases in immoral behavior because of greater exposure to other cultures (Lu et al., 2017). Such research findings suggest that contrasting processes associated with globalization may be viewed as having both positive and negative consequences.

The various psychological processes associated with positive and negative responses to globalization have been summarized in different social psychology theories. For example, Chen and colleagues (2015) defined two processes related to multicultural acquisition and ethnic protection. Multicultural acquisition represents a proactive response to opportunities for greater cross-cultural contact, whereas ethnic protection represents the motivation to preserve one's cultural and social identity by resisting foreign cultural forces. In a similar line of thinking, Cheon (2019) suggested that responses to cross-cultural contact may either disrupt or support the social categorization and social identity reinforcing functions of cultures. Some factors disrupt these functions and are associated with negative responses to cultural mixing, whereas factors that reduce the threats to the identity reinforcing function of culture are associated with openness to culturally mixed experiences. The results of my study suggest that polyculturalism, or the belief that cultures are dynamically connected and mutually influence each other, is one such factor that reduces the perception of threat to identity reinforcement.

Although the findings in my study may not be extensive, I have provided evidence regarding one specific belief that shapes an individual's reactions to cross-cultural experiences in varied forms of globalization.

This could be studied further, and in interaction with other factors. The results I obtained constitute a small, but hopefully important, step toward better understanding the social psychological processes that relate to people's positive reactions to globalization.


This research was supported by grants from the University of Macau (MYRG2014-00098-FSS and MYRG2017-00076-FSS).

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance provided by Man Wai Lei, Yang Fuming, and Aries Manuel during various phases of the study.


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Allan B. I. Bernardo (1)

(1) Department of Psychology, University of Macau, Macao

How to cite: Bernardo, A. (2019). Polyculturalism and perceived effects of globalization in Macau. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 47(7), e8129

CORRESPONDENCE Allan B. I. Bernardo, Department of Psychology, E21-3060 Humanities and Social Sciences Building, University of Macau, Avenida da Universidade, Taipa, Macau. Email:
Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for Key Variables

                                                 Correlations (r)
                                             a    M     SD    2

1. Polyculturalism                           .78  4.56  0.64  -.04
2. Genetic theory of race                    .67  3.71  0.79
3. Social constructivist theory of race      .82  3.50  0.87
4. Perceived effect of global trade          .91  1.15  0.99
5. Perceived effect of global media/culture  .90  1.24  1.03
6. Perceived effect of migration             .95  0.86  1.14

                                                Correlations (r)
                                             3         4

1. Polyculturalism                           .03        .09 (*)
2. Genetic theory of race                    .16 (**)  -.05
3. Social constructivist theory of race                -.05
4. Perceived effect of global trade
5. Perceived effect of global media/culture
6. Perceived effect of migration

                                             Correlations (r)
                                             5         6

1. Polyculturalism                            .10(*)    .08
2. Genetic theory of race                    -.02       .03
3. Social constructivist theory of race       .01      -.00
4. Perceived effect of global trade           .58 (**)  .49 (**)
5. Perceived effect of global media/culture             .42 (**)
6. Perceived effect of migration

Note. (*) p < .05, (**) p < .01.

Table 2. Summary of Regression Analyses for Dimensions of Perceived
Effects of Globalization

                                            Perceived effect of global
                                            Model 1    Model 2
                                            [beta]     [beta]

Age                                          .11 (**)   .11 (**)
Gender (a)                                   .12 (**)   .12 (**)
Has relatives who have worked abroad (b)    -.08       -.08
Has relatives who have migrated abroad (b)  -.01        .01
Has travelled abroad (b)                     .07        .07
Genetic theory of race                      -.04       -.04
Social constructivist theory of race        -.04       -.04
Polyculturalism                                         .09 (*)
[R.sup.2]                                    .04        .05
F(7,589)                                    3.91 (**)  4.13 (**)
[DELTA][R.sup.2]                                        .01
[DELTA]E(1,589)                                        5.51 (**)

                                            Perceived effect of global
                                            Model 1   Model 2
                                            [beta]    [beta]

Age                                          .08 (*)   .08
Gender (a)                                  -.02      -.01
Has relatives who have worked abroad (b)    -.01      -.08
Has relatives who have migrated abroad (b)  -.05      -.01
Has travelled abroad (b)                     .10 (*)   .10 (*)
Genetic theory of race                      -.02      -.02
Social constructivist theory of race         .02       .01
Polyculturalism                                        .10 (*)
[R.sup.2]                                    .02       .03
F(7,589)                                    1.64      2.15 (**)
[DELTA][R.sup.2]                                       .01
[DELTA]E(1,589)                                       5.57 (*)

                                            Perceived effect of
                                            Model 1   Model 2
                                            [beta]    [beta]

Age                                         .11 (**)   .11 (**)
Gender (a)                                  .05        .05
Has relatives who have worked abroad (b)    -.05      -.05
Has relatives who have migrated abroad (b)  .04        .04
Has travelled abroad (b)                    .07        .07
Genetic theory of race                      .03        .03
Social constructivist theory of race        -.01      -.01
Polyculturalism                                        .08 ([dagger])
[R.sup.2]                                   .02        .03
F(7,589)                                    2.13 (*)  2.31 (*)
[DELTA][R.sup.2]                                       .01
[DELTA]E(1,589)                                       3.57 ([dagger])

Note. (a) Gender: 1 = male, 2 = female; (b) o = no, 1 = yes.
(*) p < .05, (**) p < .01, ([dagger]) p = .059.
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Author:Bernardo, Allan B. I.
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Geographic Code:9MACA
Date:Jul 1, 2019
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