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Adhering to Cultural Norms Can Help Immigrants Elicit Acceptance, Study Finds

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Is a cohesive multicultural society really possible? The racist reaction to the increased immigration to both the United States and Europe indicates the question may be more open than previously thought. Research shows the human mind reflexively divides people into “us” and “them,” and many people instinctively categorize those of a different race, culture, or religion as dangerously foreign.

What will it take for citizens to accept immigrants as fully integrated members of society? New research points to a promising if partial solution: A shared commitment to national norms.

A large study finds Germans display more friendliness and compassion to a hijab-wearing Muslim woman if she has behaved in a way that signals assimilation into the culture. In cleanliness-obsessed Germany, that means she has called out someone who litters.

For Muslim immigrants, “good citizenship has some benefits,” University of Pennsylvania political scientist Nicholas Sambanis, the study’s senior author, said in announcing the findings. “The degree of discrimination toward Muslims goes down if they signal that they care about the host society.”

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