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One Day We Might Be No More: Collective Angst and Protective Action From Potential Distinctiveness Loss

One Day We Might Be No More: Collective Angst and Protective Action From Potential Distinctiveness Loss
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  See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: One day we might be no more: Collective angstand protective action from potentialdistinctiveness loss  Article   in  European Journal of Social Psychology · April 2011 DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.773 CITATIONS 29 READS 136 4 authors , including:Michael WohlCarleton University 104   PUBLICATIONS   1,868   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE Nyla R. BranscombeUniversity of Kansas 174   PUBLICATIONS   9,936   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE All content following this page was uploaded by Nyla R. Branscombe on 08 January 2014. The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file. All in-text references underlined in blue are added to the srcinal documentand are linked to publications on ResearchGate, letting you access and read them immediately.  Research articleOne day we might be no more: Collective angst and protective action frompotential distinctiveness loss MICHAEL J.A. WOHL 1 *, BENJAMIN GIGUE `RE 2 , NYLA R. BRANSCOMBE 3 AND D. NEIL MCVICAR 1 1 Carleton University, Canada;   2 York University, Canada;   3 University of Kansas, USA  Abstract Potential loss of group distinctiveness can represent a threat to the existence of a group. Across three studies (Ns ¼ 42, 60, 94), amediated-moderation model was tested in which the interactive effects of group identification and potential ingroup distinc-tiveness loss predicts the desire to engage in ingroup protective action to the extent that collective angst (i.e., concern for theingroup’s future vitality) is aroused. It was hypothesized that the threat of potential distinctiveness loss would result in collectiveangst and subsequent support for protective action among high, but not necessarily low, identified group members. Results providedsupportforthismodel withinthe contextofFrenchCanadiandistinctivenessfromEnglishCanada(Experiment1,wherethe outcome measurewas the desire fora sovereign Quebec) and Canadian distinctiveness from the United States (Experiments 2and 3, where the outcome was support for action to protect Canadian sovereignty and rejection of a North American Unionrespectively). When and why collective angst facilitates ingroup protective action is discussed. Copyright  # 2010 John Wiley &Sons, Ltd. Group membership provides a person with existential security(Durkheim, 1951). Although individual group members willeventually perish, the group is generally thought to havetemporal persistence or continuity (Reicher & Hopkins, 2001;Sani et al., 2007). To the extent that group members believetheir group’s future is secure, existential concerns may beminimized. When however the group’s future is perceived tobeinsecure,thenexistentialconcernsare mostlikelytosurface(Lewin, 1948). One type of threat to the continuity of theingroup is the potential loss of group distinctiveness.According to social identity theory (SIT; Tajfel & Turner,1986), a group is defined by its unique characteristics relativeto other groups. Group members are thus motivated todifferentiate their ingroup from other salient groups in order toachieve a positively distinct social identity. When thedemarcations between the ingroup and a relevant outgroupare blurred, threat is likely to be experienced (Branscombe,Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 1999).Due to the existential significance of group membership,thepotentiallossofgroupdistinctivenessmightevokeagroup-based emotional response that reflects existential concerns.Wohl and Branscombe (2008, 2009) have identified  collectiveangst   as an emotional response that is based on concern for theingroup’s future existence. Just as feelings of personal angstemerge when a person experiences concern that somethingnegative will befall the self in the future (Barlow, 1988),collective angst emerges when negative events are thoughtlikely to befall the ingroup. The current research examined theidea that because the potential loss of group distinctivenessspeaks to the raison d’eˆtre of the group as an entity (see Jetten,Spears, & Postmes, 2004), it is likely to evoke concern for thegroup’s future (Wilder, 1986). We argue that when collectiveangst is elicited, motivation to engage in actions aimed atprotecting the distinctiveness of the ingroup should beheightened (e.g., support for Quebec sovereignty from Canadaamong French Canadians). Importantly, because distinctive-ness threats are more likely to affect thosewho feel a strong tieto the ingroup, the effect of potential distinctiveness lossshould be most pronounced among highly identified groupmembers (see Jetten et al., 2004). Distinctiveness Threat Because group members accentuate differences betweenentities categorized as separate groups (Tajfel & Wilkes,1963), when group members perceive the ingroup and arelevant outgroup as similar they may experience threat(Roccas & Schwartz, 1993). Such  distinctiveness threat   oftenresults in attempts to differentiate the ingroup on availabledimensions of comparison (Brewer, 2001; Jetten & Spears,2004; Spears, Jetten, & Scheepers, 2002), because thenarrowing of between-group differences challenges the veryessence of the group (Branscombe, Ellemers, et al., 1999;Jetten et al., 2004).Importantly, greater ingroup identification predicts astronger desire toachieveandmaintain positivedistinctiveness European Journal of Social Psychology ,  Eur. J. Soc. Psychol.  41 , 289–300 (2011) Published online 22 September 2010 in Wiley Online Library (  DOI : 10.1002/ejsp.773 *Correspondenceto:MichaelJ.A.Wohl,DepartmentofPsychology,CarletonUniversity,1125ColonelByDrive,B550LoebBuilding,Ottawa,OntarioK1S5B6,Canada. E-mail: Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.  Received 14 July 2009, Accepted 11 August 2010  (Hinkle & Brown, 1990; Kelly, 1988). In a meta-analyticreview, Jetten et al. (2004) found that for highly identifiedgroup members it is of particular significance to act in waysthat establish and maintain a distinctive group identity. Of interest for the current research, high identifiers are motivatedto react when they perceive group distinctiveness as being lostby taking action to solidify distinctiveness and increasebetween-group differentiation (Jetten etal., 2004; Spears etal.,2002). Lalonde (2002), for example, showed that asidentification with Canada increased, Canadians expressedgreater differentiation between Canadians and Americans.Such desired differentiation is perhaps not surprising becausepotential loss of distinctiveness to the United States has longbeen a concern for Canadians (Hoberg, 2000).Because willingness to engage in collective action is ahallmark of the highly identified group member (see Stu¨rmer& Simon, 2004), we expect that such group members will beespecially likely to support policy and actions aimed atmaintaining group distinctiveness. Specifically, it was hypoth-esized that responses to the potential loss of groupdistinctiveness would be moderated by group identification. Threats to Distinctiveness and the Minority Group Our theoretical model is focused on contexts in which theboundaries between two groups might be eliminated, resultingin one inclusive category. According to the ingroup projectionmodel (IPM; Mummendey & Wenzel, 1999), within such acontext, group members tend to perceive their ingroup asrelatively prototypical of the inclusive category. Highlyidentified group members show the strongest tendency towardingroup projection because, relative to low identified groupmembers, a larger portion of their self-concept is derived fromtheir group membership (Ashmore, Deaux, & McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004). By projecting ingroup characteristics on theinclusive category, any perceived threat posed by that categorywould be undermined because relative prototypicality is theequivalent of positive distinctiveness (Turner, 1987).The current research focuses on the effect of potentialdistinctivenesslossonmembersofaminoritygroup.Theissueof group position is important as the IPM applies primarily tomajority groups (Wenzle, Mummendey, & Waldzus, 2007). Weargue that whereas members of majority groups ‘project’ theirown group’s attributes onto the inclusive category, such isgenerally not  thecaseforminoritygroupmembers(seeWaldzus,Mummendey, Wenzel, & Boettcher, 2004). Instead, members of minority groups are likely to believe that the inclusive categorywill reflect the characteristic of the majority group due to theirrelative power and influence. As a result, minority groupmembers should favor action that distances the ingroup from therelevant outgroup to protect against loss of distinctiveness (seeReicher, 2004; Snyder & Fromkin, 1977; Spears et al., 2002). Lending additional support for this contention, Leonardelli andBrewer (2001) showed that minority groups discriminate morethan majority group members.French Canadians, for example, are acutely sensitive totheir minority group status within the larger North Americacontext (Krull & Trovato, 2003) and some perceive theirunique cultural heritage as at risk of being engulfed by theAnglophone population of Canada and the United States(Bouchard & Taylor, 2008; Bourhis, 1994). As a result, thepotential loss of group distinctiveness is a central theme of the campaign for achieving sovereignty from Canada by theprovince of Quebec, which is the only province whosepopulation is predominantly francophone (see Remillard,1989). We argue that similar processes are at play among thelarger Canadian population, as Canadians are perenniallyconcerned with their minority status within the larger NorthAmerican milieu and the Americanization of Canadian culture(see Adams, 2003; Lalonde, 2002). In response to this threat,Canada passed laws and created organizations (e.g., CanadianRadio Television and Telecommunication Commission) tomonitor and regulate external influences (namely American)on Canadian culture (see Mulcahy, 2000). Thus, it would appear that minority group members take action to createdistance between the ingroup and an encroaching majoritygroup when it is perceived that their distinctiveness could belost. Affective Responses to Distinctiveness Threat:Collective Angst There is a growing literature that illustrates how particulargroup-based emotions can lead to specific action tendencies(e.g., Alexander, Brewer, & Herrmann, 1999; Mackie, Devos,& Smith, 2000; Smith, 1999; Smith, Seger, & Mackie, 2007;Wohl, Branscombe, & Klar, 2006). Potential  future  outcomesand the emotions elicited by them, however, have receivedlittle research attention thus far. Because the potential loss of group distinctiveness is an event that  might   occur, emotionalresponses should be future-oriented. Collective angst capturessuch an affective response because it reflects concern aboutwhat might happen to the ingroup at some future point in time(Wohl & Branscombe, 2008, 2009).Importantly, the perceivedthreat that elicits collectiveangstmay be quite removed from the ingroup’s current experience.For example, Wohl and Branscombe (2009) showed thatcollective angst can be elicited by reminders of historicalvictimization experienced by the ingroup even though thoseatrocities were not directly experienced by contemporarygroup members. This is because historical victimization canencourage a siege mentality (i.e., the belief that other groupshave negative intentions toward them; Bar-Tal, 2000; Bar-Tal& Antebi, 1992). At the extreme, group members may believethe ingroup is vulnerable to possible extinction (Eidelson &Eidelson, 2003; Kelman, 1992). Although the group mightcurrently be thriving, there exists lingering concerns that theatrocities experienced in the past might befall the group in thefuture. As a result, group members react to protect the ingroupfrom a potential future loss of distinctiveness.Indeed, because concerns about what the future might holdcompriseanaversivestate(Hogg,2000),peoplewhofeelangsttend to act in ways that are meant to prevent the unwantedfuture from coming to fruition (see Barlow, 1991; Rank, 1914;Sartre, 1956). Thus, when group members perceive that theboundaries between the ingroup and a relevant outgroup mightblur, collective angst should be elicited and members shouldexhibitadesiretoengageiningroupprotectiveaction.Becausegroup distinctiveness is of particular concern for highidentifiers, when potential distinctiveness loss is salient, Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.  Eur. J. Soc. Psychol.  41 , 289–300 (2011) 290  Michael J.A. Wohl  et al.  collective angst should be especially pronounced among thesegroup members. To the extent that group members experiencecollective angst, their desire to protect the ingroup willincrease. Thus, identification should  moderate  the  mediated  effect of collective angst on the relationship between potentialdistinctiveness loss and desire to take action to protect theingroup’s unique identity (see Figure 1). Overview of the Present Research In Experiment 1, we examined the effect of potentialdistinctiveness loss on a community sample of FrenchCanadians who read a newspaper article indicating thatFrench Canadian culture may merge in the future withAnglophone culture or an article about the geography of theprovince of Quebec (control). We predicted that potentialdistinctiveness loss would interact with identification as aFrench Canadian to elicit collective angst, which would, inturn, motivate French Canadians to support Quebec sover-eignty (i.e., independence from Canada).In Experiment 2 we focused on Canadians’ concern about apotential loss of national distinctiveness to the United States.Again, it was hypothesized that potential distinctiveness losswould interact with group identification to influence collectiveangst and, as a result, support for action to protect Canadiansovereignty. In Experiment 3, we once again capitalized onCanadians’ concern about distinctiveness loss to the UnitedStatestotestourhypotheses.Inaddition,wetestedwhethertheeffects of collective angst are distinguishable from otheremotions that may be experienced during negativeevents(e.g.,anger and fear). Because potential loss of distinctivenessfocuses members on  future  threats, dangers, or other negativeevents that might befall their group, emotions that stem fromthis threat should be future-oriented. Thus, collective angst,but not anger or fear (both of which are oriented towardpresent, immediate events), should be elicited by potentialdistinctiveness loss. EXPERIMENT 1Method Participants Forty-two French-Canadians (24 men, 18 women) from theprovince of Quebec participated in this experiment. Theyranged in age from 18 to 65 years of age (  M  ¼ 33.00,SD ¼ 12.84).As an incentive,each participant was enteredin adrawing for one of three gift certificates valued at $50 each. Procedure Participants were recruited via posters placed in variouslocationsaroundthecitiesofGatineau,Montreal,QuebecCity,and Sherbrooke, all located in the province of Quebec. Theposters mentioned that the study concerned issues regardingthe province of Quebec, and provided information forcontacting the researchers (email and phone).Participants were first given a choice about completing thestudy in either French or English (all materials wereconstructed in English, then translated into French and back translated by a second bilingual person). All participantselected to complete the study in French. Upon accessing theonline study, participants were randomly assigned to one of two websites (corresponding to the distinctiveness threat orcontrol condition). In both conditions, participants firstcompleted a measure assessing the extent to which theyidentified as a French-Canadian. They then read one of twoarticles, ostensibly, from a Quebec newspaper. In thedistinctiveness threat condition, participants read an articlereporting that in subsequent generations French and EnglishCanadian culture may become indistinguishable from oneanother. Those participants assigned to the control group readan article on the climate and geography of Quebec. Afterreading the article, participants continued with the dependentmeasures. When the measured variables were completed,participants were probed for suspicion using an open-endeditem (‘‘Describe in your own words, what you think this studyis about’’). No participant discerned the true nature of theexperiment. Thereafter,participantswereautomatically senttoa website that contained debriefing information.  Measured Variables As a check of the manipulation, participants were asked toindicate their agreement with the following statement, ‘‘Inlight of the article I just read, it appears that French Canadianculture and Quebec’s distinctiveness is secure.’’ This item,along with all other items, were rated on a scale anchored at 1( stronglydisagree )and7( stronglyagree ).Fouritems( a ¼ .80)validated by Doosje, Ellemers, and Spears (1995) were used to Identification Distinctiveness Threat Distinctiveness Threat X ID Collective Angst Support for Ingroup Protective Action + + + + Figure 1. Hypothesized mediated-moderation model with distinctiveness threat, identification, and the interaction term as predictors,collective angst as the mediator, and support for ingroup protective action as the outcome Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.  Eur. J. Soc. Psychol.  41 , 289–300 (2011) Collective angst and distinctiveness threat   291  assess the degree to which participants identified with FrenchCanada. These items were: ‘‘I identify with French Canada,’’‘‘I see myself as being a French Canadian,’’ ‘‘I feel strong tiesto other French Canadians,’’ and ‘‘I am pleased to be a FrenchCanadian.’’ Five items adapted from Wohl and Branscombe(2009) were used to assess collective angst ( a ¼ .85). Theseitems were: ‘‘I feel anxious about the future of FrenchCanadian culture,’’ ‘‘I feel confident that French Canadianculture will survive (reverse-scored),’’ ‘‘I feel secure about thefuture of French Canadian culture (reverse-scored),’’ ‘‘I feelthat French Canadian culture will always thrive (reverse-scored),’’ and ‘‘I feel concerned that the future vitality of French Canadian culture is in jeopardy.’’ Support for Quebecsovereignty ( a ¼ .91) was assessed with the following threeitems: ‘‘Sovereignty is the best way to protect the Frenchlanguage in Quebec,’’ ‘‘Sovereignty is the best way to protectFrench culture in Quebec,’’ and ‘‘Sovereignty is the best wayto promote Quebec’s economy.’’ Results Preliminary Analyses Demonstrating a successful manipulation, one-way ANOVArevealed that French-Canadian culture was perceived as lesssecure in the distinctiveness threat condition (  M  ¼ 3.53,SD ¼ 1.23) than in the control condition (  M  ¼ 4.87,SD ¼ 1.87),  F  (1, 40) ¼ 6.15,  p ¼ .01,  h 2 ¼ 0.15. For meansandstandard deviationsofall measured variablesbycondition,see Table 1. Experimental EffectsCollective angst   Collective angst was subjected to amoderated multiple regression (MMR). Identification wascentered and a condition by identification interaction variablewas computed (for this study and all subsequent). Thecollective angst scores were regressed on the distinctivenessmanipulation variable (control ¼ 1, distinctivenessthreat ¼ 1), the centered group identification index, and theinteraction term,  R 2 ¼ 0.33,  F  (3, 38) ¼ 6.22,  p ¼ .002. Whilethe main effect of the distinctiveness threat manipulation wasnot a significant predictor of collective angst,  b ¼ .14, t  (38) ¼ 0.99,  p ¼ .33, identification did predict collectiveangst,  b ¼ .33,  t  (38) ¼ 2.36,  p ¼ .02. As predicted, however,a significant distinctiveness threat by identification interactionqualified these results,  b ¼ .53,  t  (38) ¼ 3.91,  p < .001.Analyses of the simple slopes showed that the distinctivenessthreat manipulation increased collective angst at 1SD abovethe mean of identification,  b ¼ .68,  t  (38) ¼ 3.39,  p ¼ .002.Conversely, the manipulation decreased collective angst at1SD below the mean of identification,  b ¼ .41, t  (38) ¼ 2.15,  p ¼ .04.  Desire for Quebec Sovereignty  The same analyticalapproach as used with collective angst was used for desirefor Quebec sovereignty,  R 2 ¼ 0.32,  F  (3, 38) ¼ 5.93,  p ¼ .002.While the distinctiveness manipulation did not predict desirefor Quebec sovereignty,  b ¼ .002,  t  (38) ¼ 0.07,  p ¼ .99,identification was a significant predictor,  b ¼ .44, t  (38) ¼ 3.16,  p ¼ .003. Importantly, the distinctiveness byidentification interaction term was significant,  b ¼ .42, t  (38) ¼ 3.13,  p ¼ .003. Analyses of the simple slopes, showedthat the distinctiveness threat manipulation increased supportfor Quebec sovereignty at 1SD above the mean of identification,  b ¼ .44,  t  (38) ¼ 2.19,  p ¼ .04. Conversely, themanipulation decreased support for Quebec sovereignty at1SD below the mean of identification,  b ¼ .44, t  (38) ¼ 2.29,  p ¼ .03. Means at 1SD above and below themean of identification are presented by condition in Table 2. Tests of Mediated-Moderation Our next goal was to test a mediated-moderation model. Toestablish mediated-moderation model, moderation must firstbe established. That is, the interaction between the predictorvariables (i.e., the independent variable and the moderatingvariable)significantlypredictstheproposedmediatorvariablesas well as the outcome variable. Next, the predictor variables,their crossproduct(i.e.,the interaction term), andthe proposedmediator variable are simultaneously regressed on an outcomevariable. Mediated-moderation occurs when the mediator, butnot the interaction term, significantly predicts an outcomevariable (see Morgan-Lopez & MacKinnon, 2006).The previous analyses established that the distinctivenessmanipulation by identification interaction predicted bothcollective angst and desire for Quebec sovereignty. Aregression test confirmed that collective angst predicted desirefor sovereignty,  b ¼ .51,  t  (37) ¼ 3.75,  p ¼ .001,  R 2 ¼ 0.26.Consistent with predictions, when collective angst was addedto the MMR model predicting desire for sovereignty, 1  R 2 ¼ 0.38,  F  (4, 37) ¼ 5.79,  p ¼ .001, the distinctivenessmanipulation by identification interaction no longer predicteddesire for sovereignty,  B ¼ .26,  t  (37) ¼ 1.68,  p ¼ .10, butcollective angst remained a significant predictor of desire for Table 1. Means and standard deviations for measured variables bycondition, Experiment 1Control Distinctiveness threatIdentification 6.36 (1.00) a  5.93 (0.95) a Collective angst 4.10 (0.85) a  4.20 (0.98) a Desire for sovereignty 4.54 (1.58) a  4.19 (1.87) a  Note : Comparisons in a given row with different subscripts are significantlydifferent at  p < .05. Numbers in parentheses are standard deviations. Table 2. Estimated means for measured variables at 1SD above andbelow the mean of identification, Experiment 1ControlDistinctivenessthreatIdentification   1SD  þ 1SD   1SD  þ 1SDCollective angst 1.97 a  2.55 a  1.61 b  3.16 c Desire for sovereignty 3.79 a  5.28 a  3.09 b  6.06 c  Note : Comparisons in a given row with different subscripts are significantslopes at  p < .05. Estimated means are based on effect coding (Control ¼ 1,distinctiveness threat ¼ 1). 1 The Preacher and Hayes (2008) macro to conduct mediated-moderationproduces unstandardized (  B ), but not standardized ( b ), regression weights.Therefore, we report  B s and not  b s for this analysis.Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.  Eur. J. Soc. Psychol.  41 , 289–300 (2011) 292  Michael J.A. Wohl  et al.
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