Intergroup Anxiety and Attitudes toward Muslims: The Effects of Religious Identity Salience and Message Politeness Strategies
Maer, Maria Natalia Damayanti
University of Kansas
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Guided by intergroup contact theory, social identity theory, and politeness theory, this experimental study examined the effects of the target’s Muslim religious identity salience (high and low) and message politeness strategies (direct and indirect) on non-Muslim American participants’ (N = 413) perceptions of quality of contact, intergroup anxiety, and their effects on attitudes toward the Muslim group as a whole. In addition, the present study examined the indirect effects of religious identity salience and message politeness strategies through the participants’ perceptions of intergroup anxiety on the individual and group level contact outcomes. Participants first answered demographic questions through an online survey, then read a passage which described a situation where they missed a class meeting during which an important group project requiring students to work in pairs was assigned. As the participants were absent, their partner, the Muslim target, had to do all the work. After reading the passage, the participants were randomly assigned to view the target’s Facebook page featuring the same sex counterpart, and then read the email sent by the target. The Facebook page was varied to reflect the target’s high and low Muslim religious identity salience, and the email was varied to reflect the direct and indirect message politeness strategies. Supporting Hypothesis 1, results indicated that participants reported a higher level of religious differences between themselves and the target in the high religious identity salience condition than in the low salience condition. In addition, results demonstrated that perceived religious differences was a negative predictor of the participants’ perceptions of communication satisfaction with the target and cognitive, affective, and behavioral attitudes toward Muslims in general. Results also showed that message politeness strategies significantly and positively predicted the participants’ perceptions of communication satisfaction with the target, perceptions of the target’s communication effectiveness and communication appropriateness, and cognitive and affective attitudes toward Muslims in general. Moreover, intergroup anxiety was negatively predicted by the target’s religious identity salience, message politeness strategies, and perceived religious differences. Hence, Hypothesis 2 was partially supported. Furthermore, supporting Hypothesis 3, there were significant indirect effects of religious identity salience on communication satisfaction, communication effectiveness, and communication appropriateness, and attitudes (cognitive, affective, behavioral) toward the Muslim group as a whole through participants’ perceptions of religious differences and then through intergroup anxiety. Finally, Hypothesis 4 also received full support. There were significant indirect effects of message politeness strategies on the participants’ perceptions of communication satisfaction with the target and judgements of the target’s message appropriateness and effectiveness, and the participants’ affective and behavioral dimension of attitude through intergroup anxiety. Findings in this study have provided empirical evidence for the role of message politeness strategies in exacerbating or alleviating intergroup anxiety, which ultimately affected the intergroup outcomes of contact. This study also has provided insights on how religious identity salience and perceived religious differences affected contact outcomes. Discussions of the major findings are grounded upon intergroup contact theory (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew, 1998), social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986), and politeness theory (Brown & Levinson, 1987).
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