Does Religion Matter? Italians' Responses towards Muslim and Christian Arab Immigrants as a function of their Acculturation Preferences
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A 2 × 2 × 2 experiment examined the role of immigrants’ religion and perceived acculturation strategy on majority members’ attitudes. Acculturation strategies were manipulated along the two dimensions of contact and culture maintenance. Italian majority members (N = 247) read fictitious but seemingly real interviews with Arab immigrants, in which the immigrants’ religion (Muslim vs. Christian) and acculturation preferences (desire for contact and for culture maintenance) were manipulated. MANOVA showed a main effect of contact: majority members associated immigrants who were perceived to favour contact with more positive attitudes, empathy, trust, positive stereotypes and metastereotypes, and lower levels of threat. MANOVA also showed a main effect of culture maintenance: when immigrants were perceived to abandon their culture, majority members reported lower levels of symbolic threat and greater empathy towards them. A significant Religion x Culture maintenance interaction effect emerged on majority members’ stereotypes and contact intentions: Muslim immigrants who were perceived to abandon their heritage culture elicited more favourable responses than Muslim immigrants who were perceived to maintain their heritage culture. Taken together, these findings suggest that desire for intergroup contact amongst immigrants, independently of their religion, can promote harmonious intergroup relations with the majority group.