Shades of American or Dimensions of Difference

Date of Completion

January 2010


American Studies|Psychology, Social|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




The present dissertation examined whether there were shades of Americanness or multiple dimensions underlying what it means to be American and the extent to which there were implications for how the American identity is defined. Study 1 used a category norm framework to explain why White equals American. Study 2 used multidimensional scaling and demonstrated that groups may be defined along ethnic or civic national terms, specifically nativism and cultural similarity. Study 3 examined the consequences of being classified as an American (citizen) or not (noncitizen). Targets who were citizens received less severe and less ostracizing punishments than targets that were noncitizens. Study 4 investigated the effects of race on punishment. Latinos and Asians were deported more than Blacks and Whites. Study 5 directly manipulated perceived nativity and cultural similarity and examined the consequences for members of different racial/ethnic groups. When these two dimensions (cultural similarity and nativity) were compared to conditions in the previous studies, these targets received lower recommendations for harsher and more ostracizing punishments. Future research directions are discussed. ^