Monday, 6 March 2017

If Collectivists like Social Groups, and Cities are Social Groups, do Collectivists like Cities?

Do you like the place where you live? Maybe it's got great architecture, it's clean and crime free, the housing is cheap, and/or the nightlife is good? But maybe your liking for the place is also related to something else - your own tendency to identify with social groups? In some recent research, my colleagues and I investigated this issue by considering the relations between collectivism, city identification, and city evaluation.

Collectivism is a sociocultural orientation towards perceiving the self and others as belonging to social groups, and it influences the extent to which people identify with social groups. The more collectivist you are, the more strongly you identify with social groups.  Prior research has found that people who identify strongly with a place tend to like that place more. Hence, it is possible that people who are relatively high in collectivism identify strongly with the place that they live and, consequently, evaluate that place more positively.

To investigate this possibility, my colleagues and I sampled 1,660 residents of four cities in three countries: Newcastle, Australia; Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; and Istanbul, Turkey. Participants completed an online survey containing measures of collectivism, city identification, and city evaluation. We found that, within each city sample and across the combined samples, a specific measure of collectivism called collective interdependent self-construal was positively related to city evaluation. We also found that city identification mediated this relation. Hence, people's general tendency to construe social groups as part of their self (collectivism; e.g., “The groups I belong to are an important reflection of who I am”) predicted their level of identification with their city (city identification; e.g., "I identify with other people living in Sydney"), which in turn helped to explain their positive appraisal of that city (city evaluation).

A key limitation of our research is that it employed a cross-sectional correlational design, which prevented us from drawing clear conclusions about the causal direction of the relations that we observed. Future research should employ a longitudinal research design in order to provide clearer conclusions on this issue.

The present research results imply that the social psychological group processes that are responsible for people's identification with and evaluation of social groups based on gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc. may also apply to cities because, at their base, cities are social groups.

For further information please see the following journal article:

Rubin, M., Badea, C., Condie, J., Mahfud, Y., Morrison, T., & Peker, M. (2017). Individual differences in collectivism predict city identification and city evaluation in Australian, French, and Turkish cities Journal of Environmental Psychology, 50, 9-16 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2017.01.007

For a self-archived version, please click here.