Diversity and Identities in Higher Education

Cross-cultural encounters in higher education institutions often raise hidden tension and negative intergroup attitudes. Lately, we have witnessed legislation in various countries that prohibit the wearing of religious signs in public places (e.g. the Burka ban). Nevertheless, stereotyping as an outcome of exposure to religious clothing and symbols has not been sufficiently investigated. The Israeli society is composed of diverse minority groups, and religious symbols are commonly seen in public space, so their role in shaping stereotypes must not be overlooked. The research was conducted in a multicultural college in Israel. We examined the impact of exposure to religious content on mutual attitudes of Jewish and Muslim students. In Study 1 participants were exposed to religious concepts (e.g., Mezuzah, yarmulke or veil) and then they filled questionnaires assessing their stereotypes. The symbols did not affect out-group stereotypes of Jews. However, Muslims perceived Jews as more unpleasant when primed by Jewish symbols, and as more antagonistic when primed by Islamic symbols. Using a different technique of exposing outgroup concepts, Study 2 replicated the findings of Study 1, showing that stereotypes of Jewish students towards Muslims were not influenced by religious content. This research highlights the different consequences of exposure to diverse religious symbols and their potential influence on teaching and learning in classrooms as students engage with each other. Since college students bring an enormous variability of characteristics to encounters, this starting point may help explain the impact of different identities of students on their social relations and learning outcomes.

Attitudes, Religious, Content, Stereotypes

Learner Diversity and Identities

Poster/Exhibit Session