Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Victoria Esses


Research has long demonstrated that negative types of national attachment, like nationalism, are related to relatively more negative intergroup attitudes while more positive forms of national identity, like patriotism, are either related to relatively more positive attitudes or unrelated. Most of this research has been conducted using individual difference measures of national identity. This series of studies seeks to test the difference between nationalism and patriotism empirically, by examining the idea that the presence of social comparison is what separates nationalism from patriotism. Further, the literature suggests that perceptions of competition between groups are an important factor in determining intergroup relations. Therefore, I am also interested in exploring the potential mediational role of perceptions of competition. In four studies, my goals were: (1) to determine whether the previously demonstrated relations between individual differences in nationalism and patriotism and attitudes toward immigrants would replicate; (2) to determine whether making social comparisons (downward versus upward) affects participants attitudes toward immigrants, and whether these parallel the effects found for individual differences in nationalism; and (3) to examine the potential meditational role of perceived competition. Study 1 is a correlational study examining nationalism and patriotism as predictors of attitudes and emotions toward immigrants. In Study 2, I introduce a social comparison manipulation to determine if making downward social comparisons (comparing one’s nation to another nation that is considered worse off) between one’s nation and another lead to less positive intergroup attitudes. In Studies 3a and 3b, I attempt to replicate Study 2, and also examine the effects of upward social comparison (comparing one’s nation to another nation that is considered better off). Across the studies, my results suggest that making downward social comparisons results in relatively less favorable attitudes toward immigrants. I also found some support for the idea that these relations are mediated by perceptions of competition between immigrants and other Canadians. Finally, I consistently replicated previous findings that the nationalism individual difference variable predicted relatively less positive intergroup attitudes while patriotism was either related to relatively more positive intergroup attitudes or unrelated to attitudes. Implications for national identity theory as well as immigrants and immigration to Canada are discussed.