Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Anne P. DePrince, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer E. Cornish, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Stephen Shirk

Fourth Advisor

Julia Dmitrieva

Fifth Advisor

Omar Gudino


Negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration, American national identity


Research in intergroup relations has found evidence for economic and moral explanations for negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration (NATII), and has evaluated various communication strategies for shifting these attitudes. However, no research to date has provided a cultural explanation for NATII, or tested and compared the impact of communication strategies for reducing NATII, in the American context. This study extended prior research in three ways. First, we tested a model that linked various psychosocial factors together (i.e., right-wing authoritarianism, intergroup contact, cultural essentialism, and symbolic threat) to provide a cultural explanation for NATII. Second, we tested the effect of a particular communication strategy (i.e., involving familiar American national identity messages based on the Common Ingroup Identity Model (CIIM)) on NATII and related model variables (i.e., symbolic threat). Third, we tested the model and communication strategy in relation to two different immigrant groups in the American context (i.e., undocumented Latino immigrants and Syrian refugees). The study sample (n = 562) was recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk and closely approximated the demographic composition of the native-born, adult United States population. Results of path and ANCOVA analyses revealed three key findings. First, we found support for a model that provides a viable and meaningful cultural explanation for NATII, whereby symbolic threat emerged as a partial mediator of relationships between right-wing authoritarianism and NATII, and intergroup contact and NATII. Second, we did not find support for the effect of a communication strategy based on the CIIM in reducing symbolic threat or NATII. Third, we found support for a significant effect of immigrant group of focus on symbolic threat and NATII, such that slightly different versions of the model held in relation to undocumented Latino immigrants versus Syrian refugees. We discuss the implications of these findings for future research that evaluates explanations for NATII and interventions for reducing NATII.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Tejaswinhi Srinivas


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

78 p.



Included in

Psychology Commons