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Our beliefs about nationality are mixed, malleable and may help explain attitudes toward immigration

08 May 2018

What is nationality? Is it something fixed that we inherit biologically from our parents or is it a characteristic that we can change and acquire?

new study in Nature Human Behaviour is the first to study people’s “folk theories” about nationality – based on surveys of US and Indian participants – and the results show that, at least in these countries, people are broadly sympathetic toward both these contrasting theories of nationality at the same time, although with a bias toward the fluid theory.

The relative strength of people’s endorsement of the theories at any given time depended on the way questions about nationality were framed, the researchers found.

Moreover, and perhaps most interesting for future investigation, the results showed people’s ideas about nationality were tied to their attitudes toward immigration, even after factoring out any differences in political leanings.

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