The past as a determinant of the present: Historical continuity, collective angst, and opposition to immigration

Authors


Jolanda Jetten, School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia.

E-mail: j.jetten@psy.uq.edu.au

Abstract

We propose that the perceived continuity between a group's past and present can be a psychological resource that provides confidence in the group's future vitality, thereby reducing the need to preserve identity. In two studies, English participants were told that there was continuity or discontinuity between England's past and present. Both studies showed that higher identifiers (but not lower identifiers) experienced more collective angst (i.e., concern for the group's future) and were more opposed to immigration when English history was presented as discontinuous compared with continuous. Importantly, collective angst mediated the effect of the historical continuity manipulation on opposition to immigration. We conclude that, particularly among those higher in group identification, perceived discontinuity of the group's past can undermine the perceived vitality of the future, thereby increasing the need to preserve current collective identity. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Ancillary