Our identities are influenced by the world we live in and the people we interact with and Daniel Nadolny wants to understand how our links with people from other cultures and groups effects how we see ourselves.
His research work examines changing how people think about their connection to other people and how this can be used to influence their concepts of both themselves and others. "I'm interested in learning how our self concepts are shaped by what's around us," he said.
His graduate work at the University of Waterloo was about creating a connection between his study participants and someone from a different culture. He and his fellow researchers created a fictional Facebook profile for a person named Jamie, who had interests that matched those of their study participants. They then engaged in an online conversation and were asked to think about and respond to questions about how they were like Jamie and how Jamie was like them.
The study found that shared interests created a quick connection with the other person and a perceived potential for friendship. Cross-group friendships also appear to be an effective way to break down barriers. When we connect with someone outside of our own cultural group there's potential for more cross-cultural experiences and stronger reactions to racism against that other group.
"When people feel connected and think how they are like the other person, they are more interested in the other person's culture, care more about that person's group, and act friendlier during an online conversation," said Nadolny. "When people feel connected and think of how the other person is like them, they seem to project their own personality onto the other person, and they don't really care about learning about the other's culture or group."
In his work with the Grenfell Campus Psychology department, Nadolny is expanding his research to study student's environmental identity within the campus culture. "I looked at getting students to think about their relationship to the campus in relation to the environment, while reminding them of the ways that Grenfell is an environmentally friendly campus," he said. "When they felt connected and thought of how they had become part of the campus, they expressed a stronger environmental identity and a greater interest to compost when compared to when they felt connected to the campus and thought about how the campus had become a part of them."
He'll be conducting a similar study on the topic of connection to Aboriginal culture this fall. "I have a lot of interest in how identity influences our goals and actions and I'm also generally concerned about social issues like the environment and diversity. My research is a natural fit that combines the two," said Nadolny.
Nadolny said that his research has the potential help businesses and other groups looking to create a strong organizational culture. "This work could help people adapt organizational cultures more easily," he said. "I'm also very hopeful that this is something that could help facilitate friendships between different cultures."
Grenfell Campus Start-up Grant
Grenfell Campus VP Research Award
David Cwir – Tyndale University College
Steven J. Spencer – University of Waterloo
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Throughout the semester we will highlight some of the interesting research taking place at Grenfell Campus. The articles will appear here and will be compiled on the research webpage.
Article prepared by Alli Johnston