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Bilingualism, acculturation and intercultural mediation

We know bilingualism and cultural diversity are two defining characteristics of Canadian society, but how does bilingualism affect our ability to understand and embrace other cultures (acculturation) and our willingness to mediate intercultural conflicts? These questions are central to innovative cross-cultural research by Sara Rubenfeld, a doctoral candidate in experimental psychology.

A native of Winnipeg, Rubenfeld chose the University of Ottawa for the opportunity to work with psychology professor Richard Clément, whose research lies at the crossroads of theories on bilingualism and intercultural psychology.

"I'm interested in exploring how bilingualism relates to an individual's degree of acculturation and willingness to mediate intercultural conflicts," explains Rubenfeld. In an effort to gauge acculturation, she is designing new ways of measuring the consistency between two key factors: how a person thinks about a new culture and how he or she behaves when adjusting to a new cultural setting.

"In contrast to unilingual people, the results for bilingual individuals show that they tend to be both more acculturated and more willing to mediate intercultural conflicts," says Rubenfeld. Acculturation and intercultural mediation: two more reasons to encourage bilingualism.