Motivated prejudice behind the 'perpetual foreigner syndrome'

A map of the world with Australia and Asia visible and red dots scattered around
(Unsplash: Martin Sanchez)

Michael Thai, University of Queensland

Asian Australians (and other members of Asian diaspora communities in Western nations) are chronically perceived and treated as though they are foreigners, and their loyalty to Australia is routinely questioned. The extant literature demonstrates, quite consistently, that Asian faces are considered substantially more “foreign” than White faces in a variety of Western contexts, including Australia. Recent work shows that Asian Australian individuals are rated as less Australian than White Australian individuals, even when they are depicted as Australian-born and heavily immersed in Australian culture. My project examines the factors that could explain this discrepancy in perceptions of national identity. It will uncover the cues that people use, other than birthplace and acculturation, to judge the national identity of Asian Australians. The project will also examine the influence of individual differences on perceptions of national identity and explore whether presumptions of foreignness may be a manifestation of motivated prejudice towards Asian people. In turn, the project also aims to determine whether factors known to reduce prejudice are also associated with lowered presumptions of foreignness. By elucidating the factors that could potentially disrupt presumptions of foreignness, this project will lay the theoretical foundation to promote inclusion in Australia.

Dr Michael Thai is a lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University of Queensland. He is a 2021 recipient of the Freilich Project ECR Small Grant

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