Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Immigrants--Public opinion; Psycholinguistics; Threat (Psychology); Dominance (Psychology); Marginality, Social;


Immigrants often speak languages that natives do not understand, leading to intentional or inadvertent ostracism, which in turn may increase perceptions of threat. For example, English language participants excluded from a conversation in Spanish report more negative reactions than participants excluded in English (Hitlan, Kelly, & Zarate, 2010). Integrated threat theory (ITT) suggests that there are four threats that lead to prejudice toward outgroups such as immigrants: realistic threat, symbolic threat, intergroup anxiety, and negative stereotypes (Stephan, Ybarra, & Bachman, 1999). The current study expanded upon prior research by ostracizing participants in English, Spanish, or Arabic and then measuring participants' attitudes toward immigrants using measures of these four ITT concepts.

Further, the personality trait of social dominance orientation (SDO) correlates with unfavorable attitudes toward immigrants (Esses, Jackson, & Armstrong, 1998). People high in SDO want their social group to dominate and subordinate groups they consider inferior, so they may be particularly bothered by language-based ostracism. In this study, I also examined whether SDO moderated the effects of ostracism in situations where participants were ostracized. Eighty-five college students participated in a computer-based chat with a confederate posing as two other participants. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of four conditions: Spanish-language exclusion, Arabiclanguage exclusion, English-language exclusion, or English-language inclusion (control group). Excluded participants reported feeling less accepted than included participants. Furthermore, participants in the Spanish and Arabic exclusion conditions reported feeling less accepted than the participants in the English exclusion condition. Unexpectedly, language-based exclusion did not affect attitudes toward immigrants and the effects were not moderated by SDO. However, participants who were higher in SDO reported greater realistic threat, symbolic threat, and negative stereotypes. Although language-based exclusion decreases feelings of acceptance, it may not change or create negative attitudes toward immigrant populations.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Helen Harton, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 91 pages)



File Format