Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Are Japanese Willing to Employ a Chinese Candidate with High Language Proficiency? an Experimental Study of Prejudice in Hiring Decisions

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

Are Japanese Willing to Employ a Chinese Candidate with High Language Proficiency? an Experimental Study of Prejudice in Hiring Decisions

Article excerpt


We investigated the extent to which Japanese hold prejudice attitudes toward Chinese. Japanese participants evaluated the personality and job qualifications of a male job candidate as a function of the candidate's nationality (Japanese, Chinese, or simply Asian), the number of languages he speaks, and the level of the participants' patriotism.The Japanese participants' evaluation of the candidate was not influenced by the candidate's nationality, but was influenced by the number of languages he speaks. The level of the participants' patriotism also influenced their evaluation of the job candidate in expected and unexpected directions. Various implications of the results were discussed.

Keywords: prejudice, hiring decision, Japan-China relation, language proficiency

1. Introduction

Although overt discrimination against Chinese people is rare (e.g., Yang, Power, Takaku, & Posas, 2004), Japanese sentiments toward Chinese have become increasingly negative in recent years, in part owing to China's growing economic and political influences in the world (Nakamura, 2008; Qiu, 2006). For example, Nakamura (2008) reported that Japanese sentiments toward Chinese hit the lowest level since the government started the survey in 1978. Another national survey conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in 2006 also showed that 66.7 percent of the respondents reported that Japan-China relation is "not good"; and the 2002 Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper survey also reported that 55 percent of Japanese respondents thought the Chinese people were unreliable (Qiu, 2006).

In light of these survey reports, many fear that such negative sentiments held by Japanese could easily turn into overt discrimination against Chinese. In fact, there has been an increase in more blatant discrimination against Chinese in recent year as exemplified by a group of Japanese nationalists throwing smoke bombs at the Chinese consulates in the cities of Fukuoka and Nagasaki and organizing a motorcade of several dozen cars to intimidate a bus carrying Chinese tourists in Fukuoka, which prompted Beijing to issue a warning to its citizens about the dangers of visiting Japan (MacKinnon, 2010).To prevent this type of conflicts, it is imperative to explore various ways by which such negative prejudice held by, and discrimination exercised by, Japanese against Chinese could be reduced. Thus, in this study, we attempted to address this very issue by utilizing Allport's (1954) social contact theory and Tajfel and Turner's (1979) social identity theory. Specifically, we examined whether a Chinese person's ability to speak Japanese has any effect on reducing his likelihood of getting discriminated against by Japanese who hold differing levels of patriotic attitude in a job hiring setting.

1.1 Social Psychological Theories on Reducing Prejudice and Discrimination

By far the most influential prejudice reduction theory is Allport's (1954) social contact theory that clarifies four essential conditions for optimal intergroup relationships: (1) equal status between the groups in the situation; (2) common goals; (3) intergroup cooperation; and (4) the support of authorities, law, or custom (Pettigrew &Tropp, 2006). The theory has been tested and supported by past research that examined a variety of issues dealing with inter-group relations (see Davies, Tropp, Aron, Pettigrew, & Wright, 2011; Pettigrew, 1998; Pettigrew &Tropp, 2006). These studies have consistently shown that an application of the theory helps build positive inter-group relationships (e.g., Anderson, 1995; Binder et al., 2009; Desforges, Lord, Ramsey, Mason, Van, & West, 1991; Drew, 1988; Haddock, Zanna, & Essess, 1993).

In addition to the four conditions above, Pettigrew (1998) argued that "friendship potential" (p. 76) is a fifth, and the most essential, component that ensures the most optimal intergroup relation. He stated that the cross-group contact situations must provide participants with the opportunity to become friends, requiring extensive and repeated intergroup contacts as exemplified by the famous Robbers Cave study by Sherif and his colleagues (1961). …

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