LONDON– Thinking styles and social values of migrants shift rapidly over a single generation to become more similar to those of the wider society they have moved into, new research has indicated.
“This study should allay fears that migrants will fail to integrate because of unalterable social and cultural differences,” said lead study author Alex Mesoudi, associate professor of cultural evolution at the University of Exeter in England.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, assessed members of the British Bangladeshi community in East London’s Tower Hamlets borough, where British Bangladeshis make up 32 percent of the total population.
The team wanted to establish whether previously observed cultural differences in psychological characteristics changed over a single generation.
They carried out an assessment of 108 first generation migrants — people who were born and raised in Bangladesh and had moved to Britain after the age of 14. They also assessed 79 second generation migrants — people born and raised in Britain to two first generation British Bangladeshi migrants.
In line with previous research, they found differences in the psychological characteristics of first generation migrants, compared to non-migrants whose parents were born and raised in Britain.
One example was that first generation British Bangladeshis tended towards collectivism, meaning they were more family-orientated and community-centred, and motivated by teamwork, much like people from other non-Western societies.
Non-migrants living in the same area of East London tended to be less collectivistic, on average.
In just one generation, these differences had significantly reduced. On average, second generation British Bangladeshis showed less collectivism than their parents’ group.
This shift occurred despite them retaining many cultural similarities with their parents. For example, nearly all were Muslim and were fluent Bengali speakers.
“Surveys have shown that half of the British public believe you can’t be ‘truly British’ unless you have British ancestry, but our study shows a rapid shift over a single generation towards the same values and thinking styles, even while the second generation British Bangladeshis retained their sense of heritage identity through language and religion,” Mesoudi noted.