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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1978 May;36(5):511-20.

Salience of ethnicity in the spontaneous self-concept as a function of one's ethnic distinctiveness in the social environment.


How likely people are to think of themselves in terms of a given personal characteristic is predicted from the distinctiveness postulate that the person, when confronted by a complex stimulus (such as the self), selectively notices and encodes the stimulus in terms of what is most peculiar about it, since these peculiar characteristics are the most informative in distinguishing it from other stimuli. This partial view of the person as an information-encoding machine (one is conscious of oneself insofar as, and in the ways that, one is different) is used to derive four predictions implying that ethnic identity is salient in children's spontaneous self-concepts to the extent that their ethnic group is in the minority in their social milieu at school. Our measure of salience of ethnicity was its being spontaneously mentioned by the children in response to a nondirective "Tell us about yourself" question. All four predictions were confirmed, though for several of the findings there are plausible alternative explanations.

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