What is “acculturation?”

Travis DixonSocial and Cultural Psychology

Acculturation is a broad term that refers to the process of interacting with a secondary culture and adjusting to life in that culture.

Acculturation is the process of interacting with a new culture and adjust to life in that new culture. How we acculturate can affect our behaviour, including our mental health.

In IB Psychology, we’re required to study how this process of interacting with new culture can affect our behaviour. For this reason, when you see the term “acculturation” it might be easier to think of “acculturation strategies.” This will make it easier to explain how acculturation can affect behaviour because you can look at how adopting different acculturation strategies can have different effects on behaviour, including mental health.

Studying acculturation strategies as a specific example of “acculturation” is similar to studying testosterone as a specific example of “hormones.”

So what is an “acculturation strategy?”

The cross-cultural psychologist John Berry has identified four different ways people acculturate in a new culture. They are:

  • Assimilation: This is when someone loses their home culture and completely adopts their new culture’s values and norms.
  • Integration: This is when someone has a foot in both camps, so to speak: they participate in their new culture and adopt some of the norms and values, while still maintaining strong relationships with their home culture.
  • Separation: This is when someone rejects the new culture and doesn’t participate in it. They prefer instead to stick with their home culture.
  • Marginalization: This is when someone rejects their new culture and their home culture. They do not belong to either group.
acculturation strategies

Your behaviour can change depending on what acculturation strategy you adopt when adjusting to life in a new culture. Research shows that those who “integrate” have the best psychological outcomes.