Playing up and playing down cultural identity: Introducing cultural influence and cultural variability

Gail M. Ferguson, Jacqueline Nguyen, Maria I. Iturbide

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objectives: Cultural variability (CV) is introduced as an overlooked dimension of cultural identity development pertaining to emphasizing and de-emphasizing the influence of a single cultural identity (i.e., cultural influence [CI]) on daily interactions and behaviors. The Cultural IDentity Influence Measure (CIDIM) is introduced as a novel measure of CI and CV, and hypothesis-driven validation is conducted in two samples along with exploration of associations between CV and well-being. Method: A multicultural sample of 242 emerging adults participated in a daily diary study (Mage = 19.95 years, SDage = 1.40) by completing up to eight daily online surveys containing the CIDIM, criterion measures (ethnic identity, other group orientation, ethnic identity salience and daily variability in salience, social desirability), and measures of personal and interpersonal well-being. A second validation sample (n = 245) completed a 1-time survey with the CIDIM and a subset of criterion measures. Results: Results using both samples show evidence of CI and CV and demonstrate the validity, reliability, and domainsensitivity of the CIDIM. Further, CV made unique and positive contributions to predicting interaction quality after accounting for ethnic salience and variability in ethnic salience. An analytic approach utilizing standard deviations produced near-identical results to multilevel modeling and is recommended for parsimony. Conclusions: Ethnic minority and majority individuals make daily adjustments to play up and play down the influence of cultural identity on their social interactions and behaviors, and these adjustments predict interpersonal well-being. Cultural influence and cultural variability contribute to our emerging understanding of cultural identity as dynamic and agentic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-124
Number of pages16
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by Grants R25GM062454 and UL1TR000040 from the National Institutes of Health.

Funding Information:
This research was funded in equal parts by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture 1002129 to Gail M. Ferguson and by institutional funds awarded to Jacqueline Nguyen. First and second authorship were determined alphabetically. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2015 biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development in Philadelphia, PA. We extend heartfelt thanks to Linda Owens, Sowmya Anand, and Razia Azen for instrumental statistical consultation on this paper, and to Marcela Raffaelli and Lisa Kiang for helpful comments on a draft of this paper. We also acknowledge the dedicated work of Cagla Giray, Taylor Lindbom and other research assistants who contributed meaningfully to this project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Cultural frame-switching
  • Cultural identity
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Ethnic identity salience
  • Social interactions


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