A Perspective on Interaction Across Diverse Populations1

Barbara Reeder Lundquist 

Why are we so surprised when other people perceive things differently from the way that we know things are? Why do we persist in our efforts to demonstrate to them that our perceptions are the ones that match with reality "out there"? Why do we expect people to alter their perceptions before we can interact respectfully with them? It is probably cultural, right? What, in general, are we up against?


From a psychological perspective, misperception is not possible (Carlsen 1972) since, as individual human beings, we each perceive what we perceive—not what someone else perceives. The perceptual "rules" we use to select and suppress information from our environment reflect our individual backgrounds. This background includes our experience, as well as our intelligence, inheritance, mental and physical health. Each of these attributes affect our perception. They also affect our cognitive processes. We make sense of our observations, store them, and formulate the knowledge and skills to which we attach values and beliefs and in terms of which we interact with each other.

If our goal is mutually respectful human interaction in culturally plural settings,2 this psychological perspective on the process by means of which we perceptually and cognitively deal with our environment becomes an especially useful one. With this perspective in place, we can understand that few, if any, human beings will perceive things exactly as we do. The informative power of our interaction with each other may even be increased with our awareness that there are many ways to perceive things. This awareness supports our characteristic curiosity and interest in reports of what others perceive. It also assists us to make sense of those reports3 for the purposes of our development as human beings.

Human Development

Human development extends past childhood. From a social-psychological perspective it is a lifelong process (Zigler and Seitz 1978). Our perception and the "shape" of our reporting4 or expression of personal perceptions forged by our cultural experience, intelligence, inherited characteristics, and physical and mental health, can undergo many refinements and adaptations over our lifetime. Understanding the nature of our perceptions and our expression of them, at any stage of development, can inform us about the effects of our background, of our own experience, and of the nature of our expectations. This personal information can also help us to understand the possibilities for us that are implied by the reports of others' experiences and expectations.

The psychological perspective emphasizes the developmental or educational opportunities offered by interaction across cultural boundaries for broadening our perceptual experience and cognitive development. Both the possibilities and value of education rely upon demonstrations that our individual perception, as well as our reports of what we perceive, can be affected by others' expectations. Formal and informal education processes provide experience with conventional, consensually ratified structures that have been observed to be effective for developing, maintaining, and expanding the knowledge, the skills, and the technologies which comprise cultural practices. However, there are stubborn problems here in cross-cultural settings.

A proliferating sea of equally valued cultural perceptions makes coherent individual action more difficult. It also creates problems for sustained social interaction and for effective collective action. Perceptual "glosses," emphases, inhibitions, or norms appear to be necessary to structure or inhibit the flow of perceptual information in order for human beings to deal effectively, or perhaps at all, with an endlessly informative environment. Culture-specific expectations connected with our habitus (cultural heritage) and ethos (internalized values) (Bourdieu 1973; Harker 1984) are learned over our lifetimes through informal and formal socialization processes including schooling. These help us to select and structure our perception in this ocean of potential information which the senses could transmit to us. But they also limit and restrain possibilities.

There seem to be just as many difficulties for individual action, for social interaction, and for collective action when culture-specific socialization systems become closed down. Consensually supported traditional knowledge and skills utilizing traditional technologies can allow us to avoid the possibilities of alternatives. As value is added to traditional cultural expectations, they can become barriers to alternative perceptions. This process forms the basis for such "isms" as sexism, racism, and ageism. Where traditional cultural expectations become atrophied, they can become resistant to re-examination in light of new observations. Where this happens, our goal of respectful cross-cultural human interaction is made difficult, and that difficulty is transmitted to others. Human development through interaction and adaptation in light of observation and information from the experience of others is part of our historical record. Cultural barriers can keep us from taking advantage of this interactive component in culturally plural societies, especially where there is no cultural policy for developing skills (Brislin 1989) observed to be necessary to interact effectively across cultural boundaries. Of course, psychologists say that perception occurs anyway; it cannot be completely shut down.

In the United States, multiple cultural systems are in constant contact. Credible reports of alternative cultural perspectives are ubiquitous, and opportunities for cross-cultural experience are easily available. Cross-cultural experience has been a matter of survival for some of us. Others of us have been intrigued enough to attempt to broaden our perceptual boundaries through a variety of cross-cultural experience and interaction. Some of us have taken in the expressive symbols of unfamiliar cultures, in spite of ourselves. A flood of literature describing resulting alterations in perspectives on human beings and human interaction in culturally diverse communities reflects considerable research as well as personal observation. What does this literature tell us about other systems involved in interaction in culturally diverse populations? One of the major concerns is ethnicity.


Driving much cross-cultural research that deals with human interaction—espe-cially in education—has been the theory that with increasing contact among culturally diverse populations, there would be a gradual decrease in cultural differences among us, and that the incidence and perceived need for ethnicity—at least as an organizational structure in social interaction—would also decrease. This has not been the case.

In the intercultural communication literature of cross-cultural psychology (Asante and Gudykunst 1989), ethnicity, as an organizational structure in terms of which we both identify ourselves and interact with each other, is alive, well, and proliferating. From an anthropological perspective, Roosens (1989) provides evidence of this. He states that newly emerging cultural differences, some deliberately introduced, are observable even as some differences have been aculturally eliminated. Contrary to our intuition, he cites evidence that the social border created by the maintenance or re-formulation of ethnicity is observed to be prevalent in situations in which there is continuing contact between us within a limited geographical space, even where the political structure is overarching. This is especially evident where the historical or political context encourages ethnicity as a means of negotiating for the power necessary for particular groups of us to survive within an environment which threatens that survival. Roosens' argument is that ethnicity is not hierarchical. Therefore, it provides a non-hierarchical dimension, or equivalency, upon which a power base can be constructed that allows co-equal negotiation with traditionally inaccessible hierarchical economic and/or class/caste power structures. In fact, Roosens points out that ethnicity is an important dimension for political manipulation from all sides. But there is more to it.

In his study of the construction of ethnicity and how it works, Roosens examines the importance of ethnicity as a dimension along which we organize ourselves socially. He reminds us that there are profoundly affective issues related to our backgrounds. In its broadest application, ethnicity offers the comfortable social framework, the communality of cultural processes, language, artifacts, style and values which not only assist us to identify ourselves with others for the purpose of greasing interaction processes, but also create identity in the first place. In fact, we have been observed to invent, adopt, or adapt culture in order to develop ethnicity as an essential form of social organization. Continuity over time is not necessary. Any history begins in a moment of time. "Traditions" are quite swiftly formed when they are useful and effective in meeting human needs. This is evident in the degree of current acceptance, across ethnic groups, of western social values and material resources.

Where does this leave us if cultural diversity in differing degrees will be with us always? If "the ethnicity system" in human interaction does not go away and the informal and formal socialization systems involved in human development fail to prepare us with skills necessary (Brislin 1989; Furnham and Bochner 1986) for mutually respectful cross-cultural interaction, what do we have to rely upon as we interact in this diverse environment? Where can we discover the possibilities for developing effective social interaction, or even social cohesion, in these observations of the steady state of ethnic divisions among human beings?

In-Group Bias

Brewer (1979) discusses in-group bias from a psychological perspective in her review of studies of in-group bias in human interaction. She reviews earlier studies which have examined the bases we use for in-group and out-group differentiation, as well as the measures on which in-group bias is assessed. She reports that such factors as "intergroup competition, similarity, and status differentials affect in-group bias indirectly by influencing the salience of distinctions between in-group and out-group" (Brewer 1979:307). Even more, the degree of differentiation between groups is a function of both the relevance of "intergroup distinctions and the favorableness of the in-group's position" (Brewer 1979:307) along the dimension upon which the response was requested. She also finds that the studies indicate that "enhancement of in-group bias is more related to increased favoritism toward in-group members than to increased hostility toward out-group members" (Brewer 1979:307). The perceptual-cognitive processes we have already discussed support our understanding of the finding that "any categorization rule that provides a basis for classifying an individual as belonging to one social grouping as distinct from another can be sufficient to produce differentiation of attitudes toward the two groups" (Brewer 1979:308).

However, Brewer found that there are studies, especially connected to arbitrary division of groups—where rationale is absent and there is limited interaction—in which no significant differences were observed in evaluation of in-group versus out-group members using trait ratings. She argues that these findings suggest "that there are lower limits to the effects of grouping on interpersonal perceptions" (Brewer 1979:309). Conditions requiring cooperation, structure of intergroup tasks, differential shared fate, evaluations of group performance, and degree of similarity appear to be involved in creating differences in in-group bias. But "any of the situational factors found to be associated with the enhancement of in-group bias can be subsumed under the effect of the salience of the distinction between in-group and out-group" (Brewer 1979:319). We have stated that if our goal is respectful human interaction, it might be that the salience of distinction between in-and out- groups and the bias created might be lessened. But this would be difficult to effect, since Brewer's review argues that once the bases for categorization become salient, some studies seem to indicate that "the degree of bias obtained is fairly constant despite further variations in out-group similarity...or in opportunity for cooperative interaction" (Brewer 1979:319).

Even so, Brewer points out that in-group bias may not be constant across all dimensions of response; that, in fact, it appears that "in-group bias results from a motivated search to represent the differences between groups along dimensions that favor the in-group" (1979:320). Among those dimensions she identifies as most reliable in evaluative in-group bias are those associated with normative expectations of intragroup behavior. She gives examples such as honesty, loyalty and being worthy of trust. These become reciprocal stereotypes for in-groups. This is further borne out by studies which indicate that such factors as shared success and similarity among members of a group build cohesiveness in that group, suggesting that the introduction of a boundary between the in-group and others, and working to differentiate it from non-members is a description of the common process. This places the emphasis on the positiveness of in-group identity; in fact, Brewer cites studies in which evaluation of group performance can have more of an effect on an individual than evaluation of personal performance5. What about positive cultural identity? Many school districts are deciding that this is a basic issue in building interactive competence. Could "self-esteem" be pivotal in effective cross-cultural interaction?


In the course of Brewer's review, positive social identity is mentioned as it is connected with cohesiveness of social groups, as well as in-group and out-group categorization of social groups. This refers us to a review of literature (Phinney 1990), which suggests that positive social identity, or self-identity, is one of the functions of ethnicity. Phinney's review6 indicates that "ethnic identity is central to the psychological functioning" (1990:499) of individuals within ethnic and racial groupings. She reports that there have been relatively few studies of ethnic identity as the relation of members to their own ethnic and racial groupings. She points out that there are difficulties with definitions of ethnic identity and with perspectives on it, or the way it functions. As an example, questions have to do with the degree to which an individual plays an active or passive role in a self-selected, dynamic process, versus a prescriptive, achieved state of ethnic identity. Phinney reports that researchers who study changes in ethnic identity that occur in situations of contact with other cultural groups seem to agree that "ethnic identity is a dynamic concept" (1990:508).

This dynamic concept of ethnic identity is supported by Banks (1988), who, for educational purposes, has developed a typology of the stages of ethnicity. As with all structures dealing with ideal types, it has to be considered as an intellectual construct and not one that appears with these exact divisions in real life. However, he begins with the stage of ethnic, psychological captivity. From a perceptual perspective, one can conceive of this initial stage as one in which a person has little thought of the possibility of alternative ways of perceiving the world and little perceptual distance between life as it is being lived and the individual's awareness of it, other than the internalization of negative or positive attitudes about his/her own ethnicity. The individual lives within and is absorbed by the boundaries formed by the traditions and values of the ethnic group of birth or early socialization, the limitations of those boundaries, and the effects of others' judgements regarding its worth. Banks argues that it is in this stage that some individuals internalize negative valuations of their ethnicity. In a processual or developmental conception, Banks conceives of the next stage as ethnic encapsulation in that it involves perceiving everything in light of one's ethnicity. This is the stage of ethnocentrism, the awareness of one's ethnicity and its importance, and separatism, or, as Ravitch (1990) identifies it in educational contexts, particularism. Ethnic identity clarification takes place as an individual begins to examine and acknowledge his/her place in an ethnic group and ways in which that ethnicity has been adjusted to reflect the individual's personal observation and experience. Biethnicity follows, that variable condition in which a person is able, to some degree, to operate effectively in more than one cultural context. As Banks points out, many citizens of the United States whose background is different from that of dominant groups in their particular social context function biethnically. The penultimate stage of Banks' model is multiethnicity and reflective nationalism in which the realization of the possibility of transcultural competence across cultural settings and necessary commitment to it may lead to the ideal of global competency. Banks' conception of ethnicity as a process, with continuity and developmental possibilities, is consonant with the cross-cultural psychological research. It also reflects important transitional perspectives (Adler 1975) on the effects of cross-cultural experience among psychologists.

Roosens (1989) also supports this perspective of ethnic identity as dynamic. He has observed that individuals may prefer one or another aspect of their ethnic identity, and may find that they create, invert, or change aspects of their ethnicity as they move through social situations and over time. He points out that "the ethnic past" is always a subjective reconstruction" (Roosens 1989:17). In fact, there may be occasions where their ethnicity has no significance for them, but he believes it does when, for example, the authority of other social structures is declining.

Let us relate this dynamic concept of ethnic identity back to its connection with self-esteem. Phinney reports that "a key issue in conceptual writing about ethnic identity has been the role of group identity in the self-concept" (Phinney 1990:507). The research regarding the connection between self-esteem and measures of ethnic identity presents conflicting findings. These studies "permit no definitive conclusion about [the role of ethnic identity] in self-esteem" (Phinney 1990:508). However, other research suggests "that a positive self-concept may, instead, be related to the process of identity formation—that is, to the extent to which people have come to an understanding and acceptance of their ethnicity" (Phinney 1990:508). This is congruent with the previous discussion of the perception system, in which it was stated that an individual's self-knowledge about the perceptual rules being used in a personal construction of the world might be useful in the mutually respectful human interaction which is our goal. However, Phinney states that questions remain regarding "the implication of ethnic identity for psychological adjustment" (Phinney 1990:510). The increasing phenomenon "of people from mixed backgrounds" (Phinney 1990:511) also needs more study. So, she believes that the "role of ethnic identity in self-esteem, its relationship to acculturation, and its place in the development of personal identity" (Phinney 1990:511) remains unclear. This system, although it affects interaction, does not seem to yield principles we can rely upon to reach our goal of mutually respectful human interaction.

Problems in social science with research on self-esteem are also reported (Smelser 1989). Smelser states that self-esteem remains a complicated matter both conceptually and for research design. Although it is intuitively recognized that there is probably a link between variations in self-esteem and social problems, he points out that "the news most consistently reported, however, is that the associations between self-esteem and its expected consequences are mixed, insignificant, or absent" (Smelser 1989:15). He suggests that "the main conclusion to be drawn...is that the social-psychological variable of self-esteem is simultaneously one of the most central and one of the most elusive factors in understanding and explaining the behaviors that constitute major social problems" (Smelser 1989:19).

So, both from the psychological perspective, as reported by Phinney, and the social perspective, as discussed by Smelser, the systems of positive social or ethnic identity and self-esteem, however important, remain problematic in terms of reliable information upon which we can base our discussion of interaction. Our present goal is to survey systems affecting respectful human interaction. While the self-valuation of the interactors is intuitively important to the quality of the interaction, it is likely that interactions between people can always be expected to involve the possibility of differing degrees of self-esteem, of different perceptions of social and ethnic identity. But another critical factor in their interaction is the goal of the interactors.


Questions regarding the purposes of participants in cross-cultural interaction are raised throughout the literature. From different cultural perspectives, exploration becomes conquest, missionaries become agents of foreign governments, and expressive arts become symbols used to retain power differentials. In fact, Bourdieu (1973; see also Harker 1984) perceives human interaction as the means of maintaining and reproducing social structures. His perspective encourages us to understand ourselves, in interaction with each other, as agents of history; as agents of social and cultural reproduction. For him, sociopolitical issues are always present in interaction. Symbolic meanings of language used, non-verbal gestures and other expressive, interactive symbolic codes mediate power relations, so interaction becomes an expression of ideology, political status and content—and all participants, he believes, are aware of it.

Relating this to our discussion of cross-cultural interaction, Roosens (1989) identifies some recurrent patterns he has observed in his study of ethnicity. First, he sees that there is ethnic struggle in cultural forms. He has observed connections among ethnicity, acculturation and power relations. References to ethnicity as a right and the intentional use of ethnicity to garner status in power-dependency relations seem to him to be related to Western culture and relations between people on a global level. To him, this is ironic since the distance from a culture that is necessary for cultural reflexivity, allowing culture members to perceive ethnicity as a right, may demonstrate a certain lack of cultural authenticity. However, cultural authenticity is, from an anthropological perspective, a continuing construct, and strong feelings about cultural background exist with or without "intact" cultural traditions. There is a condition for ethnic struggle where cultural relativism is found. This concept has provided a basis for the development of a strategy for interacting, and has ideological implications. Cultural struggle provides an opportunity for conflict in the luxurious setting of a democratically interacting global community; a non-military way to glean concessions from a dominant majority. Cultural struggle occurs where there is enough prosperity for it to become a route to getting what others have. It occurs when people are equals or have the power base that allows them to make a claim that theirs is a threatened culture.

A second pattern Roosens observes in ethnic interaction is that cultural identity provides strategic advantages. The openness of culture and the "elasticity" of the relations between culture and history allow flexibility necessary in cultural interaction. Thirdly, the opposite is also observed. Incontestable objective truth and interpreted "truth" in cultural processes and artifacts identifies an irreducibly solid basis for interaction. Fourth, there is a pattern of transcultural consensus regarding the worth of modern material resources and the importance of access to them. According to Roosens, groups never want to return to a time of more limited resources. This can lead to increasing cultural uniformity, although the logic of material culture does not travel well across cultural boundaries except where there is commitment to production of material objects by a group. In that case, it has been observed that a larger percentage of the culture of origin is adopted as that context is needed for sustaining the production. Sometimes, there is need for modern technology to preserve traditional life-styles, as, for example, among the Same people of northern Scandinavia who are using helicopters in reindeer herd management, with all the satellite businesses, schooling and skills required. "Being taken seriously or being respected is a social value that has equal or even more standing in matters of ethnicity, and the claim for material goods runs through this channel of recognition and respect" (Roosens 1989:159). Hence, ethnicity and social equalization are connected. The fifth, and final general pattern he has observed across instances of ethnic interaction is that ethnicity is an organizational form which offers the context for the creation, use and manipulation of symbols, formulating endless possibilities for flexibility in interaction with others, in constructing, maintaining, or changing social reality. So, he is ratifying and adding to Bourdieu's observations in the area of cross-cultural interactions. That is, interaction is purposeful and has ideological dimensions. Awareness of these purposes, ideologies, and of their implications for the participants in cross-cultural interaction, clarifies the agenda for all parties.

At least where education is concerned, there are three general ideologies (Banks 1988) in terms of which cross-cultural interaction is perceived to take place. These each imply a general goal as a backdrop for interaction. The general goal of assimilation expresses the tendency of interactors to try to bring participants into agreement with one dominant point of view. The assumption is that a common cultural background unifies people, and that unity is necessary for social, economic and political stability. The general goal of cultural pluralism, sometimes identified as a separatist or particularist perspective in interaction (Ravitch 1990), is to provide support for different but equal perspectives on the world. The assumption is that cultural unity is not possible, or even desirable. The acceptance of cultural difference allows the room for the development of co-equal cultures. The general goal of multiethnic multiculturalism is the mutually respectful treatment of individual and cultural difference in social interactions and social structures. The assumption is that cultural difference, individual difference, is the reality, even in an authoritarian or totalitarian social setting. Difference is endemic. The purpose of interaction is to learn about, support and utilize the information gleaned from the perspectives of others for the good of each individual and the social group.

There are several possible implications across these different perspectives on the ideological agenda that undergirds interactions between culture members. One is that in any cross-cultural interaction, there will be an awareness of the agenda of the interactors. There will also be a consistent struggle for mutual recognition of difference. Another is that there will be a constant effort to create mutual respect. Still another is that there will be awareness of the value of selected differences.

Where there are agendas which support the maintenance of cultural diversity, in light of the assumption that it is a continuing reality, the trick will be to balance delicately the contributions from different, energetic cultures in a unified contemporary community in which social structures are congruent with and representative of cultural groups that comprise the community.

Socio-Cultural Skills

Argyle (1982), Bochner (1981), Brislin (1981), Hannigan (1990) and Taft (1977), among many others, have identified some skills or abilities, attitudes, and traits that, since early on in the research, have appeared to be related to effectiveness in interaction in culturally diverse contexts. There is a general warning from all of these researchers that the effectiveness of any of these attributes is related to the number of participants involved and to the extent of the gaps in experience and other personal attributes between participants in an exchange, including their degree of comfort during the course of the interaction. In addition, the nature and meaning of the interaction, including the language used, the clarity of expression, the agenda of the participants, the seriousness or import of the circumstances, the extent of the need for understanding, and other variables in the reasons for the interaction, are also problematic in the effectiveness of the exchange. Contextual issues also have effects. These include traditionally expected or preferred styles of communication, complexity of social structures in participants' cultures and the context of their interaction, including degree of social stratification, rituals or ceremonies represented, temporal dimensions of communication events, and so on.

Taft describes socialization as including "training in basic human social processes, for example, dialogue, bargaining, status awareness, emotional control and sense of obligation without which an individual could not cope with any society, whether it be...[an] indigenous one or an alien one" (1977:127). This primary socialization may need to be balanced with resocialization in social processes that increase international effectiveness in situations in which cross-cultural communication is sought. The literature is clear that social skills or culture training (Furnham and Bochner 1986), intercultural training (Starosta 1990), cross-cultural training (Seidel 1981), or cross-cultural learning (Weeks, Pedersen and Brislin 1979) assists effectiveness in intercultural communication (Furnham and Bochner 1986). This training is theoretically grounded in the perception of communicative behavior as socio-culturally skilled performance appropriate to the context in which it occurs. It can be evaluated in terms of the degree of cross-cultural adjustment indicated by effective performance across cultural environments, observed changes in individual's membership, reference groups or models, individual's reported identity, evidence of newly acquired socio-cultural knowledge and skills, and fulfilling new cultural roles. In general, Taft (1977) might refer to this training as a resocialization process; Zigler and Seitz (1979) would probably conceive of it as a component in a lifelong process of socialization.

But what are the requisite attributes to be developed? A list identified by this research includes the following, divided by Hannigan (1990:107) into abilities, attitudes and traits: 1) abilities involving interpersonal relations and communication include listening competence; ability to initiate, establish, and maintain interactive dialogue; competence necessary to communicate with others effectively; required linguistic ability and non-verbal communication skills; ability to handle misunderstandings and variations in styles of communication; organizational abilities, including competence necessary to structure interaction effectively and flexibly; ability to handle interactional situations and strategies sensitively; systematic knowledge of more than a single culture; area of competence or expertise; ability to communicate knowledge and skills clearly and meaningfully; competence necessary to deal effectively with the politics of situations; and the ability to deal with psychological stress; 2) attitudes include empathy; concern for the well-being of others; a world view that is respectful of other cultures; acceptance of divergence in knowledge, beliefs and values; tendency to be nonjudgmental; political sensibility; interest or curiosity about other people and cultures; and tolerance of ambiguity; 3) traits include independence; positive self-image; flexible persistence; and realistic expectations.

Inversely, factors identified in the literature as problematic in intercultural relationships include "perfectionism, rigidity, dogmatism, ethnocentrism, dependent anxiety, task-oriented behavior, narrow-mindedness, and self-centered role behaviors" (Hannigan 1990:107). These lists of traits do not run counter to common sense, but seem to be helpful in focusing continuing discussions concerned with personal attributes that may facilitate or impede progress in intercultural interaction. Nettl (1990) speaks of the tendency for a position of advocacy to drive perception and of the effectiveness of avoiding advocacy to facilitate development of a relativistic view of situations. For him, conscious consciousness-raising alleviates the negative aspects of the impact of personal biases.


As Taft has stated, "Life requires a continual series of adaptations to new environments since no situation is ever quite identical with the one that has gone before" (1977:121). In this discussion we have been surveying systems that affect interaction and the human adaptation that is required to develop competence in intercultural communication, or, at the least, deal with the negative effects of cultural bias in interaction across diverse populations.

Although Brewer (1990) refers to the intergroup communication difficulty initiated by our cognitive processing of perceptual data, and studies indicate that there are intrapsychic dimensions observed to be related to ethnic identities, and social dimensions related to identification of non-members (e.g., DeVos 1975; Epstein 1978), Brewer's review does suggest that where salience of distinctions is decreased, as might be expected to occur in the course of mutually respectful interaction, in-group bias lessens.

In order to facilitate mutually respectful cross-cultural interaction, research has identified areas of competence, attitudes, and traits that have been observed to be effective. Cross-cultural psychological research has also suggested the kind of training that increases individual's awareness and competence in interaction (Seidel 1981; Argyle 1982; Furnham and Bochner 1986; Brislin 1989; Starosta 1990), including interaction and communication skills; cultural knowledge, including awareness of cultural "rules"; cultural sensitization; awareness and training using language, idiomatic expressions and non-verbal spatial positions, posture, and gestures which facilitate communication; role-playing; and interaction in a variety of settings with individuals representing diverse cultural backgrounds.

There are inestimable values to be gained in effective human interaction not only for individual human development but also for the quality of life among a diversity of cultural groups. This may be the most important contemporary agenda in the United States—as well as for other parts of the world. The ecology of a human community in which mutually respectful dialogue is the rule can be more than an ideal. It is coming closer. We only have to assent to its happy possibilities.


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1An early version of this paper was delivered during the Annual Meeting of the College Music Society on October 28, 1990 in Washington, D.C. as part of the panel Toward the End of a Century: Cross-Cultural and Minority Perspectives.

2For an eloquent expression of this from another perspective, see articles by performer Guillermo Gómez-Peña (1989, 1990, and 1990).

3Whether they are accurate in reporting what they perceive is another issue. The degree to which what they perceive is congruent either with the "reality out there" or with the "reality within" them or the observer(s) is another matter, and one that is beyond the scope of this discussion.

4An analog of a light in a lantern, throwing a distinctive shadow across a space, can be used to illustrate this. When we report our perceptions, these reports could be likened to the "light" coming through the openings of a lantern designed or configured by our individual "take" on our cultural experience. The "light" of our expressions casts a particular, observable shape. Among others with a similar cultural background, the shape of "light" would be similar although not likely the same. The "light" of our individual perceptual reports, or communicative expressions, may not cast the shape expected or preferred by observers, but it is the only shape we can cast at any stage of our development.

5"The idea of capitalizing on the social benefits of group identification raises concern about whether the positive consequences of in-group formation depend on the presence of a distinct out-group" (Brewer 1979:322). It is Brewer's suggestion that more research is needed regarding the degree to which "salience of interdependence or common fate can be enhanced among any given set of individuals without reference to other subsets" (1979:322).

6Most of the ethnic identity research Phinney (1990) reviewed came from three perspectives: theories of social identity, culture conflict and acculturation, and formation of identity.