Understanding the understanding through intervention: Assessing the effect of learning knowledge about Canadian values and social axioms for newcomers' adapting to Canada
Through three studies, the effect that knowledge of Canadian values and social axioms has on immigrants’ and sojourners’ adaptation to Canadian society was examined. Values and social axioms have been found to be important descriptors of sociocultural behaviour. The learning approach to acculturation, how people manage and learn through the acculturation process, is an important theoretical perspective in cross-cultural research and the cross-cultural training literature. Study 1 established representative value and social axiom scores for a community sample of 448 participants living in the Southern Ontario region. Study 2 examined the role that values and social axioms of 143 immigrants and sojourners had on their adaptation to Ontario society. Both constructs were found to uniquely explain the variance in psychological and behavioural adaptation, but values were a stronger predictor than social axioms. The specific values that explained participants’ psychological adaptation to Ontario society were the same values that Ontario people rated as the most important (i.e., Tradition, Power, Conformity, and Stimulation). Value and social axiom fit variables were not found to explain any variance. Study 3 used a quasi-experimental design to assess if teaching 38 immigrants and sojourners (i.e., the experimental group) about Canadian culture, specifically Ontarian values and social axioms, would positively impact their psychological and behavioural adaptation more than what was found for 35 newcomers (i.e., the control group) who received no training. No support was found for the hypotheses. All three studies contributed in their own way to a better understanding of how cultural knowledge might impact immigrants’ and sojourners’ adaptation to a host culture. The main findings were an increased understanding in the accurate assessment of cultural values and social axioms, the role that values play in psychological adaptation, and the importance of finding community based approaches for cross-cultural training with community samples.