Research and Films

This is a pre-publication draft submitted to the Journal of Peace and Conflict

Promoting a Sense of Global Community

Joseph de Rivera and Caitlin Mahoney

Abstract

Is our hope for a global community affected by the news to which we are exposed? Participants were asked to visit different news’s web sites. Those sent to a typical news site or to a fashion site showed a small but significant decrease in their sense of global community. Those sent to a website featuring solutions-oriented news showed a significant increase. The latter site provoked greater admiration, appreciation and hope, and less anger, disgust and fear. Increase in a sense of global community was predicted by the extent to which the NGO site provoked both admiration and fear.

We humans are increasingly interdependent. Many are beginning to realize how cooperation is essential if we are to meet the challenges posed by the earth’s limited resources, global warming, pandemics, military security, and economic injustice. Yet national rivalries and the struggle for national dominance obstruct and limit cooperation. Each nation attempts to secure military and economic advantages in an international system and global marketplace that lack a common system of law. Without agreed upon common rules each nation acts in its own self-interest without sufficient regard for the good of the whole. Yet achieving the law and cooperative global governance required for international justice requires people to realize that we can no longer live in only local and national communities. We need to develop a living sense of global community.

We use community in the sense articulated by John Macmurray (1961) who distinguishes the concepts of community, society, and social group. By community we mean a social entity that is based on mutuality and common concerns.  The existence and solidarity of such entities is intended and based on the extent to which there is a unity of action on common concerns, mutual caring for those who are known, and a commitment to justice for those who are not personally known. Thus, a community is distinguished from both both a society that is based on contracts between individuals and a society conceived as an organic collectivity (Kirkpatrick, 1986). It is also distinguished from groups and associations based on goals, boundaries, degrees of cohesiveness and conformity, or  established by simple naming. To the extent that community exists, Hearn (1997) has shown that conflicts can be resolved by civil society in ways they cannot be resolved by market forces or state organization.  Today, however, an actual global community, a worldwide human community that includes all persons regardless of nationality or religion is an aspiration rather than a fact. To be realized there must be a greater awareness of interdependence, an intended solidarity and a sense that one’s identity involves belonging not only to local communities, but also to a global community that shares a common earth. In spite of its aspirational status, some people report a sense that they belong to such a community and have a sense of global identity. This global identity need not replace local, national or cosmopolitan identities. Rather, it is an extension of the personal identity established in local community (de Rivera, 2014).

Although global identity is sometimes presented as though it involved identifying with a human ingroup, our identity as a human being is not experienced as involving a social identity in the sense of our categorizing ourselves as a member of an in-group (humans rather than chimps or Martians) or a superordinate group (humans rather than Americans or Germans, etc.). Rather, it involves realizing that we are in relationships with others in local communities of persons who both care for and fear one another (de Rivera & Carson, 2016). Hence, a global identity entails the recognition of that we are in socio-emotional relationships that extend beyond local and national community to a mutuality  with other communities worldwide. To the extent that persons in their localities throughout the world care for one another and intend justice for all persons regardless of their nationality or religion we may speak of the existence of a nascent global community. The  full actualization of this community awaits the development of a wider personal commitment and the necessary institutional support that would make this possible. In this regard, it may be important to note that identifying with this nascent global community does not require a cosmopolitan identity. Rather it may involve the sort of dialogic identity involved in the global consciousness described by Liu and MacDonald (2016, p. 11). Such identity deals with the tension created by the awareness that peoples are profoundly diverse yet interconnected in a way that suggests a moral interdependence.  Global consciousness thus compels positive action that extends among and beyond the limits of our local communities.   An embodied global identity involves the recognition of the personal reality of peoples who are inescapably and irreversibly bound up and responsible for one another.  Such a global consciousness then refers to an awareness of both the interconnectedness and difference of peoples worldwide and might well lead to a willingness to take moral actions on their behalf. Such a consciousness of our commonness and mutuality may be a part of any given culture and form a part of one’s personal identity in that culture.

How might a sense of our consciousness of global community be measured? McFarland, Webb, and Brown (2012) have created a measure of identification with all humanity (IWAH), one that  is related to a general concern for human rights and needs, the valuing of the needs of outgroup members as much as in-group members, and a willingness to contribute to international humanitarian relief. Their results suggest that people can have a global human identification in the sense of an ability to identify with and care for the wellbeing of all human beings. McFarland (2016) has summarized the results of numerous studies using the IWAH measure and shown that higher scores relate to knowing more about global humanitarian concerns, choosing to read about humanitarian and human rights issues, and giving cash winnings to international humanitarian relief. Although the mean score of participants is only 3.0 (somewhat) on items reflecting identification with all humanity, 86% felt the most fully mature and most moral person would identify more strongly with humanity than they did themselves.

However, we believe it is important to distinguish between identifying with a concept of humanity (humanity as a sort of superordinate group) and identifying with a living community (with the responsibility this entails). This distinction may relate to the differences reported by Reese, Proch and Finn (2015) when they submitted the IWAH to a factor analysis. One factor has items which refer to groups and seems to reflect a mere conceptual identification with humanity as a group, whereas the second factor (termed “self-investment”) has items that suggest an investment in personal relationships and solidarity with people across the globe. Similarly, a factor analysis of Malsch and Omoto’s (2007) measure of the sense of global community revealed one factor with items concerning the common human similarity and fate associated with group identity, and another factor with items using the words community or connection (McFarland & Hornsby, 2015). This latter, community, factor correlated +. 64 with a composite measure of global humanitarian concern. In a similar vein, those who identify themselves  as “global citizens” do not seem to be viewing themselves as members of a superordinate group, but as members of an open community. Thus, Reysen and Katzarska-Miller (2013, p. 866) show that people who identify themselves highly as global citizens are “globally aware, express caring and empathy for others, embrace cultural diversity, promote social justice and environmentally sustainable living, and feel a responsibility to act to help others.

A number of studies have begun to explore the concept of global community and global identification with such a community. Der-Karabetian and Ruiz (1997) have used items contrasting local, national and global belonging, and Der-Karabetian, Cao, and Alfaro (2014) have shown that in both the U.S. and Taiwan those with greater global belonging report engaging in more sustainable environmental behavior. Buchan et al. (2011) have measured the degree to which persons rate themselves as feeling attached to, closer to, and a member of “the world as a whole”, and shown that some persons appear to identify their self-interest with those of a global collective and are willing to risk more money to a global collective enterprise. And Hackett, Omoto, and Matthews (2015) have shown that items from their scale on the psychological sense of global community predict concern for human rights and the amount donated to Doctors without Borders.

How might we increase a sense of global community? Reese, Proch and Finn (2015) have shown that participants who could see themselves in a mirror with an unobtrusive poster of a globe held by human hands, or with a poster of a collection of various national flags, had higher scores on the self-investment factor of identification with all humanity and proceeded to donate more cash to charities than subjects without posters in the background mirror. And de Rivera and Carson (2016) showed that participants who went to a web site featuring brief interviews with people from different cultures had a greater increase in their scores on Der-Karabetian’s global belonging scale than those who did not visit such sites. However, such results might be attributed to simply increasing the salience of global identity. We proposed  that a sense of belonging to a global community would be increased if we could increase a general sense of hopefulness about such a community. Hope has been shown to facilitate social change (Greenaway, Cichocka, van Veelen, Likki, & Branscombe, 2016) and we believed that hope would be fostered by examples of people working towards global community. Such examples might well increase the sense of the existence of global community and the possibility of belonging in fact to such a community.

This hope seems to be influenced by the news to which we are subjected. Peace journalism strives to present a nuanced view of conflicts that avoids the typical good vs. bad presentation. It frames stories in ways that may suggest nonviolent solutions (see Lynch & McGoldrick, 2005). However, world news networks tend to be so dominated by competition, conflict and problems that  people seem to avoid listening, and the sort of news that is normally presented tends to have a nationalistic slant that does not encourage a sense of global community. The sort of news needed for the promotion of global community is largely ignored. Contrast, for example, the coverage of the U.S. presidential election with the coverage of the election of the UN Secretary General. We have a good deal of business news that is oriented towards individual profits, sports news that is oriented towards teams winning competitions, and political news oriented towards national concerns. Where is the news about the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are working for the development of a global community? Recently, journalists who believe that constant negative news may contribute to apathy have created a solution-oriented network (http://solutionsjournalism.org/) with the expectation that news that offers solutions may inspire hope. Might the presentation of news that was oriented towards the solution of global problems encourage a sense of hope and global community? We hypothesized that sending respondents to a web site that featured news about organization working for a culture of peace would provoke hope and lead to an increase in a sense of global community. For control groups we decided to send participants to an ordinary news website and a site featuring fashion news. We could then ask participants what feelings the site provoked and ascertain possible effects on their sense of global community.

Method

Participants

One hundred fourteen students (23 male, 91 female) were recruited from psychology courses at a small Eastern University that offered course credit for participation. They were informed that participation involved an anonymous online study regarding identity. Ninety were U.S. citizens while 24 referenced another nationality; the majority were 18 years old with an average age of 18.6. The predominance of females in the sample was occasioned by a prior study that only accepted male participants.

Procedure

After answering questions assessing the extent of their global identity, participants were randomly sent to one of three Internet sites: Newsweek (www.newsweek.com), Peoples world peace project (www.pwpp.org), or POPSUGAR (www.popsugar.com/). Newsweek provides typical weekly news and opinion on national, world, business, culture, science, and sports news with an opening page that tends to feature political news. Peoples world peace project (PWPP) provides news from NGO’s (Non- Governmental Organizations) working on issues that build a culture of peace. Its opening page features stories on improving democracy, economic justice, the environment, human rights, etc. POPSUGAR, which will be referred to as a Fashion site,  provides news on the latest fashion trends. Its opening page features celebrities wearing the newest fashion designs and coverage of lifestyle trends, including beauty, fitness and food enthusiasms.  Participants were told, “We would like to see if participating in a particular web site affects how you feel. Please take the time to read something that interests you. When you return to the study you’ll be asked to describe the sort of stories featured on the website you visited.”

When they exited from the internet site participants were asked to write a sentence describing the sort of material featured on the site and the extent to which viewing the site led them to feel different emotions. They were then asked if they would friend the site on Facebook and the global identity questions were repeated. A final series of questions attempted to provide some validity for Sense of Global Community by relating the measure to concrete behavioral and policy choices. After asking whether they would want to participate in a ceremony for global community, participants were asked to report the extent to which they wanted their country to concentrate on maximizing its own power rather than being concerned about what was good for people living in other countries. Veto power in the UN Security Council was explained and participants were asked if they were in favor of eliminating veto power. After a brief description of nuclear forces and the arguments for and against the policy of keeping nuclear weapons on high alert and being able to strike first, participants were asked if they were in favor or opposed to changing that policy. Finally they were asked how secure or insecure the possession of nuclear weapons led them to feel.

Measures

Sense of Global Community was measured with seven items that were taken from a scale  designed to measure the psychological sense of global identity (Malsch & Omoto, 2007). The selected items were thosethat loaded on the first factor isolated by McFarland and Hornsby (2015), a factor they labeled “sense of world community”, and are presented in the Appendix. The scale proved to have satisfactory reliability with alpha = .79 when the scale was first given and .74 when it was repeated. The test-retest correlation was .83.

Emotional Response to each site was measured by asking respondents to indicate the extent to which viewing the site led them to feel each of six different emotions: admiration, anger, appreciation, disgust, fear, and hope. The rating was done on 7 point scales ranging from “Not at all” to “A great deal”.

Results

Change in Sense of Global Identity was measured by subtracting the initial score on Sense of Global Community from the score obtained after respondents had visited the web sites. The mean changes and the standard error of these changes are shown in Table 1.                           Table 1

Change in Sense of Global Community

 Website                                  N                      Mean               S.E.

Fashion                                   42                     -.23                  0.73

Newsweek                              37                     -.15                  .088

PWPP                                     35                     +.12                 .080

A unilateral analysis of the change score with initial score co-varied revealed significant differences among the sites. F (2) = 5.80, p. <.01). Pair wise comparisons with the Scheffe test showed that visiting the PWPP site was significantly different from visiting either the fashion (p. <.001) or the Newsweek site (p. < .02). T-tests comparing before and after scores showed highly significant decreases in Sense of Global Community for both the Fashion and Newsweek site and increases for the PWPP site. Although, females had higher initial scores on Sense of Global Identity than males (Mean = 5.16 vs. 4.25), t(112) = 4.77, p. > .001) the genders were distribute equally among the conditions and there was no significant difference in the change scores.

The mean Emotional Responses to the sites are presented in Table 2.

Table 2

Mean Emotional Responses to Websites

 Emotion                                  Fashion                                    Newsweek                  PWPP

Admiration                             3.50                              3.16                             4.46

Anger                                     2.24                              3.62                             2.66

Appreciation                           2.74                              3.65                             4.86

Disgust                                   2.55                              3.78                             2.66

Fear                                        1.78                              3.43                             2.51

Hope                                       2.48                              3.41                             4.47

A quick examination of table 2 suggests that respondents who visited the PWPP site felt more admiration, appreciation, and hope while those who went to the Newsweek site experienced more anger, disgust, and fear. Those visiting the Fashion site felt less emotion in general. One way ANOVAs and Scheffe tests were used to exam the statistical significance of such comparisons. In the case of Admiration, F (2,111) = 4.16, p. <.02; with PWPP significantly higher (p <. 02) than Newsweek but not significantly different from Fashion. In the case of Anger, F (2,111) = 7.0, p. <.001; with Newsweek significantly higher than both Fashion and PWPP. Considering Appreciation, F (2,111) = 14.3, p. <.000; with PWPP significantly higher than both Fashion and Newsweek. Considering Disgust, F (2, 110) = 6.02; with Newsweek significantly higher than both Fashion and PWPP. In the case of Fear, F (2,110) = 11.9, Newsweek was significantly higher than both Fashion and PWPP and PWPP was significantly greater than that stimulated by the Fashion site, t (74) = 2.35, p. >.02). In the case of Hope, F(2, 110) = 10.28; with PWPP significantly higher than Fashion (p. < .000) but only probably higher than Newsweek (p. <.07).

To evaluate the extent to which emotional responses to a site had impact on global identity, the initial global identity scores and the six emotional responses were entered stepwise into a regression equation to predict the final global identity scores. In the case of the Newsweek and Fashion sites, only the initial scores were predictive. No emotional responses entered the equation. In the case of the PWPP site both admiration and fear were significant predictors. R Squared = .83 (p. <.000) with beta weights of .78 for the initial score, .18 for admiration, and .16 for fear (see Table 3).

Table 3

Regression Weights, Standard Errors, t Values, and p Values Predicting Final Sense of Global Community

 

                                       Solutions Oriented Website                              

Source                         B                      SE B                β                      t                       p

Initial score                 .70                   .07                   .78                   9.74                 .000

Admiration                  .08                   .03                   .18                   2.30                 .029

Fear                             .09                   .04                   .16                   2.12                 .043

A unilateral analysis of whether respondents would Friend the site showed a significant overall difference (F (2) = 7.25, P. <.001). Pairwise comparisons showed that both the PWPP and Newsweek site were significantly preferred to the Fashion site (p. < .001; p. < .04) but that the PWPP site could not be significantly distinguished from the Newsweek site, p. < .10)

Sixty one percent of participants said they would “like” or “very much like” to participate in a celebration of global community and 63% were opposed to maximizing national power. However, they were completely divided about giving up veto power and tended to be unsure about changing nuclear policy (27 opposed, 45 in favor, 42 unsure) in spite of a general insecurity about the presence of nuclear weapons (68 leaning towards insecure, 29 towards secure, 18 unsure). One-way ANOVAs determined that none of these preferences were significantly predicted by website condition.

Global Identity was significantly correlated (+. 64, p. <.000) with the desire to participate in a celebration of global identity, with the security provided by nuclear weapons (-.28, p. = .003) and with the desire to change nuclear policy to eliminate first use (+.21, p. = .02), but not significantly with the desire to maximize national power (-.16, p. =.08) nor being in favor of eliminating UN veto power (+.11, p. = .25). Students from the U.S. were significantly less likely to favor eliminating the veto than those from other countries (t (111) = 2.13, p. <.05).

Discussion

It seems clear that a sense of global community can be increased by presenting news of organizations working with global community in mind. However, these effects may be momentary and we need to investigate whether and under what conditions news may lead to commitments and an identification that persist in time. It would be interesting to see if it might be possible to promote subscriptions to solutions oriented news and, thereby, to foster global community.

Although we predicted that visiting a site with solutions oriented news would lead to an increased sense of global identity we had believed that this effect would be due to an increased sense of hope about the future of the global community. The PWPP site did significantly increase global identity and respondents reported that the site provoked significantly more hope than the traditional news site. However, the site also provoked equal amounts of appreciation and admiration, and even some fear.  Further, the final sense of global identity was best predicted by the amount of admiration and fear produced by the PWPP site rather than by the hope produced. In retrospect, since admiration involves identification with the admired object it is not surprising that the admiration inspired by the work of NGOs working for peace and justice should relate to an increase in the global identity involved in a sense of global community. It is less clear why the amount of fear provoked by the site was positively associated with a sense of global community. Although solutions oriented news stimulates more hope than fear, the problems that are addressed may also stimulate fear and the extent of such trepidation might be  related to the degree of global identification. Clearly, we need more research on how the emotion provoked by news affects community identification.

The measure Sense of Global Identity received some validation from its positive correlations with the desire to participate in a celebration of global community and the desire to change policies relying on the first use of nuclear weapons. However, we would also expect global identification to be related to a willingness to concentrate on human welfare more than national power and to empower the UN Security council by giving up veto power. The fact that Sense of Global Identity failed to significantly relate to the willingness to surrender some national power for the global good suggests that the measure may reflect sentiment more than an actual intent to participate in a global community, at least as far as this intent involves risking national power. It may be that students from the United States believe in the exceptionalism of their nation and the importance of its power or that they do not realize the extent to which national veto power hinders the Security Council from working for global welfare. However, the achievement of global community will require caring for others and global welfare to be stronger than fearing for oneself and one’s nation. Hence, it would seem desirable to add items or to fashion a new measure that would reflect the sort of personal identification required for global community to become an actuality. .

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For a listing and brief description of over 90 peace and justice films and documentaries (compiled by Beth Murphy) and can be sorted by subject/theme, country/event with links to viewing see

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10bpBO7Z-v4820MhVxtACVXw2JNrKAEBJcWS3GE-v88s/edit?usp=sharing