PROMOTING A SENSE OF GLOBAL COMMUNITY
Joseph de Rivera and Caitlin O. Mahoney
This is a pre-publication draft that has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Peace and Conflict
© 2018, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the final, authoritative version of the article. Please do not copy or cite without authors permission. The final article will be available, upon publication, via its DOI: 10.1037/pac0000323
It has been argued that the international cooperation needed to deal with global problems requires the development of a global community. We hypothesized that the sense of belonging to such a community would be promoted if we could increase a general sense of hopefulness about humanity and that such a sense of hopefulness would be influenced by the news to which persons are subjected. Participants were asked to visit news web sites with different emotional tones. 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 an NGO 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.
Keywords: Global community, global identity, hope, admiration, peace journalism, solutions-oriented media
Promoting a Sense of Global Community
Deutsch, Marcus, and Brazaitis (2015) point out that a socio-psychological prerequisite for effective cooperation is a strong community and that the international cooperation needed to deal with global problems requires the development of a global community. When powerful nations struggle for national dominance their search for military and economic advantages prevents the international cooperation that is needed to end civil war, global warming, and the abuse of human rights. As Macmurray (1961/1991 p. 204) observes, “Unless the independent States can unite, by common consent, under one system of effective law, they must destroy one another in a struggle for power.” To achieve the requisite system of global governance may require people to realize that we can no longer live in only local and national communities. We may need to find ways to develop a living sense of global community. In this paper we examine the concept of global community, its measurement, and how media presentations may promote or hinder the sense of global community.
The Concept 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. Its existence is intended and its solidarity is based on the extent to which there is a unity of action on common concerns, a 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 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. To the extent an actual global community existed it would include all persons regardless of national, religious, or other differences. Its realization would require an 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 as 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 that we are in socio-emotional relationships that extend beyond local and national community to 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.
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). 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.
Measuring the Sense of Global Community
McFarland, Webb, and Brown (2012) have created a measure of identification with all humanity (IWAH), that has been validated by its positive relationships with 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) out of a possible 7 (strongly agree), 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 demonstrated a strong positive correlation (r = 0.64) 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. Thus, although the measurement of global identification is in its infancy the concept appears to have predictive power. Such measures may ultimately be able to capture the personal responsibility that would be entailed in a fully actualized global community.
Increasing the Sense of Global Community
Reese, Proch and Finn (2015) have shown that the degree to which individuals think about themselves as part of a wider human identity may be impacted by exposure to environmental cues, and that these further impact pro-social outcomes. In particular, 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 website 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. In both cases the experiments appear to have made it easier for people to identify themselves as members of a global community. We hypothesized that such identification, with its sense of belonging to a global community, would be increased if we could increase a general sense of hopefulness about the human community. Certainly, hope has been shown to facilitate social change (Greenaway, Cichocka, van Veelen, Likki, & Branscombe, 2016).
Hope has been defined by Snyder (1995, p. 355) as “the process of thinking about one’s goals, along with the motivation to move toward and the ways to achieve those goals.” There are many reasons one might not be hopeful about the achievement of a global community. Some may not set global community as a value. Others may not believe such a community is possible, either because they lack motivation to work toward such a goal or because they believe that others do. In one study, participants’ hesitations around international cooperation included concerns about whether most other Americans would show support, and the essentialist belief that human nature is inherently violent (Mahoney & de Rivera, 2008). Elsewhere, Boulding (1988) has suggested that an overreliance on military defense systems is further predicated on persons’ inability to imagine alternatives. Thus, they “turn to short-term survival strategies rather than focusing on processes of long-range social change” (p.19). Hope about the achievement of a global community might be enhanced by growing individuals’ knowledge of how such a community might be established and by exposure to information, which counters beliefs about its impossibility.
The Influence of the Media
Beliefs about the possibility of global community may be hindered by automatic cognitive biases generated and activated by media consumption. Media exposure has been shown to grow or shrink mental stereotyping, depending on whether information and social models presented implicitly challenge or reinforce common worldviews (Ramasubramanian, 2007). We hypothesized that a general sense of hopefulness is influenced by the news to which persons are subjected.
To what sorts of news are persons subjected? Categorically, 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 (PEW, 1995). Contrast the coverage of the U.S. presidential election with the coverage of the election of the UN Secretary General. World news networks appear dominated by competition, conflict and problems. An analysis of international news found stories about conflict were four times more prevalent than stories about cooperation (PEW, 1995). This negative emphasis may lead many to avoid attending. A recent online survey found that 38 percent of persons in the United States reported actively avoiding the news with 57% reporting that they did so because it had a negative effect on their mood (Kalogeropoulo, 2017).
In contrast, peace journalism strives to present a nuanced view of conflicts, to avoid the typical good vs. bad presentation of news, and to frame stories in ways that suggest nonviolent solutions (see Lynch & McGoldrick, 2005). However, peace journalism is not readily available and, perhaps in its attempt to address root problems, one of its major sites () presents largely pessimistic articles.
Overall, the sort of news needed for the promotion of global community is largely ignored. Normative news coverage may be contrasted with solutions-oriented news, by which we mean news that focuses on people working on a solution to a social problem. Recently, journalists who believe that constant negative news may contribute to apathy have created a solution-oriented network ( with the expectation that news that offers solutions may inspire hope.
We postulated that news that was oriented towards the solution of global problems would encourage a sense of hope and global community. It should be noted that we are not concerned with how stories about winning impact group or party identification, but rather with how examples of others working for community may affect one’s personal commitment to community. It is our belief that pessimistic beliefs about human nature may reflect a lack of exposure to such alterative models and that highlighting real life models of cooperation may reinforce the potential for progress (even amidst setbacks). In contrast, we expected that traditional news paradigms might activate a concern for self and a general pessimism about the perceived utility of policies and practices aimed at global cooperation.
A challenge of the current project was to capitalize on news that is solutions-oriented AND accessible. A recent analysis revealed that nearly twice as many adults (38%) get news online than in print (20%), that young adults follow the news less closely…have more negative attitudes about news media and are more likely to get news online (Pew Research Center, 2016a). In light of these trends, we opted to compare participants’ reactions to different types of online media.
In sum, we hypothesized that sending respondents to a website that featured news about organizations 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.
In particular, we sought to test the following hypothesis:
H1: Traditional style reporting of political news provokes negative affect above and beyond that elicited by a control website, and a solutions-oriented website.
H2: A solutions-oriented website would provoke greater positive feelings, especially hope, as compared with a traditional news site and a control site.
H3: Exposure to solutions-oriented news would enhance sense of global community.
H4: Differences in change scores for global community would be accounted for by differences in emotional states provoked by media conditions. In particular, the experience of hope should facilitate growth in sense of global community.
H5: Those with a greater sense of global community would be more likely to want to participate in global celebrations and more concerned with the common good than their own national power.
H6: Students would be more likely to engage with solutions-oriented material on social media.
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 (21%) 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.
Websites. Participants were randomly exposed to naturally occurring online news from three possible sites: Typical news, Solutions-oriented news, and a Control fashion website. For the current sample, participants were at liberty to access materials and measures by desktop/laptop or mobile device.
Typical news. 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.
Solutions-oriented news. People’s 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.
Control site. 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.
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 those that 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 Cronbach’s alpha of .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”. Participants were also asked whether they would “friend” the viewed website on Facebook.
The extent to which participants would want to participate in a ceremony for global community was assessed with a scale that ranged from 1 (Not at All) to 5 (Very Much)
The degree to which participants were willing to surrender national power for the common good was assessed with seven point scales. First, participants were asked 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. To avoid responses based simply on socially desirability veto power in the UN Security Council was explained and participants were asked if they were in favor of eliminating veto power. Second, 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.
After answering questions assessing the extent of their global identity, participants were randomly sent to one of three Internet sites: Newsweek (), People’s World Peace Project (), or POPSUGAR (). 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. The final series of choice questions attempted to provide some validity for Sense of Global Community by relating the measure to concrete choices.
We began our analysis by testing the base suppositions that the traditional reporting of political news would provoke negative affect (H1) and that solutions-oriented news would provoke more positive feelings; especially hope (H2). The mean Emotional Responses to the sites are presented in Table 1.
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).
Next, we examined the expectation that solutions-oriented news would enhance sense of global community (H3). Change in Sense of Global Community was measured by subtracting the initial score on Sense of Global Community from the score obtained after respondents had visited the web sites. The initial and post means, together with the mean changes and the standard error of these changes are shown in Table 2.
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 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 (M = 5.16 vs. 4.25), t (112) = 4.77, p > .001) the genders were distributed equally among the conditions and there was no significant difference in the change scores.
To evaluate the extent to which emotional responses to a site had impact on global identity (H4), 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).
Next we appraised the extent to which a sense of global community was related to concrete choices. In particular, we wanted to know whether those with a greater sense of global community were more likely to participate in global celebrations and be more concerned with the common good than their own national power (H5). 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 r (112) = +.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).
Finally, we tested the hypothesis that students would be more likely to engage with solutions-oriented material on social media (H6). 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)
The results show that the reporting of typical political news, as represented by the Newsweek website, can provoke considerable negative affect in college students, that a solutions-oriented website can provoke considerable positive affect, and that exposure to solutions-oriented news can enhance sense of global community (although there was not a significantly greater desire to share the solutions-oriented material on social media). However, since only one college was sampled and the sample of news only involved a single news site and a single semester of reporting it is unclear how much the results can be generalized. In any case, they certainly suggest the worth of conducting further exploration on the affective impact of how news is generally reported.
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. A recent survey asking respondents if they were willing to be part of a global community found that 70% were willing and over half were willing to commit to being active members (Marcus, Deutsch, & Liu, 2016). Over half of those willing to commit wanted information about actions that were being taken and it would be interesting to see if it might be possible to promote subscriptions to a solutions-oriented news site devoted to fostering global community and helping people find ways to participate in the 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 (de Rivera, 1977) 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. McFarland (2016) has shown that people believe a fully mature and moral person would identify more strongly with humanity than they do themselves. Hence, particular persons, organizations, or communities whose work benefits the international community are exemplars of an ideal that may provoke admiration and we may hypothesize that news featuring such exemplars should encourage identification with the global community. It also seems possible that the site may have provoked feelings of “elevation”. Oliver, et al. (2015) have shown that short videos that enhance feelings of being moved, touched, inspired, compassionate, and tender encourage heightened feelings of a shared human goodness, a connectedness to those from different groups, and feelings of overlap between the self and “humankind”. 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 both local and global 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. Although McMillan (1996) stresses that measures of sense of community should emphasize belonging, trust, mutual benefit, and shared history, Nowell and Boyd (2010) suggest that a sense of responsibility is also a key element in community. Hence, it would seem desirable to add more items that indicate responsibility for the global community or to fashion a new measure that would reflect a willingness to accept responsibility and take the sort of risks 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