Gail Ferguson’s latest research project unearthed an intriguing and potentially ground-breaking idea for psychologists: People sometimes develop a powerful cultural connection to a country that isn’t their own, even if they’ve never spent time there.
An assistant professor of psychology at Knox College, Ferguson found that lifelong residents of Kingston, Jamaica, often felt connected to the ways of life in both Jamaica and the United States. Despite living more than 500 miles from the United States, many of them routinely watched American movies, listened to American music, had American friends, and considered themselves somewhat American.
“They’re bicultural in terms of having a strong affinity toward the two cultures,” she said. Other Jamaicans in her study, Ferguson added, showed a much stronger preference for their own culture over U.S. culture.
Ferguson’s “Culture and Family Life Study” is the first to document a concept that she and her collaborators call “remote acculturation.” Basically, she explained, that term refers to the theory that “individuals can adopt the cultural identity and cultural behaviors/preferences of a society from which they are geographically separated.”