Volume 24, Issue 4 (Winter 2023)                   Advances in Cognitive Sciences 2023, 24(4): 158-182 | Back to browse issues page

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Rezaee S, Shahabi M, Ashna H, varij Kazemi A, Hatami J. Inter-religious prejudices and stereotypes among Sunni university students in Iran: A social cognitive approach. Advances in Cognitive Sciences 2023; 24 (4) :158-182
URL: http://icssjournal.ir/article-1-1480-en.html
1- PhD in Cultural Sociology, Department of Social Studies, Iranian Institute for Social and Cultural Studies of Ministry of Science, Research & Technology, Tehran, Iran/ Social Studies Department, Negah Institute for Social Research and Scientific Communication, Tehran, Iran
2- Associate Professor, PhD in Sociology of Communication, Department of Sociology and Social Planning, Shiraz University, Tehran, Iran
3- Associate Professor, PhD in Islamic Studies and Culture and Communication, Department of Culture and Communication, Faculty of Culture and Communication, Imam Sadiq University, Tehran, Iran
4- Associate Professor, PhD in Sociology, Department of Cultural Studies, Iranian Institute for Social and Cultural Studies of Ministry of Science, Research & Technology, Tehran, Iran
5- Associate Professor, PhD in Psychology, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
Abstract:   (88 Views)
Iran is a social context for the coexistence of distinct ethnicities and religions. In the northeast of the country, Mazandarani, Fars, Turk, Sistani, and other ethnic groups, who are mainly Shia Muslims, live next to the Turkmens and Baloch immigrants, who are Sunni Muslims. In the west, Sunni Kurds live together with Shia Kurds, Lors, and Turks. In the southeast, Sistani and Shia immigrants live with the Baloch people who adhere to Sunni Islam. Although such social context has provided a peaceful coexistence, similar to many social contexts, it has experienced inter-ethnic and inter-religious prejudice and intergroup and intragroup prejudices. These intergroup prejudices are considered cognitive associations resulting in social categories at the macro social structure, directing intergroup communication and also the distribution of social privileges at micro levels.
The current research aimed to answer  the following three questions: 1) What kinds of inter-religious prejudices are observed among Kurdish, Baloch, and Turkmen students living in the border provinces or immigrants to Tehran and Shia's residents living in these provinces? 2) What is the level of stereotypes and inter-religious prejudices among Sunni students and those of Shia Islam living in the corresponding provinces? 3) What is the effect of migration to Tehran for academic education on the quality and the level of stereotypes and inter-religious prejudices of Sunni students?

The Stereotype Content Model (SCM) by Fiske et al. (1) the present study used to answer the research questions and understand inter-ethnic and inter-religious biases and prejudices, in which people judge people mainly by answering answer two questions based on their mental categories: Are they friends or enemies and are they capable or incapable? The first question, considering the warmness of the relationship, deals with the good or bad intentions of that person/group, whether they are friends, colleagues, rivals, or enemies. Whereas the second question considering competency, deals with their current status in terms of capability and disability. In SCM, social perception, cross-cultural cognition, and communication are created from warmness and competency derived from factors and structural relationships between groups. However, the competition to obtain resources is the primary determinant of warmness. Therefore, the group members are warm and friendly, whereas competitive groups are cold and untrustworthy. On the other hand, the current situation represents competency and indicates the capability and incapacity level.
In addition, to complete the data and obtain a deeper understanding of the cognitive representation of the self and others regarding inter-religious communication in the view of Iranian Sunni students, we asked the participants to describe themselves and Shia Muslims living in the province using at least five adjectives. Then, the qualitative and quantitative content of the presented adjectives were analyzed.
The sample included all male and female Baloch, Kurdish, and Turkmen students living and studying in border provinces, including Sistan and Baluchistan, Kurdistan, and Turkmen Sahra region, or those who migrated to Tehran for education.
Cochran's formula was used to calculate the sample size. Considering the statistical population in Tehran and Kurdistan, Sistan and Baluchestan, and the Turkmen Sahara region, the minimum sample size was estimated to be 372 people at a 95% confidence level. However, to consider the sample variation and being able to remove incomplete questionnaires, the sample size was increased by 70% in the border provinces and Tehran and reached 630 people, including 315 people from Tehran and 315 people from Kurdistan, Sistan and Baluchestan, and the Turkmen Sahara region.

Self-representation from others’ view in the border provinces
Understanding how to describe yourself from others’ views is an essential factor in appreciating self-representation as one of the most critical foundations of intercultural social capital and social cognition of intergroup prejudices. It significantly affects the cross-cultural communication of the ethnic-minority groups living in border provinces against the country's Shia population. 
The obtained results showed that the Baloch students living in the Sistan and Baluchestan province had the worst self-representation from the others’ view, i.e., the Sistani Shiites of this province. However, it showed a slight improvement after migration. The Turkmen students were found with a better self-representation from others’ view, i.e., the Shia Muslims living in Turkmen Sahara, including Sistani, Gorgani, Turk, and the like. Nevertheless, it offered weakening to some extent after migration. In contrast, the Kurdish students living in Kurdistan showed the best self-representation from the perspective of Shia Kurdish people in Kurdistan, which also showed a slight change following immigration. The total average score of all students showed a drop and weakening of the self-representation from others’ views following migration. In contrast, warmness has a relative advantage over competency before and after migration.
Representation of others in the border provinces
The representation of Shia is significant for Sunnis as a religious minority, who feel like a minority both religiously and ethnically. It can be used to understand better the relationship between the minority and the majority in the border cities of Iran. According to the results, Baloch students living in this province had the worst self-representation from others’ view, the Sistani Shiites living in Sistan and Baluchistan. In this regard, the mean scores of the students on the warmness and communication competency provided in the below table should be considered: Kind (3.26±0.97), having good intentions (3.02±0.99), reliable (2.95±0.9), and the like. Interestingly, this variable showed a relative improvement after the migration, so communication warmness showed a slight improvement than competency.
Turkmen students also showed a relatively better self-representation from others’ views, including the Sistani, Gorgani, Turk, and the like. However, Shiites living in the provinceestablished a relative reduction after migration. In contrast, the Kurdish students living in Kurdistan similarly had the best self-representation from the Shia Kurd people living in Kurdistan compared to other ethnic groups, showing a slight change and reduction after immigration. However, the average score of all the studied students showed that immigration caused a reduction in the representation of others in ethnic student groups. In contrast, warmness and competency showed no changes before and after immigration.
Regarding cognitive representation, This study’s results showed that migration to Tehran in Kurdish and Turkmen students caused a decrease in self-representation from others’ views, i.e., people of different ethnicities and religions in these border provinces. Besides, these students experienced decreased in representation of others, indicating that expression of self and others is weakened after immigrating to Tehran for Kurdish and Turkmen students. However, regarding Baloch students, who had the worst representation of self and others compared to Turkmen and Kurdish students in Sistan and Baluchestan, migration to Tehran caused an improvement in this variable. By improving warmness and competency, the place of the other can prevent the province from inter-group hatred and contempt, making it closer to excellence. Notably, the changes in self-representation from others’ views and representation of Shia living in the province based on migration, as well as the difference between the scores of students living in the province and those who immigrated to Tehran, were significant and also a significant difference was found between ethnic groups in these two factors. 
Ethical Considerations
Compliance with ethical guidelines
In the current study, all required ethical principles have been observed, including obtaining informed consent, the confidentiality of participants’ names, information, ideas, and and the like. Besides, the research  participants were free to leave the study at any research phase.
Authors’ contributions
Research design: Javad Hatami, Mahmoud Shahabi, Hesamoddin Ashna, Abbas Kazemi, Sobhan Rezaee; Supervision: Mahmoud Shahabi, Hesamoddin Ashna, Abbas Kazemi & Javad Hatami; Data collection and data entry: Sobhan Rezaee; Data analysis: Sobhan Rezaee; Writing the research report: Sobhan Rezaee, Mahmoud Shahabi, Hesamoddin Ashna, Javad Hatami, Abbas Kazemi; Finalizing the report: Hesamoddin Ashna, Sobhan Rezaee.
The current research has not received any financial support from public or private organizations.

The authors would like to thank all the participants for their valuable participation in this study. The current manuscript is extracted from Sobhan Rezaee’s PhD dissertation in Cultural Sociology, supervised by Mahmood Shahabi and advised by Hesamodin Ashna & Abbas Kazemi at Institute for Social and Cultural Studies.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declared no conflict of interest.
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Type of Study: Research |
Received: 2022/10/28 | Accepted: 2023/01/19 | Published: 2023/02/19

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