'Are they refugees or economic migrants?’ The effect of asylum seekers’ motivation to migrate on intentions to help them

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Immigration has played a significant role in human history as people move to new places for economic opportunities, religious freedom, and political refuge. However, asylum seekers are often viewed negatively and falsely portrayed in media, leading to fear and distrust among locals. In the current research, participants read a fictitious news article about an asylum seeker's (Syrian, Ukrainian, or Yemeni) motivation for seeking asylum (seeking safety, seeking financial betterment from a position of relative financial hardship, or seeking financial betterment from a position of extreme financial hardship). Participants then reported their willingness to help that asylum seeker, and their prejudice and empathy toward both that asylum seeker and their group as a whole (e.g., Syrian refugees). Results showed that people were more willing to help asylum seekers whose motivation for seeking asylum was grounded in safety concerns rather than moderate financial concerns (studies 1, 2, and 3). Participants also reported more willingness to help the asylum seeker's group as a whole if the individual asylum seeker's motivation was described as seeking safety rather than financial betterment. Further, describing financial concerns as so severe that they endangered survival generated more willingness to help than moderate financial concerns, demonstrating that severe enough financial concerns may be perceived as safety concerns (study 3). We also found that people were more willing to help Ukrainian refugees than Syrian refugees. Altogether, these findings have both theoretical and practical implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)996
Number of pages1011
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number10
Early online date12 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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