What Do National Flags Stand for? An Exploration of Associations Across 11 Countries

Julia C. Becker, David A. Butz, Chris G. Sibley, Fiona Kate Barlow, Lisa M. Bitacola, Oliver Christ, Sammyh S. Khan, Chan-Hoong Leong, Samuel Pehrson, Narayanan Srinivasan, Aline Sulz, Nicole Tausch, Karolina Urbanska, Steven C. Wright

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Abstract

We examined the concepts and emotions people associate with their national flag, and how these associations are related to nationalism and patriotism across 11 countries. Factor analyses indicated that the structures of associations differed across countries in ways that reflect their idiosyncratic historical developments. Positive emotions and egalitarian concepts were associated with national flags across countries. However, notable differences between countries were found due to historical politics. In societies known for being peaceful and open-minded (e.g., Canada, Scotland), egalitarianism was separable from honor-related concepts and associated with the flag; in countries that were currently involved in struggles for independence (e.g., Scotland) and countries with an imperialist past (the United Kingdom), the flag was strongly associated with power-related concepts; in countries with a negative past (e.g., Germany), the primary association was sports; in countries with disruption due to separatist or extremist movements (e.g., Northern Ireland, Turkey), associations referring to aggression were not fully rejected; in collectivist societies (India, Singapore), obedience was linked to positive associations and strongly associated with the flag. In addition, the more strongly individuals endorsed nationalism and patriotism, the more they associated positive emotions and egalitarian concepts with their flag. Implications of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cross-cultural Psychology
Early online date12 Jan 2017
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 12 Jan 2017

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