Sportopedia Glossary



Acculturation refers to the process of psychological and socio-cultural change and adjustment that arises when newcomers/immigrants come into continuous contact with another culture. The most widely accepted theory used to conceptualize this experience is Berry (2005). Berry’s model offers an account of human behavior whereby individuals engage in the adaptation to cognitive, interpersonal, and social conditions.

According to this model, newcomers encounter two issues while adapting to a new cultural environment: maintenance of their heritage culture and maintenance of relationships with the host society. The individual’s orientation toward the host and heritage cultures is seen as independent dimensions, resulting in four possible acculturation outcomes: assimilation (adopting to the host culture), integration (orientation toward both cultures), separation (retention of only home or host culture), and marginalization (rejecting both cultures).

Scholars have proposed that integration is associated with positive developmental outcomes, while marginalization leads to unfavorable acculturation outcomes (Berry, 2005).

Berry’s two-factor model has recently been challenged for suggesting that the pathways associated with acculturation are fixed and applicable cross-culturally. Expanding the discussion on acculturation, critical scholars frame acculturation as a deliberate, reflective, open-ended, shared, and continuous process that includes progress, relapses, and turns, making it impossible to predict/control (Chirkov, 2009; Schinke & McGannon, 2014). There is consensus that acculturation is a lengthy process characterized by stress, attributed to relocation and a confrontation with unfamiliar cultural practices. This conception presents acculturation as fluid rather than a linear movement toward a fixed acculturation type.

Within sport psychology, scholars have explored elite athletes and sports where relocation is commonplace (e.g., ice hockey, soccer, baseball, rugby), as well as international student-athletes. Although these settlement
experiences are idiosyncratic, all such athletes face the task of adjusting to a new culture, and encountering and negotiating unfamiliar social norms in a different cultural environment. In keeping with the Berry (2005) model, much of the acculturation scholarship within sport psychology is gained through a deductive and linear approach, meaning a progressive move toward a type of acculturation. This understanding led to misconceptions of athletes adopting to or dismissing the cultural practices of the dominant culture (Schinke & McGannon, 2014). Scholars have begun to redirect their
attention toward understanding this process as complex, fluid, and contextualized. This shift in approach has led to the enrichment of localized descriptions of acculturation, highlighting the ideographic nature of this process that is dependent on where newcomers relocate from, relocate to, and all parties involved.

Berry, J. W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two
cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29,
697 712.

Chirkov, V. (2009). Critical psychology of acculturation: What
do we study and how do we study it, when we investigate
acculturation? International Journal of Intercultural
Relations, 33, 94 105.

Schinke, R. J., & McGannon, K. R. (2014). The acculturation
experiences of (and with) immigrant athletes. International
Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 12, 64 75.

***Contributed by Patrick Odirin Oghene for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.