Modes of Consumer Acculturation

Sunkyu Jun, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
A. Dwayne Ball, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
James W. Gentry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
ABSTRACT - The traditional perspective of acculturation is one of assimilation, where the immigrant/sojourner/refugee is expected to adapt to the norms of the host culture. Berry (1990) presents a model that discusses different modes of acculturation, and lists the conditions leading to their existence. We propose two distinct constructs, Cultural Identification (which is attitudinal in nature) and Level of Acculturation (which is behavioral in nature) as determinants of the mode of acculturation. We then develop an exploratory model to explain the two constructs. "Preference for residency" was related significantly to "Cultural Identification" while "Place (urban/rural) where a person was raised in the home culture" and "Amount of direct contact with the host culture" were related to "Level of acculturation." "Cultural identification" and "Level of acculturation" were marginally related to one another, lending some support to the premise that they are distinct constructs.
[ to cite ]:
Sunkyu Jun, A. Dwayne Ball, and James W. Gentry (1993) ,"Modes of Consumer Acculturation", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 76-82.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Pages 76-82

MODES OF CONSUMER ACCULTURATION

Sunkyu Jun, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A. Dwayne Ball, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

James W. Gentry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ABSTRACT -

The traditional perspective of acculturation is one of assimilation, where the immigrant/sojourner/refugee is expected to adapt to the norms of the host culture. Berry (1990) presents a model that discusses different modes of acculturation, and lists the conditions leading to their existence. We propose two distinct constructs, Cultural Identification (which is attitudinal in nature) and Level of Acculturation (which is behavioral in nature) as determinants of the mode of acculturation. We then develop an exploratory model to explain the two constructs. "Preference for residency" was related significantly to "Cultural Identification" while "Place (urban/rural) where a person was raised in the home culture" and "Amount of direct contact with the host culture" were related to "Level of acculturation." "Cultural identification" and "Level of acculturation" were marginally related to one another, lending some support to the premise that they are distinct constructs.

INTRODUCTION

As immigration is on the rise and as immigrants account for a growing portion of the United States market, understanding the acculturation process will become increasingly important for marketers. Most studies of consumer acculturation have studied African and Hispanic Americans, while relatively less attention has been paid to Asian Americans who constitute the fastest growing minority in the U.S. Andreasen (1990) points out that patterns of immigration are changing in the U.S., as the majority of current immigrants are no longer coming from cultures similar to that already here. For example, in the 1960's immigrants from Western Europe compromised 37% of all immigrants and Asians 13%. In the period of 1981 to 1986, 11% were from Western Europe and 47% from Asia. The purpose of this study is to test an exploratory model of individual acculturation of one Asian group and to suggest implications for marketing.

Traditionally, immigrants' adaptation in the U.S. has been viewed as assimilation to the new culture, but acculturating people may vary in their adaptation processes. It has been contended that acculturating groups enter into the acculturation process in different ways and to different degrees (Berry 1990). Further, every person in the acculturating group does not necessarily participate in the process to the same extent (Berry 1990).

Recent studies of acculturation have recognized that acculturation is a multidimensional concept incorporating cultural identity, language usage, religion, and social activities (Hui et al. 1992; O'Guinn and Faber 1985). Cultural identification has been treated as a sub-dimension representing an individual's subjective perception of belonging to an ethnic group (Deshpande, Hoyer, and Donthu 1986; Hui et al. 1992; O'Guinn and Faber 1985), and it may have implications which are different from those related to the extent of adopting the new culture, which is referred to here as the level of acculturation. Cultural identification may be differentiated from level of acculturation in that one's level of acculturation reflects behavioral changes and cultural identification is rather a subjective attitude towards self identification with the traditional/new culture. Factors affecting one's behavioral changes in the new cultural environment may be different from factors leading to one's attitudinal changes. The process of behavioral acculturation may not coincide with the process of attitudinal acculturation and, thus, one's consumption pattern could be close to the new cultural value while the cultural identification is close to the old culture. We propose that cultural identification and level of acculturation combine to explain the different types of acculturation. Determinants of the varying modes of consumer acculturation are suggested and their relationships with cultural identification and acculturation level are tested using Korean sojourners in the United States.

INDIVIDUAL ACCULTURATION

The classic definition of acculturation in anthropology is as follows: those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes taking place in the original cultural patterns of either or both groups (Redfield, Linton, and Herskovits 1936). Under this definition, acculturation is regarded as a process which will ultimately result in changes at the population level. Berry (1990) made a distinction between acculturation at the population level and at the individual level. Under Berry's definition, psychological acculturation refers to the individual changes in psychological characteristics as a result of being in contact with other cultures and participating in the process of acculturation that one's cultural or ethnic group is undergoing. Berry's distinction between the acculturation at the population level and at the individual level is based on the different phenomena at the two levels C that is, the changes in social structure, economic base, and political organization at the population level and the changes in behavior, identity, values, and attitudes at the individual level.

Modes of Individual Acculturation

Our basic premise is that an individual who is adapting to a new culture has his/her unique mode of individual acculturation process. The categorization of the modes of acculturation suggested by Berry (1990) is as follows: (1) assimilation, which occurs when an individual does not wish to maintain what he/she has been (e.g., in terms of identity, language, and way of life) and seeks daily interaction with new culture; (2) separation, which occurs when an individual values holding his/her original culture and at the same time wishes to avoid interaction with new culture; (3) integration, which occurs when there is interest both in maintaining one's original culture and in daily interaction with new culture, and (4) marginalization, which occurs when there is little possibility or interest in cultural maintenance and little interest in the new culture.

The model of acculturation being proposed here is based on the delineation of cultural identification from the level of acculturation, unlike most presentations which have considered cultural identification to be a subdimension of acculturation level (Hui et al. 1992). While the voluntary adoption of the host culture's behavioral patterns may reflect cultural assimilation to some extent, the involuntary adoption of behavioral patterns due to structural mandates and conditions does not reflect cultural assimilation (Reilly and Wallendorf 1984). For example, the unavailability of familiar brands or the availability of vastly superior brands in the new culture may change purchasing patterns without affecting one's preference for the traditional culture. Alternatively, there may be social pressures that prevent the immigrant from using certain products or performing certain rituals from the culture of origin.

FIGURE 1

MODE OF INDIVIDUAL ACCULTURATION

The norm in acculturation studies is to investigate the adaptation of individuals from collective cultures (for example, from Asia or Latin America) to more individualistic ones such as the U.S. or Canada. Triandis (1992) noted that one difference between collective and individual cultures is that collectivists can tolerate better a discrepancy between attitude and behavior. Thus, for groups such as Koreans, behavioral changes brought about by adopting the new culture do not necessarily reflect a change in one's cultural identity (Joy and Dholakia 1991; Wallendorf and Reilly 1983).

A second difference between the two dimensions (besides one being attitudinal and the other behavioral in nature) lies in their relative susceptibility to situational influence. Consistent with Weinreich, Kelly, and Maya (1989), we propose that one's cultural identity is linked to one's self-concept, which is relatively universal across situations. On the other hand, the level of acculturation describes situated identity in a specific context, as individuals may be at different levels of acculturation for different roles in the course of their daily lives, For example, an individual may behave in accord with the ethnic norms at home with the family, but the person may behave based on the cultural norms of the host society at school (O'Guinn and Faber 1985). The specific domain of interest in this study is that of personal consumption. In summary, the level of acculturation is related to "How do I behave in a situation?" while cultural identification is self definition of "Who am I?"

Our model of individual acculturation modes is shown in Figure 1, and is based on the two dimensions of cultural identification (which is attitudinal in nature) and level of acculturation (which is behavioral in nature). Under the suggested categorization, assimilation occurs when an individual is oriented to find his/her cultural identification with the new culture and has adopted more the new cultural norms, values, and behaviors while keeping less the traditional ones. Separation occurs when an individual is oriented to find his/her cultural identification with the traditional culture and maintains more the traditional cultural norms, values, and behaviors while adopting less the new ones. Integration occurs when an individual finds his/her cultural identification with the traditional culture but has adopted more the new cultural norms, values, and behaviors while keeping less the traditional ones. Antinomy occurs when an individual is oriented to find his/her cultural identification with the new culture but keeps more the traditional cultural norms, values, and behaviors. Antinomy is recognized as a premature state which can occur when an individual has not absorbed the new norms, values, and behaviors while trying to find his/her identification from the new culture. Finally, frustration occurs when an individual has lost his/her cultural identification with both of the traditional culture and the new culture. Frustration is an unstable state which can be seen when an individual loses his/her cultural identification by self-denial and/or from exclusion from the cultural group.

Acculturation is usually assumed to be a linear-process heading toward one of the polar opposites of ethnicity or assimilation. However, the acculturation process is not necessarily a linear process toward one side but rather a non-linear trend over time (Knight et al. 1978), and an individual may be perceived as being more or less acculturated along a continuum from separation through assimilation. Thus, an acculturating person who falls in one of the modes of individual acculturation may move towards another mode over time. Further, it has been contended that an acculturating person goes through the honeymoon stage, rejection stage, tolerance stage, and the integration stage and that, as a result, the acculturation process curve resembles an inverted U shape over time (Penaloza 1989). However, the acculturation process curve is not necessarily expected to be a single curve which has one peak during one's adaptation to the new culture. An individual may experience the honeymoon stage and the rejection stage more than once, and those two stages alternate with one another until the person is ultimately melted into the host culture. Thus, the cyclical nature of the acculturation process may be repeated while one moves toward a stable stage. Moreover, the distance between the peak and the trough of the cycle may get shorter and shorter as the acculturation curve gets close to the equilibrium point.

DETERMINANTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL ACCULTURATION MODE

Determinants which influence the consumer acculturation process can be recognized at the population level and at the individual level. At the population level, the culture of the original country has an impact on the individual acculturation process such that those who come from a culture similar to the new culture tend to be more assimilation oriented, while those who have different traditional cultural backgrounds are likely to be less assimilated (Ellis et al. 1985). The individual acculturation process is also influenced by characteristics of the new society such as a high population density, settlement size, a set of social controls, and acculturation pressure (Berry 1990). Ethnic groups, native peoples, immigrants, sojourners, and refugees have different characteristics in terms of the voluntariness, movement, and permanence of residency, and members of the different groups may have different acculturation modes. Those who are voluntarily involved in the acculturation process (e.g., immigrants, sojourners, and ethnic groups) may experience less difficulty than those with little choice in the matter (e.g., refugees and native peoples). On the other hand, those only temporarily in contact and who are without permanent social supports (e.g., sojourners) may experience more difficulty than those who are more permanently settled and established (e.g., ethnic groups) (Berry 1990). The ecological setting of the community where an individual resides also influences the individual acculturation process at the population level (Knight et al. 1978). It is expected that Korean sojourners have moved into the new culture voluntarily, in that most come to the U.S. for the purpose of study, in order to provide greater economic opportunity for their families. Some Korean sojourners differ in their intent to return to Korea, though most intend to do so at some point.

At the individual level, demographic variables such as age, sex, religion, resident status, generational status, and education are associated with the individual acculturation process (Sodowsky and Plake in press; Sodowsky, Lai, and Plake 1991). Language preference and the ability to communicate through the language of the host culture have also been proposed as factors related to the individual acculturation process (Penaloza 1989). Socio-demographic factors combined with communication ability may decide how intensively a person contacts the host society. Those who spend most of the time outside the home in the host society may be directly exposed to the host culture much more than those who stay at home most of the time and, in turn, may have to rely on rather indirect experiences with the host culture. While most of the determinants are used to predict the extent to which a person can adopt the new culture, resistance to accept the new culture and willingness to maintain the home culture may be explained in part by how intensively the person was exposed to the home culture before moving into the new society. For instance, a person who was raised in rural areas of the home country may have had little chance to be exposed to foreign cultures; they may have been more dominated by the traditional culture than the person raised in an urban area. In the present paper, it will be proposed that the mode of consumer acculturation of Korean sojourners is associated with whether a person prefers to go back to Korea or not, whether the person was raised in rural areas or urban areas, and whether the person has much direct or indirect contact with the new culture.

Preference for Residency. Black and Gregersen (1991) contend that individuals start making adjustments when they first anticipate entering a new culture. Their possible anticipation of being permanent residents in a host country may also influence their adaptation to the new culture. Acculturating people may have different preferences for residency depending upon whether they have the option to live in the new culture permanently or temporarily. It is expected that the mode of individual acculturation is associated with the preference for residency. Those who prefer to go back to their home culture may keep their cultural identification more strongly than those who prefer to stay in the new culture permanently.

H1: Korean sojourners who prefer temporary residency will identify more with the Korean culture.

Rural/Urban Areas. Acculturating people within an ethnic group may have contacted the traditional culture for different periods of time, depending in part upon their ages at the time when they left the original culture. Those who left the traditional culture before much cognitive development took place may have very little significant experience with the traditional culture since pre-adolescent children are assumed not to be able to process information and deal with purchase tasks in a relatively adult manner (John and Cole 1986). The place where an individual was raised, however, may affect the intensity of contact with the traditional culture and, in turn, influence their acculturation modes. For example, tradition may be more valued and respected in rural areas than in urban areas where people have more chance to be exposed to artifacts from the imported new culture, thus diluting the influence of tradition.

It is expected that those who have had more contact with the traditional culture and those who grew up in rural areas in their home country tend to adopt less the norms, values, and behaviors of the new culture while keeping more the traditional ones.

H2: Korean sojourners who were raised in rural areas are more resistant to accept the new cultural norms, values, and behaviors than those who were raised in urban areas.

Direct/Indirect Contact with the New Culture. Acculturating people may face different social settings even though they have lived in the new culture for the same period of time because of different work demands. Some members of an ethnic group may stay at home all day without much direct contact with the new culture while others may go to work or to school where they behave in a manner acceptable to the new culture. Thus, a person may be asked to adopt the new culture if he/she works outside the home in the host culture, while a person who spends most of the time at home may find relatively little need to adopt the new culture. Lee (1989) suggests that the acculturation processes based on direct contact with the host culture are quite different from those with only indirect contact. More specifically, she speculates that the latter case would involve learning of the host culture symbolically through the mass media. Given that the reality portrayed in the mass media is not an accurate one, attempts to adopt the host culture's behavioral patterns may differ for those whose perceptions of the host culture are cultivated from mass media. Most of Korean male sojourners are studying and working in the U.S. while many female Koreans sojourners who stay with their spouses are not working outside the home, in part, due to legal restrictions.

H3: Direct contact with the new culture has a positive relationship with the extent to which the Korean sojourner adopts the new norms, values, and behaviors.

METHOD

Sample. The sample (n=53) was drawn from Korean students and their spouses at a major midwestern university. An attempt to contact all Korean students at the university was made, and approximately 50% of them responded. The sample included 26 males and 27 females. All male respondents were students, except one who worked full time; two females were students and the remainder were housewives. All of the students were graduate students and the average age of the sample was 31.3. On average, they have been in the United States for 3.8 years.

Measurement. The data were collected through a survey questionnaire which was written in English, translated into Korean, and then backtranslated. "Preference for Residency" was measured by using a seven-point Likert-type question (1=Strongly Disagree and 7=Strongly Agree), dealing with the preference of returning to Korea after the completion of studies in this country. "Rural/Urban Areas" was measured by asking the place (urban/rural) where the respondent had grown up during adolescence. "Direct/Indirect Contact with the New Culture" was measured based on whether the subject was a student, had a full time job, or was a housewife. The spouse not attending school, always the wife in the case of our data, lacks the opportunity to have much direct contact with the American culture. She is not allowed to work in the U.S. and, thus, spends much time at home. Students and those who have full-time jobs should have much direct contact with the American culture. Thus, in our sample, all male respondents had direct contact with the new culture while most of the female respondents had only indirect contact except for those attending school.

TABLE 1

SCALE ITEMS

We initially used ten items to measure "Cultural Identification" and six items to measure "Acculturation Level", and purified them by the iterative process of calculating alpha, and eliminating items with low item-to-total correlations to get the final items as measures of each construct (Churchill 1979). "Cultural Identification" was measured based on the respondent's perception on one's belonging to each culture and was scored to indicate the degree of one's cultural identification with the Korean culture, using the four items listed in Table 1. The Cronbach alpha for the four items was .55.

We used language usage and media preference as the domain for measuring "Acculturation Level." One's level of acculturation measured in terms of any one domain of social lives may not represent the person's general level of acculturation, which is believed to be multidimensional and situation specific. However, it has been found that communication in the host language is positively related to adoption of the new culture, indicating that language usage and media preference may be underlie the other domains of acculturation (O'Guinn and Faber 1985; Shah 1991). "Acculturation Level" was measured using the three items listed in Table 1. The items were scored to indicate the degree to which the respondent has adopted the American culture in terms of language usage and media usage. The Cronbach alpha for the three items was .73.

RESULTS

The model was tested using LISREL (despite the sample size limitations noted below), as well as more traditional methods of analysis. The LISREL analysis was conducted because of its ability to investigate the model being proposed here in a more comprehensive fashion. The convergence of the results from the regression analyses with those found in the LISREL analysis increase our confidence in the findings. However, we must acknowledge that this study is only an exploratory first test of the model being proposed.

The LISREL structural model in Figure 2 was developed based on previous research on acculturation, as cited in the literature review, and the hypotheses to be tested. LISREL allows for a test of each hypothesis through examination of the specific parameter estimates as well as a test of the fitness of the model suggested in the present study (Joreskog and Sorbom 1989).

The raw data were analyzed through PRELIS because the small sample size requires special care prior to using LISREL. The Weighted Least Squares method was employed because all of the scales were ordinal scales. Polychoric correlations among observed variables, which are appropriate with the Least Squares Method (Joreskog and Sorbom 1989), were used in the LISREL analysis (see Table 2).

The measures of overall fit indicate that the present model fits the data with Goodness-of-Fit index=.956 and c2=19.06 (d.f.=31 and p= .954). The observed variables jointly served well as measures for the two latent endogenous variables ("Cultural Identification" and "Acculturation Level"), as the Total Coefficient of Determination was .94.

"Preference for Residency" and "Cultural Identification" had a strong positive relationship (g11=.763, p< .05). Those who intend to go back to Korea after they complete study in the United States identified with the Korean culture much more than did those who intend to stay in the U.S., thus supporting the first hypothesis.

There was a marginally significant negative relationship between "Rural/Urban areas" and "Acculturation Level" (g22=-.305, p< .10), indicating that those who had been grown up in rural areas showed less adoption of the American culture in terms of language usage and media preference than those who had been grown up in urban areas. The marginal significance may result from the fact that respondents growing up in rural areas are also exposed to the American culture to some extent, as all but one of the respondents had graduated from college in Korea and they came from middle or upper-middle class backgrounds.

There was a strong positive relationship between "Direct/Indirect Contact with the New Culture" and "Acculturation Level" (g23=.755 p<.005), which supports the third hypothesis. Those who go to school or have a full-time job adopted the American culture more in terms of language usage and media preference than did the housewives staying at home.

"Cultural Identification" did not have a causal relationship with "Level of Acculturation" (b21=-.103), but "Acculturation Level" had a marginally significant causal relationship with "Cultural Identification" with the Korean culture (b12=-.289, p<.10). This result indicates that cultural identification is influenced by level of acculturation, but that they are independent constructs for the most part, supporting Hui et al.'s (1992) finding that identification and social behavior are separate but interdependent dimensions of acculturation. The result is consistent with past work that found that usage of mass communication in the host culture is related to a positive attitude toward the host society (Kim 1978).

Even though we have a high goodness-of-fit index, the small sample size is a problem when using LISREL. We employed two methods to check the validity of the results. First, we proposed and tested a competing LISREL model which assumed that "Cultural Identification" and "Acculturation Level" are the same construct such that both constructs are measured by the same set of observed variables (Y1 through Y7). The solution to the model was not convergent, which indicates the possibility that the competing model is misspecified (Joreskog and Sorbom 1989). Second, we conducted multiple regression analysis to test the relationships suggested by our model. The regression result (Table 3) was convergent with the result of the LISREL model. There was a strong relationship between "Preference for Residency" and "Cultural Identification", and between "Direct/Indirect Contact with the New Culture" and "Acculturation Level". Here was a marginal relationship between "Rural/Urban Areas" and "Acculturation Level", and between "Acculturation Level" and "Cultural Identification". In addition to the relationships suggested in the LISREL model, we tested the possible relationships which were not implied by the model. "Cultural Identification" did not have a significant relationship with "Rural/Urban Areas" and "Direct/Indirect Contact with the New Culture" after removing the effect of "Preference for Residency" on "Cultural Identification". After removing the effects of "Rural/Urban Areas" and "Direct/Indirect Contact with the New Culture" on "Acculturation Level", there was not a significant relationship between "Acculturation Level" and "Preference for Residency".

FIGURE 2

STRUCTURAL MODEL OF CULTURAL IDENTIFICATION AND LEVEL OF ACCULTURATION

TABLE 2

CORRELATIONS AMONG OBSERVED VARIABLES

TABLE 3

F-VALUES FROM STANDARD MULTIPLE REGRESSION

One additional analysis was to relate "Cultural Identification" to the Triandis et al. (1986) measure of Individualism/Collectivism as an exploratory test of the construct's predictive validity. Individualism/Collectivism is an underlying cultural dimension (Triandis 1992), which finds the U.S. at one extreme (individualistic) and Korea near the other extreme (collectivistic). As one's cultural identity moves from culture of origin (Korea) to the culture of residence (U.S.), one would be expected to become more individualistic. The correlation of "Cultural Identification" with Individualism/Collectivism was .33 (p<.05).

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS

Our study provides evidence to support the proposition that acculturation level can be distinguished from cultural identification and that both of the constructs are influenced by different factors. The validity of the variables is limited by the use of single-indicator measures for the independent variables, and by the low alpha for "Cultural Identification," which emphasizes the need to develop further measures of cultural identification. The sample of Korean students and their families from one university used in this study restricts the ability to generalize the results. Finally, the small sample size limits the power of the chi-square test used by LISREL to test the null hypothesis of model fit. While we are reasonably confident in our model because of the high goodness-of-fit measures, the better fit than that of a competing model, and the convergent results from regression analyses, it is possible that other models used with a larger data set might reveal a different structure.

In spite of the limitations mentioned above, the results support the distinction of cultural identification from acculturation level and provide insight into understanding the different modes of individual acculturation. Cultural identification is influenced by the preference for permanent residency or temporary residency while acculturation level is affected by the place (urban/rural) where a person was raised in the home culture and the amount of direct contact with the new culture. Those who want to remain in the host society tend to identify themselves with the new culture while those who want to go back to their home country keep their cultural identification with the traditional culture. Acculturating people from rural areas are more hesitant to abandon the traditional culture. Acculturating people who have more direct contact with the new culture adopt the new culture to a greater extent.

Promotional activities may benefit from the delineation of behavioral acculturation from attitudinal acculturation in that the consumption pattern of acculturating people is more determined by one's behavioral changes than one's cultural identification. If the target audience of a promotional communication has less direct contact with the new culture and, thus, is less acculturated in behavioral terms, the promotion should use ethnic media using the native language. If the target audience is those who prefer a permanent residency and have their cultural identifications toward the new culture, the symbolic cultural meaning of the product could be stressed to appeal to the target audience. The different mode of acculturation can be used as a segmenting dimension for an ethnic market in the sense that the importance evaluation of the attributes of a product may vary depending on one's acculturation mode. Consumers who maintain cultural identification with the traditional culture may seek products with inherent symbolic ethnic meanings, while consumers who want to identify with the new culture may show a conspicuous consumption pattern to help them to be recognized as members of the host society. Consumers who maintain cultural identification with the traditional culture may be strongly attached to possessions which provide cultural meaning, and consumers who have not adopted the new culture to much extent may show a traditionally ethnic consumption pattern. Marketers may reach those having troubles with adopting the new culture by providing the product information through their original language and ethnic media.

This paper is an exploratory attempt to delineate the determinants of the various modes of acculturation. Marketing efforts based on the assumption that assimilation is the only mode of acculturation may well alienate large segments of the acculturating groups. Greater sensitivity may result in such marketing efforts as providing different appeals (in content as well as in language) in the English and in the native language versions of print media aimed at a particular ethnic group. Those reading the English version may seek portrayals of brands as being "traditionally American" or "what every American family uses." On the other hand, appeals in the native language version of the medium should try to position the American brand as fitting well with the original culture.

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