This research focuses on the experiences of members of disadvantaged groups. It begins with the idea that the reports of experiences with prejudice and discrimination are related to the extent to which individuals identify with their group. This project examines whether strongly and weakly identified group members experience different amounts of actual prejudice from members of advantaged groups. The first set of studies examines whether White Americans express more prejudice toward strongly identified ethnic and racial minorities than weakly identified minorities. The second set of studies examines how members of two disadvantaged group (women pursuing doctoral degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields and ethnic minorities) behave when they are in high status positions and have the opportunity to help or harm fellow ingroup members. To this end, an additional aim of this project is to examine the implications of this effect for diversity-related outcomes and to consider how identification may affect group members' behaviors inside and outside of the group. This research has important theoretical implications for advancing research on group identity and prejudice. This research also has substantial societal implications for understanding prejudice and discrimination and for achieving diversity in domains where women and minorities are underrepresented.

Project Report

This project explored two primary goals. First, the experiments in this project proposed and tested a novel theoretical perspective to explain why more strongly identified members of disadvantaged social groups (e.g., racial minorities, women) report more experiences with prejudice than their more weakly identified counterparts. In particular, we proposed a prejudice distribution account, which contends that highly identified disadvantaged group members report more frequent experiences with prejudice than weakly identified disadvantaged group members, in part, because majority group members do in fact react more negatively towards the former group. This account differs from prevailing accounts of the relationship between group identification and prejudice, which have focused exclusively on how disadvantage group members differently construe encounters with majority group members, independent of the actual attitudes and behavior of majority group behavior. Some of the major findings revealed that people accurately detect others’ level of group identification, even given minimal information. Further, majority group members use these inferences about identification to guide their attitudes and behaviors toward disadvantaged group members, with strongly identified disadvantaged group members bearing the brunt of prejudice. A second goal of this project was to examine the implications of the prejudice distribution effect for diversity-related outcomes. Specifically, if weakly identified disadvantaged groups members receive more opportunities to advance in society (e.g., in the workplace), then these individuals will often be in positions where they have opportunities to advocate on behalf of other ingroup members and ultimately work toward decreasing the effects of discrimination. However, our studies demonstrated that weakly identified group members who advanced in domains win which their group was underrepresented did not advocate on behalf of their ingroups, and in fact engaged in outgroup favoring behaviors that unwittingly contributed to their own groups’ disadvantaged position. The project has resulted in numerous publications and presentations to scientists from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (e.g., political science, sociology, law, psychology). The project has also contributed toward training opportunities for a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Washington. Students who received training from this project subsequently went on to pursue advanced degree programs in psychology and related fields, employment in the research infrastructure (e.g., university human subjects administration), earned National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, and the trainee to graduate during the award was placed in a tenure track position at WesleyanUniversity. The research in the project has also been the catalyst for cross-disciplinary research on perceiving discrimination and managing diversity. The findings have been publicized in media outlets, and have been incorporated into scientific lectures for the general public. More information can be found here:

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Sally Dickerson
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University of Washington
United States
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