From prejudice to discrimination: The legitimising role of threat perceptions, ingroup identification and scope of justice

From prejudice to discrimination: The legitimising role of threat perceptions, ingroup identification and scope of justice

This project focuses on legitimising processes that facilitate moving from prejudice to discrimination without the individual threatening their selfconcept of being fair and unprejudiced. We propose that legitimacy is a key factor, facilitating the relationship between prejudice and discrimination and generating the self-concept of feeling unprejudiced. Indeed, legitimisation is a fundamental concept in understanding the social tensions and individual behaviours (Zelditch, 2001). However, only recently have legitimating processes of anti-normative attitudes and behaviours begun to receive attention in Social Psychology (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003; Jost & Banaji, 2001; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999).

Specifically, the role of legitimacy in the relationship between prejudice and discrimination is yet to receive sufficient attention. Analysing legitimacy processes is especially relevant to the understanding of why prejudice and discrimination against minority groups still persist, despite the democratic societies having developed social and legal norms in order to prevent discrimination. In this line, our previous research has shown that the relationship between prejudice and discriminating attitudes is legitimated by justifying factors. Indeed, we have demonstrated that the relationship between prejudice and opposition to immigration in Europe is more strongly mediated by realistic threat, while opposition to the naturalisation of immigrants is more strongly mediated by symbolic threat (Pereira, et al., in press). These results are consistent with several theories on the contemporary expression of prejudice (Gaertner & Dovidio, 2005; Sears & Henry, 2003) and the legitimacy of the social inequality (Jost & Banaji, 2001; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), which propose that because people are pressured by the anti-discrimination norm to control prejudiced attitudes, they use justifying factors, such as symbolic and realistic threat perceptions before engaging in discriminatory behaviours that, in consequence, are no longer perceived as discriminatory. This interpretation is based on four basic assumptions: a) people need to use justifications for not being negatively evaluated; b) people genuinely integrate unprejudiced beliefs into their self-concept and therefore need to justify discrimination in order not to threaten that self-concept; c) realistic and symbolic threat perceptions are justifications for discriminating against outgroup members; d) threat perceptions are justifying factors because they are perceived as normative. Even though these assumptions have guided the interpretation of research results in this field, they have not been directly tested or articulated into a theoretical model.

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
Yes
Entidades: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Keywords: 

Prejudice and discrimination, Natinal identification, Threat perception, Justice and legitimation

This project focuses on legitimising processes that facilitate moving from prejudice to discrimination without the individual threatening their selfconcept of being fair and unprejudiced. We propose that legitimacy is a key factor, facilitating the relationship between prejudice and discrimination and generating the self-concept of feeling unprejudiced. Indeed, legitimisation is a fundamental concept in understanding the social tensions and individual behaviours (Zelditch, 2001). However, only recently have legitimating processes of anti-normative attitudes and behaviours begun to receive attention in Social Psychology (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003; Jost & Banaji, 2001; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999).

Specifically, the role of legitimacy in the relationship between prejudice and discrimination is yet to receive sufficient attention. Analysing legitimacy processes is especially relevant to the understanding of why prejudice and discrimination against minority groups still persist, despite the democratic societies having developed social and legal norms in order to prevent discrimination. In this line, our previous research has shown that the relationship between prejudice and discriminating attitudes is legitimated by justifying factors. Indeed, we have demonstrated that the relationship between prejudice and opposition to immigration in Europe is more strongly mediated by realistic threat, while opposition to the naturalisation of immigrants is more strongly mediated by symbolic threat (Pereira, et al., in press). These results are consistent with several theories on the contemporary expression of prejudice (Gaertner & Dovidio, 2005; Sears & Henry, 2003) and the legitimacy of the social inequality (Jost & Banaji, 2001; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), which propose that because people are pressured by the anti-discrimination norm to control prejudiced attitudes, they use justifying factors, such as symbolic and realistic threat perceptions before engaging in discriminatory behaviours that, in consequence, are no longer perceived as discriminatory. This interpretation is based on four basic assumptions: a) people need to use justifications for not being negatively evaluated; b) people genuinely integrate unprejudiced beliefs into their self-concept and therefore need to justify discrimination in order not to threaten that self-concept; c) realistic and symbolic threat perceptions are justifications for discriminating against outgroup members; d) threat perceptions are justifying factors because they are perceived as normative. Even though these assumptions have guided the interpretation of research results in this field, they have not been directly tested or articulated into a theoretical model.

 

Objectivos: 
The first aim of this project is to test a set of hypotheses derived from these assumptions. Moreover, our previous research has also shown that the relationship between prejudice and discrimination is mediated by justifying factors only when the anti-discriminatory norm is salient. We experimentally showed that symbolic threat perception mediates the relationship between a prejudiced representation of Turkish people and the opposition to Turkey's adhesion to the European Union into an egalitarian context, but the use of threat was not necessary into a meritocratic one (Pereira, et al., 2009). These results indicated that the prejudice-discrimination link is mediated by threat perception and this mediation is moderated by normative context, i.e., people only need to use justifications when the normative context condemns discrimination. Following this study, and assuming that the social context is anti-discriminatory, the second aim of this project is to analyse the moderating role of ingroup identification. Indeed, in a paper on intergroup relations and social justice, Tajfel (1984) proposed that identity and justice factors drive legitimating processes that justify intergroup hostility. In this sense, we propose that threat perceptions mediate the relationship between prejudice and discrimination and that this mediation is moderated by social identification.
State of the art: 
Research on the relationship between prejudice and discrimination has been carried out within the more general framework of the early studies on the connection between attitude and behaviour (LaPiere, 1934; Wicker, 1969). While that literature specifies "when" attitudes predict behaviour (Zanna, Olson, & Fazio, 1980) and presents some hypotheses on "how" this process occurs (Snyder, 1982), the literature on the prejudicediscrimination link still reveals some shortcomings in these matters (Fiske, 2000). In fact, the few studies concerning the "when" question have shown that the prejudice-discrimination correlation has a moderate magnitude (Dovidio, Brigham, Johnson, & Gaertner, 1996), and that this correlation depends on several moderators (Schutz & Six, 1996). To our knowledge, our previous studies are the first simultaneously addressing both the "how " and "when" questions (Pereira, et al., in press; Pereira, et al., 2009), predicting that the psychological processes through which prejudice leads to discrimination involve justifying factors, such as threat perception. According to our theorising, legitimisation is a core concept to understand discriminatory actions (Allport, 1954; Tajfel, 1984). Legitimisation refers to the ways through which attitudes and behaviours can be justified. Nonetheless, some assumptions used as a base for several theoretical models conceptually support our proposal. For instance, research on aversive racism proposes that the availability of a non-racist justification facilitates the discrimination (Gaertner & Dovidio, 2005). An explanation for such effect has been proposed within the justification-suppression model of prejudice (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003), which suggests that discrimination depends on a justification that allows the individual to express prejudice without being socially sanctioned or threatening their self-concept of being fair and unprejudiced. System justification theory explains that this is possible because there is a general motive to justify the status quo (Jost and Banaji, 2001). According to social dominance theory (Sidanius and Pratto, 1999), justifications may occur through legitimising myths, since these myths maintain the hegemony of dominant groups over dominated groups. Extending this process to contribute to the understanding of the relationship between prejudice and discrimination, we demonstrate how prejudice can elicit the search for justifications to legitimise discrimination into anti-discrimination norm contexts (Pereira, et al., 2009). Threat Perceptions as legitimising factors for discrimination Realistic and symbolic threat perceptions constitute examples of justifications for discrimination (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003). Realistic threats are threats to the economic and political power and the well-being of the ingroup. Symbolic threats refer to how values perceived as different challenge the ingroup's worldview (Stephan, et al., 2002). The relationship between threat perceptions and prejudice was already studied in the frame of several theories and models (Bobo, 1999; Esses, Jackson, and Armstrong, 1998; Sherif, 1966; Stephan, et al., 2002; Zick, Pettigrew, and Wagner, 2008). Correlational studies have supported these models showing that both realistic and symbolic threat (Sears & Henry, 2003; Stephan, et al., 2002) predict prejudice. However, even longitudinal studies have shown that general threat feelings cause dislike towards outgroups (Schlueter, Schmidt, & Wagner, 2008), the causal relation between symbolic or realistic threat and prejudice is not yet fully supported (Riek, Mania, & Gaertner, 2006). According to our theorizing, however, prejudice cannot only derive from threat perception, it also can be a predictor of threat perceptions, i.e., it seems logical to see a stimulus (i.e., the outgroup) as threatening if any negative image (i.e., prejudice) about this stimulus has already been established. Moreover, it is probable that the more an outgroup is seen as a threat, the more legitimated will be behaviours against the members of that outgroup, i.e., threat perceptions will mediate the relationship between prejudice and discrimination. Indeed, this threat perception should be a mediator in the relationship between prejudice and discrimination, since it can be regarded as a justifying factor of discrimination (Crandall and Eshleman, 2003; LaPiere, 1936), especially when the social context condemns discrimination. In fact, our previous research provided experimental support for this hypothesis, showing that a prejudiced representation of Turkish people influenced participants' opposition to Turkey's adhesion to the EU (Pereira, et al., 2009). More importantly, we found that the psychological process through which this effect occurred involved a symbolic threat perception. In this sense, symbolic threat mediated the relationship between prejudice and opposition to Turkey's entry into the EU. Furthermore, when participants were placed in an egalitarian normative context, they experienced a dilemma and used symbolic threat as a justification for discrimination. This dilemma was absent when the prevalent norms were permissive (i.e., meritocratic). In such a context, no justification was needed to discriminate. We interpreted these effects based on the idea that if discrimination persists in democratic societies, despite the pressure of a normative standard that condemns prejudice, then to discriminate against someone based on prejudice must be psychologically incoherent. Thus, in these societies, the relationship between prejudice and discrimination needs to be justified (Pereira, et al., in press; Zick, et al., 2008). Taking these results together, we now raise two new questions: a) how do different types of threat legitimate the prejudice-discrimination relationship?; b) what is the role of the ingroup identification and justice concerns in this legitimising process?
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Isabel Correia
Aline Lima-Nunes
Joaquim Valentim
Maria Rosa Cabecinhas
Andreas Zick
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/03/2011
End Date: 
28/02/2014
Duração: 
36 meses
Closed