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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Mapping Principal Dimensions of Prejudice in the United States

R. Bergh & M. J. Brandt


Research  is often guided  by  maps  of  elementary  dimensions, such  as core  traits, foundations  of  morality,  and principal stereotype  dimensions. Yet  there is no comprehensive  map of prejudice dimensions. A major  limiter of  developing  a prejudice map is the ad hoc sampling of target groups. We used a broad and largely theory-agnostic  selection  of  groups  to  derive  a  map  of  principal dimensions of expressed prejudice in contemporary American society. Across a   series   of exploratory and confirmatory studies, we found three principal factors: Prejudice against marginalized groups, prejudice against privileged/conservative groups, and prejudice   against unconventional groups(with some inverse loadings for conservative groups). We documented distinct correlates foreach factor, in terms of social    identifications, perceived    threats, personality, and    behavioral manifestations. We discuss how the current map integrates several lines of research, and point to novel and underexplored insights about prejudice.


Concluding Remarks

Identifying distinct, broad domains of prejudice is important for the same reason as differentiating bacteria and viruses. While diseases may require very specific treatments, it is still helpful to know which broad category they fall in. Virtually all prejudice interventions to date are based on generic methods for changing mindsets based on “us” versus “them” (Paluck & Green, 2009). While value-based prejudice might fit with this kind of thinking (Cikara et al., 2017), that seems more questionable for biases based on status and power differences (Bergh et al., 2016).  For that reason, it would seem relevant to outline basic kinds of prejudice, and here we propose that there are three such factors, at least in the American context: Prejudice against privileged/conservative groups, prejudice against marginalized groups, and prejudice expressed toward either conventional or unconventional groups(inversely related).

With this research, we are not challenging research programs aimed to identify specific explanations for specific group evaluations (e.g., Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005; Mackie et al., 2000; Mackie & Smith, 2015). Yet, we believe it is important to also recognize that there are–in addition –clear and broad commonalities between prejudices toward different groups. Studying racism, sexism, and ageism as isolated phenomena, for instance, is missing a bigger picture–especially when the common features account for more than half of the individual variability in these attitudes (e.g., Bergh et al., 2012; Ekehammar & Akrami, 2003). In the current studies, we also showed that such commonalities are associated with broad patterns of behaviors: Those who were prejudiced against marginalized and unconventional groups were less likely to donate to in general, regardless if charity would benefit a conservative, unconventional or marginalized group cause. In other words, people who are generally prejudiced in the classic sense seem more self-serving (versus prosocial) in a fairly broad sense. Such findings are clearly complementary to specific, emotion-driven biases for understanding human behavior.