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Differentiating among outgroups: predictors of congruent and discordant prejudice.
The present study investigated factors responsible for determining congruent and discordant prejudice towards multiple outgroups. Specifically, White heterosexuals were asked to indicate their feelings towards two out-groups: Blacks and gays. Analyses were then conducted to determine possible causes of liking or disliking toward each group. Results supported our hypotheses that egalitarian beliefs predict congruent prejudice toward each group, and that religious fundamentalism predicts discordant prejudice, i.e., liking Blacks but not gays. Implications of these results for understanding congruent and discordant prejudice are discussed.

Article Type:
Prejudices (Research)
Social psychology (Research)
Dudley, Michael G.
Mulvey, Daniel
Pub Date:
Name: North American Journal of Psychology Publisher: North American Journal of Psychology Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 North American Journal of Psychology ISSN: 1527-7143
Date: March, 2009 Source Volume: 11 Source Issue: 1
Event Code: 310 Science & research
Accession Number:
Full Text:
The role of the self as an anchor in determining the extent to which we like or dislike other people has been well-established (Festinger, 1954; Hoyle, Kernis, Leary, & Baldwin, 1999; Suls & Miller, 1977). In general, the higher the degree of similarity we share with others, the more we tend to favor them over individuals with lesser degrees of similarity (Heider, 1958; Tesser, 1986; Tesser, Millar, & Moore, 1988). Given the high saliency, then, of our own recognition of self (Baumgardner, 1990), the saliency of evaluations of others vis-a-vis these similarities or dissimilarities has garnered much empirical attention.

In terms of explaining this evaluative process, one model which has received much attention is the minimal group model (Tajfel, Flament, Billing, & Bundy, 1971; Tajfel & Turner, 1979, 1986). According to this model, individuals automatically favor those similar to them (i.e., the ingroup) and reject those not similar to them (i.e., the outgroup). This process occurs on both an individual and group level (Hogg, 1987, 1992), and often results in discrimination (Mullin & Hogg, 1998). Although not discussed here, some possible explanations for this process include self-categorization theory (Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987), social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986), evolutionary psychology (Buss & Kenrick, 1998), and group norm theory of attitudes (Sherif & Sherif, 1953).

By expanding the minimal group model to our understanding of prejudice, it is possible to explain why individuals hold negative differing evaluations, or biases, of and against others. We readily categorize individuals according to salient characteristics (Allport, 1954; Amiot & Bourhis, 1995), and once categorized, we have a tendency to display a positive bias, or in-group favoritism, towards those who match up most closely with our in-group characteristics, and a negative bias, or out-group rejection, towards those who are less similar (Brewer, 1979). However, whereas a simplified version of this bias might indicate that individuals have a tendency to automatically disfavor all out-groups equally, most research supports the notion that the extent of out-group rejection varies according to which specific out-groups are being studied.

Schmitt, Branscombe, and Kappen (2003), for example, describe how "attitudes toward inequality are group-specific and depend on the social-structural position of salient in-groups" (p. 161). This recognizes that individuals must first be aware of salient in-group and out-group characteristics in order for evaluations based on those characteristics to be made. Others have discussed the formation of such attitudes as a function of the prototypicality of the out-group members themselves (Wenzel, Mummendey, Weber, & Waldzus, 2003). In other words, in-group members may evaluate various out-group members differently based on how similar or dissimilar they are to them, with either positive or negative evaluations (Crisp & Nicel, 2004; Mummendey & Otten, 1998). Furthermore, this evaluative process is often dependent on an individual's goals and values (Turner & Oakes, 1997) and prior expectations (Sherif & Cantril, 1947; Turner & Giles, 1981) of out-group members.

Although individuals may differ in the personal evaluations they make of various out-group members, their public expression of attitudes towards those members may not genuinely reflect these positive and negative biases. Crandall and Eshleman (2003), for example, proposed the justification-suppression model which distinguishes between genuine prejudice and the expression of such beliefs. According to this model, individuals may hold negative attitudes towards several out-groups but are restrained in terms of expressing those attitudes in light of societal norms which suppress such expressions (Crandall, Eshleman, & O'Brien, 2002; Monteith, Deneen, & Tooman, 1996). As further stated by Wenzel, Mummendey, Weber, and Waldzus (2003), "specific differences between groups may be evaluated differently depending on the normative prescriptions that are perceived to apply in that situation" (p. 461). As such, individuals are thus more likely to express negative attitudes towards those groups who are relatively more disadvantaged, and against whom such expression of negative attitudes is less socially discouraged (Reynolds, Turner, & Haslam, 2000; Rokeach & Ball-Rokeach, 1989).

To date, our understanding of out-group rejection is based largely on research investigating the attitudes and beliefs of an in-group towards one out-group. For the current study, we were interested in determining what factors may help explain instances of positive and negative evaluations when multiple out-groups were involved. For ease of interpretation, we shall use the term congruent prejudice to indicate when out-groups are viewed equally positive or negative, and the term discordant prejudice to indicate when different out-groups are not viewed equally positive and negative. We thus include positive evaluations of out-group members as part of our definition of prejudice (for a review of positive prejudice, see Dutton, 1976), although this view is not widely shared (e.g., Crandall & Eshleman, 2003).

Several factors have been identified in prior research as predictors of congruent prejudice. These include social dominance orientation (Guimond, Dambrun, Michinov, & Duarte, 2003), religious fundamentalism (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992), egalitarian beliefs (Dovidio, Mann, & Gaertner, 1989), and a belief in fixed human character (Hong et al., 2004), among others. However, as stated earlier, these factors have been examined in terms of how they can be used to predict levels of attitudes of one in-group toward one out-group, without distinguishing among multiple out-groups simultaneously. The purpose of the current study was to extend our understanding of the minimal group model to include the evaluations made by one in-group to multiple out-groups.

Given the relative homogeneity of our campus' demographics, we chose White heterosexuals as the default in-group for the current study. The out-groups chosen were Blacks and gays. Although exploratory in nature, we did proffer several hypotheses. Specifically, as individuals with higher egalitarian beliefs are less likely to form evaluations of others based on mere social categorizations (Den Bergh, Dewitte, & De Cremer, 2006; Rabinowitz, Wittig, von Braun, Franke, & Zander-Music, 2005), it was hypothesized that egalitarian beliefs would predict differences in congruent and discordant prejudice, meaning that those with more egalitarian beliefs would express similar levels of positive attitudes towards both out-groups, while those with less egalitarian beliefs would express similar levels of negative attitudes toward both out-groups.

The basis for this hypothesis concerning egalitarian beliefs is consistent with recent research indicating that the affective reactions that individuals have towards out-group members can be described as a function of their egalitarianism-related goals. Gawronski, Peters, Brochu, and Strack (2008), for example, employ a cognitive consistency perspective in describing how Whites differ in their evaluations of Blacks based on the extent to which their perceptions of discrimination towards Blacks match their own non-prejudicial beliefs. As discussed by the authors, these results "may provide deeper insights into the underlying dynamics of different components [emphasis added] in prejudice-related belief systems" (p. 663). Although their research was specifically aimed towards one out-group, i.e., Blacks, it is reasonable to suggest that individuals with non-prejudicial beliefs would seek to express consistent egalitarian beliefs in evaluating multiple out-groups, i.e., Blacks and gays, which also incorporate disparate elements.

Furthermore, it was hypothesized that religious fundamentalism and work ethic would further explain instances of discordant prejudice. Specifically, as some modern interpretations of Judeo-Christian religious texts support discrimination based on sexual orientation but not race (Boisvert, 2007), we predicted that strongly religious individuals would express positive attitudes towards Blacks but not gays. Bizumic and Duckitt (2007), in a study on self-centeredness, discovered that fundamentalism was positively associated with one's in-group, and negatively associated with one's out-group. As such, fundamentalists, in an effort to be consistent with their religious beliefs, are more likely to disregard differences in race and instead focus more on differences in sexual orientation as the basis for their comparative evaluations.

Conversely, as adherence to a Protestant work ethic (PWE) has been used as justification for the expression of negative attitudes towards Blacks in the US (Levy, West, Ramirez, & Karafantis, 2006), but not for gays, we predicted that those with a stronger work ethic would express negative attitudes towards Blacks but not gays. Furnham (1982), for example, reported how individuals who score higher on PWE are less likely to be sympathetic towards individuals on welfare. Given that Blacks are stereotyped to have a poorer work ethic compared to Whites (e.g., Thomas, 2003), it was thought that race would be a more salient categorization for evaluative purposes than would sexual orientation, which does not have comparable, negative, work-related stereotypes.



A total of 436 participants from a medium-sized Midwestern university completed all study materials in exchange for research credit towards their introductory psychology course. Of these, 109 participants were excluded from analyses after indicating that they did not belong to the study in-group of White heterosexuals. The study sample thus included 327 participants with the following demographics: n = 235 females (71.9%), n = 92 males (28.1%), mean age of 19.4 years (range 17-37).


As part of a larger study, participants completed a packet of questionnaires via computer in small-group settings. This packet included a brief demographic questionnaire (including age, gender, race and sexual orientation, among other filler items), the Heterosexual Attitudes Toward Homosexuality scale (HATH: Larsen, Reed, & Hoffman, 1980), the Religious Fundamentalism scale (RF: Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992), and four scales developed by Katz and Hass (1988): the Pro-Black, Anti-Black, Protestant Ethic (PE), and Humanitarianism-Egalitarianism (HE) scales. All participants completed the demographic questionnaire first, whereas the remaining scales were counter-balanced in the order of their administration.

The HATH scale (Larsen, Reed, & Hoffman, 1980) consists of 20 items which measure individuals' level of prejudice towards homosexuals. On a 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree scale, participants respond to such items as "Homosexuality is immoral" and "Homosexuals should be accepted completely in our society" (reverse-scored). The reported internal reliability of this scale is [alpha] = .95.

The Pro-Black and Anti-Black scales (Katz & Hass, 1988) measure individuals' level of prejudice towards African-Americans. The ProBlack scale consists of 10 items such as "Blacks have more to offer than they have been allowed to show," to which participants respond on a 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree scale. The reported internal reliability of this scale is [alpha] = .73. The Anti-Black scale consists of 10 items such as "The root cause of most of the social and economic ills of Blacks is the weakness and instability of the Black family," to which participants respond on a 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree scale. The reported internal reliability of this scale is [alpha] = .80.

The Religious Fundamentalism scale (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992) consists of 20 items such as "God will punish most severely those who abandon his true religion" and "It is more important to be a good person than to believe in God and the right religion" (reverse-scored) to which participants respond on a 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree scale. The reported internal reliability of this scale is between [alpha] = .93 and .95. The Humanitarianism-Egalitarianism scale (Katz & Hass, 1988) consists of 10 items such as "One should be kind to all people" to which participants respond on a 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree scale. The reported internal reliability of this scale is [alpha] = .83. The Protestant Ethic scale (Katz & Hass, 1988) consists of 10 items such as "If people work hard enough they are likely to make a good life for themselves" to which participants respond on a 1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree scale. The reported reliability of this scale is [alpha] = .76.

Upon completion of these measures, all participants were fully debriefed, thanked for their participation, and dismissed. All materials and procedures were approved by the university institutional review board.


Before analyses were conducted, a number of composite variables were created. To determine levels of prejudice towards gays, participants' scores on the HATH scale were averaged, with appropriate items reverse-scored ([alpha] = .96). A dichotomous split at the mean of participants' responses was then conducted to form two categories: those with high (n = 150) and low (n = 177) levels of prejudice towards gays.

To determine levels of prejudice towards Blacks, participants' scores on the Pro-Black and Anti-Black scales were scored such that higher scores reflected higher levels of prejudice, with appropriate items reverse-scored. Internal consistencies for these scales were [alpha] = .76 and [alpha] = .84, respectively. These scales were then averaged ([alpha] = .81), and a dichotomous split at the mean of participants' responses was conducted to form two categories: those with high (n = 164) and low (n = 163) levels of prejudice towards Blacks.

For use as dependent variables, participants' scores on religious fundamentalism were averaged together, with appropriate items being reverse-scored ([alpha] = .92). Participants' scores on egalitarianism were averaged together to form a composite variable ([alpha] = .83), as were participants' scores on work ethic ([alpha] = .71).

Next, as shown in Table 1, a series of 2 (prejudice towards gays: high and low) X 2 (prejudice towards Blacks: high and low) ANOVAs were conducted. (1) A significant main effect was found for prejudice towards gays. Participants with high levels of prejudice towards gays expressed higher beliefs in religious fundamentalism (M = 3.35) than those with low levels of prejudice (M = 2.58), F(1, 104) = 21.10, p < .001, [[eta].sup.2] = .17, observed power = .99. Conversely, participants with lower levels of prejudice towards gays expressed higher beliefs in egalitarianism (M = 5.04) than those with high levels of prejudice (M = 4.64), F(1, 106) = 12.47, p = .001, [[eta].sup.2] = .11, observed power = .94.

A significant main effect was also found for prejudice towards Blacks. Specifically, participants with low levels of prejudice towards Blacks expressed higher beliefs in egalitarianism (M = 5.04) than those with high levels of prejudice (M = 4.64), F(1, 106) = 13.15, p < .001, [[eta].sup.2] = .11, observed power = .95. There were no significant main effects of either variable in terms of work ethic, nor were there any significant interactions between variables, all Fs < 1.31, ns.

Next, a series of planned contrast t-tests were conducted to compare results for the congruent prejudice groups, i.e., those who scored both high (n = 91) or low (n = 104) in terms of prejudice towards both out-groups. As predicted, participants with overall low levels of prejudice scored higher in egalitarianism (M = 5.21) than did those with high levels of prejudice (M = 4.40), t(62) = 5.09, p < .001, [r.sup.2] = .30. Furthermore, participants with overall high levels of prejudice scored higher in religious fundamentalism (M = 3.14) than did those with low levels of prejudice (M = 2.60), t(64) = 2.57, p = .01, [r.sup.2] = .09.

A series of planned contrast t-tests were also conducted to compare results for the discordant groups, i.e., those with low levels of prejudice towards gays but high levels of prejudice towards Blacks (n = 73) and those with low levels of prejudice towards Blacks but high levels of prejudice towards gays (n = 59). As predicted, participants in the latter group scored higher in religious fundamentalism (M = 3.56) than did participants in the former group (M = 2.56), t(40) = 3.86, p < .001, [r.sup.2] = .27. However, participants in the former group did not differ in levels of work ethic (M = 4.16) from those in the latter (M = 4.05), t(42) = 0.60, ns.

A series of post-hoc analyses were also conducted to test for gender effects. A significant main effect was found for egalitarianism such that females (M = 5.00) scored higher than males (M = 4.48), F(1, 108) = 15.29, p < .001, [[eta].sup.2] = .12. Furthermore, a significant main effect was found for prejudice towards gays such that males expressed higher levels of prejudice (M = 3.63) than did females (M = 2.53), F(1, 325) = 48.41, p < .001, [[eta].sup.2] = .13. There were no significant interactions involving gender on any variables, all Fs < 3.44, ns.


In an increasingly diverse society, social interactions among individuals of differing backgrounds are more the norm than the exception. Yet despite the frequency of these interactions, the social inequality among members of differing groups continues to be pervasive (Oaks, Haslam, & Turner, 1994; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Although research indicates that, in general, it is becoming less acceptable in our society to overtly express prejudices (e.g., Campbell, 1947; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986; Dowden & Robinson, 1993), a universal attitude of tolerance toward all groups has yet to be adopted.

As previously discussed, the justification-suppression model (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003) describes how social norms influence the expression of such prejudice towards various social groups. In our culture, race is a more salient social category than is sexual orientation (Schmitt, Branscombe, & Kappen, 2003). As such, the social consequences of expressing negative attitudes based on race are much more severe than are the consequences of expressing negative attitudes based on sexual orientation. In light of this distinction, in this study we sought to identify in White heterosexual students which factors predict levels of congruent and discordant prejudice towards Blacks and gays.

In examining each out-group separately, several significant results were obtained. In terms of attitudes towards gays, higher levels of egalitarianism predicted lower levels of prejudice, whereas higher levels of religious fundamentalism predicted higher levels of prejudice. From the perspective of the minimal group model, it is possible that individuals with egalitarian beliefs are more likely to form evaluations of others based on similarities between groups. In other words, the negative attitudes normally associated with out-group rejection are replaced with the positive attitudes normally associated with in-group favoritism by extending the in-group to form a superordinate category in which such differences are less salient (Rubin & Badea, 2007). Individuals high in religious fundamentalism, who conversely are more likely to rely on firm distinctions between groups (Cairns, Kenworthy, Campbell, & Hewstone, 2006), would thus display higher levels of out-group rejection, as indicated by the results. A similar explanation could be suggested for the finding that individuals with more egalitarian beliefs express lower levels of prejudice towards Blacks: race is not as salient a social categorization as is the superordinate category which includes all races, i.e., human.

This inclusion of others in a superordinate category would also explain the results concerning instances of congruent prejudice in which multiple out-groups are being evaluated simultaneously. As predicted, individuals with higher levels of egalitarianism expressed more positive attitudes towards both out-groups than did individuals with lower levels of egalitarianism. Similarly, individuals with higher levels of religious fundamentalism expressed more negative attitudes towards both groups. However, as noted by McFarland (1982), the relationship between religious fundamentalism and prejudice is typically dependent upon whether such religious beliefs are intrinsic or extrinsic in nature--a key distinction which was not directly addressed in this study.

In terms of discordant prejudice, as hypothesized, religious fundamentalism did predict when individuals would express positive attitudes towards Blacks yet negative attitudes towards gays. This again highlights the importance of including multiple out-groups in studies of prejudice to determine the extent to which levels of out-group rejection apply to specific out-groups. However, contrary to our hypothesis, work ethic did not predict instances of discordant prejudice in which individuals express positive attitudes towards gays yet negative attitudes towards Blacks. As such, it is still unclear what factors predict this combination of attitudes held by roughly one-quarter of our sample (22.32%). In explaining why some individuals like gays but not Blacks, it is possible that the in-group relied on differing standards of social inclusion. In other words, the in-group may have felt it more possible to include White gays but not Black gays, making it thus dependent on the saliency of the superordinate category which includes them both (Mummendey & Wenzel, 1999). Apparently, attitudes toward work ethic do not explain these differences in social inclusion.

Prior research has noted the effect of gender on attitudes towards homosexuals, with females generally expressing more positive attitudes than males (e.g., Herek, 2002). Given the relatively higher percentage of females in this study, a number of post-hoc analyses involving gender were conducted. Results indicated that females did express more positive attitudes towards gays, as well as higher overall levels of egalitarianism than did males. This is consistent with prior research indicating that males are higher in social dominance orientation than are females (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). However, given that our results did not yield any significant interactions between gender and other study variables, levels of congruent and discordant prejudice do not appear to be dependent on the gender of the individual making the evaluations.

One particular limitation to the current study involves how levels of prejudice towards Blacks were determined. As this was part of a larger study, two measures of attitudes were included, with one focusing on positive attitudes and the other on negative attitudes. Although we feel the same information was garnered after collapsing participants' responses to these two measures, future research could include more standard measures of prejudice towards Blacks, such as the Attitudes Towards Blacks scale (ATB: Brigham, 1993) or the Modern Racism Scale (MRS: McConahay, 1986). Also, the low effect size estimates reported along with the results were likely influenced by the dichotomization of both prejudice scales, potentially reducing the variability associated with these measures.

Although at times we have discussed these differences in evaluations of out-group members as it may relate to discrimination, this study only measured participants' affective orientation towards these out-groups, with no subsequent behavioral measures. Past research has discussed how the automatic nature of social categorization can engender behavioral consequences (Gordijn & Stapel, 2006; Plant & Devine, 1998), and additional research which includes behavioral measures would thus be beneficial. It is possible that these attitudes would not result in actual discrimination towards non-ingroup members, although there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that such discrimination does occur.

Also, although this study was conducted in an attempt to uncover the processes responsible for discordant prejudice in general, we fully acknowledged that this study only investigated specific in-groups and out-groups. For example, it is possible that levels of egalitarianism may apply more globally to other groups not studied here, but it is likely that religious fundamentalism is specific to this particular combination of outgroups. To determine the full extent to which these and other measures predict levels of discordant prejudice toward differing combinations of out-groups, additional research with respect to such combinations will be necessary.

As our society continues to increase in terms of diversity, it is imperative that we continue to contribute to our understanding of how our evaluations of others are influenced by differing degrees of similarity. Knowing that individuals continue either to include or exclude others based on such categorizations (Abrams, Hogg, & Marques, 2005; Dessel, Rogge, & Garlington, 2006), the greater the degree to which we can explain such occurrences, the greater our chances of learning how to improve intergroup relations.


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Footnote (1) To prevent loss of power and potential spurious results, participants' prejudice scores were originally analyzed as continuous variables in a series of hierarchical multiple regression analyses. However, it was discovered that the same results were obtained by analyzing dichotomized variables in a factorial design. For ease of interpretation, only the ANOVA results are reported here.

Michael G. Dudley, Daniel Mulvey

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Dr. Michael G. Dudley, Department of Psychology, Campus Box 1121, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL 62026-1121, e-mail:
TABLE 1 ANOVA Results for Egalitarianism, Religious
Fundamentalism, and Work Ethic

Variable         Source of Variation         SS      df      MS

                 Prejudice Towards Gays      4.17       1    4.17
                 Prejudice Towards Blacks    4.40       1    4.40
                 Interaction                 0.09       1    0.09
                 Within                     35.49     106    0.34

Religious Fundamentalism
                 Prejudice Towards Gays     14.99       1   14.99
                 Prejudice Towards Blacks    1.35       1    1.35
                 Interaction                 0.93       1    0.93
                 Within                     73.92     104    0.71

Protestant Work Ethic
                 Prejudice Towards Gays      0.03       1    0.03
                 Prejudice Towards Blacks    0.51       1    0.51
                 Interaction                 0.02       1    0.02
                 Within                     39.10     105    0.37

Variable         Source of Variation          F       p

                 Prejudice Towards Gays     12.47   .001
                 Prejudice Towards Blacks   13.15   .000
                 Interaction                 0.28   .600

Religious Fundamentalism
                 Prejudice Towards Gays     21.10   .000
                 Prejudice Towards Blacks    1.90   .171
                 Interaction                 1.31   .256

Protestant Work Ethic
                 Prejudice Towards Gays      0.07   .787
                 Prejudice Towards Blacks    1.38   .244
                 Interaction                 0.05   .832
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