"Not One of Us": Predictors and Consequences of Denying Ingroup Characteristics to Ambiguous Targets

Abstract

We investigated individual difference predictors of ascribing ingroup characteristics to negative and positive ambiguous targets.
Studies 1 and 2 investigated events involving negative targets whose status as racial (Tsarnaev brothers) or national (Woolwich
attackers) ingroup members remained ambiguous. Immediately following the attacks, we presented White Americans and British
individuals with the suspects’ images. Those higher in social dominance orientation (SDO) and right-wing authoritarianism
(RWA)—concerned with enforcing status boundaries and adherence to ingroup norms, respectively—perceived these low status and
low conformity suspects as looking less White and less British, thus denying them ingroup characteristics. Perceiving suspects in more exclusionary terms increased
support for treating them harshly, and for militaristic counter-terrorism policies prioritizing ingroup safety over outgroup
harm. Studies 3 and 4 experimentally manipulated a racially ambiguous target’s status and conformity. Results suggested that
target status and conformity critically influence SDO’s (status) and RWA’s (conformity) effects on inclusionary versus exclusionary
perceptions.

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