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The social psychological consequences of being a victim of discrimination : an analysis of perceived discrimination

McGill University
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  • Discrimination -- Psychological Aspects.
  • Self-Esteem.
  • Social Perception.
  • Psychology


This doctoral thesis describes a program of research that investigated the social psychological consequences of being a victim of discrimination. A series of four experiments with women, Asians, and Blacks examined how disadvantaged group numbers perceive the discrimination that confronts them. These experiments first established that disadvantaged group members sometimes perceive discrimination but more often, minimize the discrimination that is directed at them personally. Second, the results explain why disadvantaged group members are inclined to minimize their personal experience with discrimination, Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that by minimizing discrimination, disadvantaged group members protect their state self-esteem in the social domain, and maintain the perception of control over social and performance outcomes in their lives. Experiment 3 indicates that when there is any ambiguity about having been discriminated against, disadvantaged group members who are low in performance self-esteem but higher in social self-esteem are especially inclined to minimize personal discrimination. Experiment 4 further reveals that disadvantaged group members who are high in performance perceived control and high in social perceived control are particularly prone to minimize discrimination in an achievement context. Thus, disadvantaged group members minimize the discrimination that confronts them because the consequences of doing so, are, on balance, psychologically beneficial. Three of the four psychological processes associated with minimizing personal discrimination are those typically linked with better psychological adjustment: high social self-esteem, high performance perceived control, and high social perceived control.

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