Can the Absence of Prejudice be Threatening? Worldview Mismatches in Intergroup Relations
Sarah Townsend, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Management and Organization
Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California
Monday, April 21st
Dr. Townsend's faculty website
Abstract: How threatened are members of stigmatized groups when interacting with prejudiced vs. nonprejudiced outgroup members? In my work, I show that the answer to this question depends on people's worldviews, particularly, their belief in individualism. I theorize that people will be most threatened in situations that are mismatched with their worldview, i.e., situations that disconfirm their beliefs. For members of stigmatized groups who believe in individualism, encountering prejudice should be mismatched with these beliefs. Thus, interacting with a prejudiced partner, compared with interacting with a nonprejudiced partner, should result in greater threat. In contrast, for members of stigmatized groups who reject individualism, encountering prejudice should instead match their beliefs. For these individuals, interacting with a prejudiced partner, compared with interacting with a nonprejudiced partner, should result in less threat. Across four studies, I provide support for these predictions measuring participants’ cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to index their experiences of threat.