Dealing with deviants: The effectiveness of rejection, denial, and apologies on protecting the public image of a group



Public transgressions by group members threaten the public image of a group when outside observers perceive them as representative of the group in general. In three studies, we tested the effectiveness of rejection of a deviant group member who made a racist comment in public, and compared this to several other strategies the group could employ to protect their image. In Study 1 (N = 75) and Study 2 (N = 51), the group was judged less racist after rejecting the deviant than after claiming a non-racist position or not responding to the transgression. Perceived typicality of the deviant partially mediated this effect in Study 2. In Study 3 (N = 81), the group was judged least racist after forcing the deviant to apologize and as most racist after denying the severity of the transgression. Results also showed a negative side-effect of rejection. Perceived exclusion of the deviant contributed to a perception of the group as disloyal to its members, which resulted in a less favorable overall group evaluation. Potential benefits and risks of rejection, denial, and apologies are further discussed in the General Discussion. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.