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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

The present investigation examined how individuals higher in social dominance orientation (SDO) react to experimentally induced intergroup threat in terms of support for helping immigrants. Participants read editorials describing an incoming immigrant outgroup posing realistic threats (to tangible resources and well-being), symbolic threats (to values and traditions) or no threats. Participants higher in SDO exhibited greater resistance to helping immigrants upon exposure to realistic, symbolic, (Experiments 1 and 2), or combined realistic–symbolic (Experiment 2) intergroup threats, but not when the same immigrants posed no threats. In Experiment 2, SDO exerted indirect effects on modern prejudice through both heightened infra-humanization and intergroup anxiety, with modern prejudice itself predicting greater resistance and indifference to helping immigrants. Moderated mediation analyses revealed strongest SDO-infra-humanization relations under conditions of symbolic threat. Implications for prejudice-reduction interventions are considered. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Despite increasing immigration rates, broadening immigration policies, and acclaimed preferences for multiculturalism, immigrants continue to face resistance by host societies (Reitz & Banerjee, 2007). Discrimination clearly affects the ability for immigrants to integrate successfully, creating a pressing need for research on the acceptance and integration of immigrants into host societies. In the present investigation, we explore how person and situational factors affect the willingness of host society members to help an incoming immigrant group.

Ideological orientations that maintain intergroup status differentials are particularly relevant to this discussion. According to Social Dominance Theory (SDT), human societies are naturally characterized by hierarchical power structures, with dominant social groups motivated to endorse ideologies justifying intergroup hierarchies and social inequality (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). Central to SDT are broad hierarchy-enhancing myths, such as prejudice (e.g., racism, sexism), that serve to legitimize the subordination and discrimination of groups lower in the social hierarchy (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Within the broader SDT framework, social dominance orientation (SDO) represents an ideological orientation toward intergroup dominance that differs among individuals. Those higher in SDO see the world as a “competitive jungle” (Duckitt, Wagner, du Plessis, & Birum, 2002) perceiving outgroups as sources of threat (Esses, Hodson, & Dovidio, 2003). SDO is one of the most potent individual difference predictors of prejudice (Altemeyer, 1998; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), particularly toward “inferior” outgroups seeking higher status (Duckitt, 2006). Relevant to the present context, heightened SDO predicts negative attitudes toward immigrants (Costello & Hodson, 2010; Hodson & Costello, 2007), and favorable attitudes toward policies stressing dominance over immigrants (Pratto & Lemieux, 2001).

Outgroup Assistance and Social Dominance Orientation

Across two experiments we explore SDO-based resistance to helping immigrants following exposure to threat-relevant information about the immigrant outgroup. We focus on forms of intergroup help particularly relevant to immigrants. First, host citizens can assist immigrants through empowerment by removing barriers and helping immigrants obtain needed skills to help themselves and improve their groups' position (Jackson & Esses, 1997; Nadler, 2002). Alternatively, host citizens can offer direct assistance by providing solutions to the problems faced by immigrants through the provision of social services or resources (Jackson & Esses, 1997; Nadler, 2002). Facilitating resource-acquiring skills and donating resources are important forms of outgroup help that engender costs to the ingroup, either by enabling others to obtain resources and improve their groups' position (empowerment), or relinquishing finite resources (direct assistance). Host societies can also hold outgroups responsible for solving their own problems through hard work or adaptation to the dominant culture (outgroup responsibility; Jackson & Esses, 1997). Endorsing outgroup responsibility can be considered indifference to helping immigrants, requiring no resources from or change in the dominant group.

In previous research, high SDOs are particularly resistant to empowerment (see Jackson & Esses, 2000), presumably because empowerment provides immigrants with the skills/resources needed to successfully and independently compete with host citizens, thereby destabilizing the dominant group's status quo. High SDOs might endorse direct assistance for distant outgroups living abroad, because such groups pose little “zero-sum” threat to their own resources or status within the immediate social hierarchy. Such help can serve to further solidify the “weaker” groups' subordination by entrenching their dependency on the dominant group (Halabi, Dovidio, & Nadler, 2008). However, in contexts involving incoming immigrants, high SDOs' heightened sensitivity to competition (Esses et al., 2003) would prompt a greater reluctance to provide direct assistance, further thwarting the immigrant group's potential for upward social mobility within the host society. Previous research also indicates that high SDOs endorse stronger beliefs for outgroup responsibility, believing that outgroups should change their lifestyles and/or take more responsibility in helping themselves (Jackson & Esses, 2000).

Social Dominance-based Reactions to Intergroup Threat

High SDOs' resistance to helping immigrants is expected to be enhanced following exposure to intergroup threats, which are “actions, beliefs, or characteristics [that] challenge the goal attainment or well-being of another group” (Riek, Mania, & Gaertner, 2006, p. 336). Realistic threats involve real or perceived competition over tangible, material resources or the means to attain them (Sherif, 1966). Stephan and Stephan (2000) operationalize realistic threat more broadly, incorporating threats to political or economic power with threats to the well-being and existence of the ingroup. Intergroup threats can also be symbolic in nature, involving real or perceived conflict over less tangible constructs such as values, beliefs, and cultural identity (Sears, 1988). Although some studies find no main effects for intergroup threat on helping or attitudes (Halabi et al., 2008; Jackson & Esses, 2000; Stephan, Renfro, Esses, Stephan, & Martin, 2005), others find intergroup threats negatively associated with immigrant attitudes (Riek et al., 2006; Sibley & Liu, 2004). Such inconsistencies highlight the importance of considering the interactive effects involving individual differences, notably SDO.

Another factor to consider is that the vast majority of existing studies measure rather than manipulate intergroup threats (Riek et al., 2006), with a few notable exceptions. In Esses, Jackson, and Armstrong (1998, Study 1), experimentally induced economic competition posed by immigrants, led to less favorable attitudes toward immigrants and immigrant empowerment. Stephan et al. (2005, Study 1) found that only combined realistic–symbolic experimental threats worsened attitudes toward immigrants, not either threat type alone. The former study only considered realistic “competition” threats, and neither Esses et al. (1998) nor Stephen et al. (2005) considered individual differences, notably SDO, in interaction with manipulated threat. Recent calls for experimental threat research (Riek et al., 2006), particularly exploring SDO-based reactions to threat manipulations (Cohrs & Asbrock, 2009; Duckitt, 2006), have prompted the present investigation.

Why might high SDOs' resistance to immigrant help be heightened following exposure to experimentally induced intergroup threats? According to the Dual-Process Model of prejudice (Duckitt et al., 2002), SDO originates from motivations for intergroup dominance, with high SDOs expressing prejudice/discrimination toward subordinate outgroups posing threats to the intergroup hierarchy. High SDOs also perceive social interactions in terms of zero-sum competitions over finite resources (Esses et al., 2003). Not surprisingly, high SDOs are demonstrably sensitive to realistic threats (Esses et al., 1998; Jackson & Esses, 2000, Study 2) because such threats are directly relevant to one's resources and well-being, as well as the ingroup's ability to remain dominant. The relation between SDO and symbolic threat is less clear. Symbolic threats involve perceived differences in values and culture that less clearly operate in a zero-sum fashion. Yet correlational studies suggest high SDOs do perceive cultural dominance to operate by zero-sum rules (Esses et al., 2003; Sibley & Liu, 2004). Experimental manipulations of symbolic threat are necessary to determine how these individuals react to systematically controlled symbolic threats.

To date, a limited number of studies have investigated SDO × threat patterns through experimental designs, yielding mixed results. Halabi et al. (2008) found that high SDOs offered less help to a hypothetical outgroup member under conditions of status threat. However, others report non-significant SDO × experimental threat interactions (Cohrs & Asbrock, 2009; Meeus, Duriez, Vanbeselaere, Phalet, & Kuppens, 2009). These inconsistent findings pertaining to SDO × threat effects within experimental contexts heightens the need for additional experimental research. The present study extends the previous research by introducing the experimental separation of symbolic from realistic threat, considering help (vs. resistance) toward the outgroup as a whole (vs. individuals), and exploring mediating mechanisms in Experiment 2.

Overview of Predictions

Individuals higher in SDO are expected to exhibit heightened resistance toward empowering and directly assisting immigrants, as well as greater support for outgroup responsibility following exposure to realistic or symbolic threats relative to the non-threat condition. Given the inconsistent findings in previous research, we make no predictions about threat main effects on the helping criterions.

METHOD

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Participants

Undergraduate psychology students at a Canadian university participated for course credit. Non-Canadians (n = 8) were excluded from analyses, leaving a final sample of 120 participants (96 women, 24 men; Mage = 20.15, SD = 4.27). Most participants self-classified as White/Caucasian (94.2%).

Procedure and Materials

Participants were randomly assigned to experimental conditions and responded privately in groups of 2–10, after which they were debriefed. Suspicion checks in each experiment revealed failure to identify study hypotheses or goals. Participants responded to measures in the order presented below.

Experimental Threat Manipulations

As in previous threat manipulations (Esses et al., 1998; Stephan et al., 2005, Study 1), participants were randomly assigned to read an editorial (realistic, symbolic, or no-threat) describing a fictitious outgroup, “Sandirians,” planning to migrate to Canada. Editorials were approximately the same length, each beginning with an explanation that Sandirians were planning to migrate to Canada to escape civil war and uninhabitable living conditions. Following this information, the realistic threat condition (n = 37) emphasized that Sandirians would compete with host citizens for jobs and access to health care, require governmental financial assistance, and increase tax burdens. The symbolic threat editorial (n = 43) stressed that Sandirians would bring conflicting political and work values, a more primitive culture, foreign language, and non-western religious beliefs and practices. The control editorial (n = 40) presented additional non-threatening information about the fictitious country of “Sandir,” including general information on population statistics, import-trade, and geographical descriptions.

Manipulation Check

Two items tapped the extent to which editorials stressed Sandirian immigrants as threats to the “economic status and or/well-being of Canadians” and the “culture and values of Canadians” (1 = not at all, to 5 = very much).

Intergroup Helping

A modified 22-item scale (based on Jackson & Esses, 1997) measured three forms of intergroup help: empowerment, direct assistance, and outgroup responsibility. Sample subscale items are “The government should provide job training for Sandirian immigrants to compensate for their lack of opportunity” (empowerment), “The government should provide funding for Sandirian immigrants to ease any settlement problems they may encounter” (direct assistance), and “Sandirian immigrants should work harder to support themselves, upon migration to Canada” (outgroup responsibility). A principal components analysis (PCA) with an oblique promax rotation revealed an interpretable 3-factor solution accounting for 47% of the total item variance, with item-loadings largely corresponding to the three subscales.

Social Dominance Orientation

SDO was assessed using the Sidanius and Pratto (1999) SDO scale. A sample item reads: “Superior groups should dominate inferior groups.” A single factor solution emerged from a PCA, explaining 43% of the variance.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Manipulation Check

Due to a photocopying error only a subsample (n = 17) was administered the manipulation check. However, the obtained results were strong, consistent with predictions, and similar materials were correctly understood by participants in Experiment 2. Overall, participants correctly understood the nature of the experimental manipulations with significant omnibus effects for realistic, F(2, 14) = 38.80, p < .001, and symbolic threat, F(2, 14) = 8.54, p = .004. The realistic threat editorial (M = 4.75, SD = .46) was perceived to stress threats to the economic status and well-being of Canadians more than the non-threat (M = 1.50, SD = 1.00), t(10) = 7.91, p < .001, or symbolic-threat conditions (M = 1.80, SD = .84), t(11) = 8.28, p < .001. The symbolic threat editorial (M = 3.80, SD = 1.10) was perceived to stress threats to Canadian culture and values more than the non-threat (M = 1.50, SD = 1.00), t(7) = 3.25, p = .014, or realistic-threat conditions (M = 1.75, SD = .89), t(11) = 3.72, p = .003.

Preliminary Analyses

SDO was uninfluenced by threat, F(2, 116) = .95, p = .392 (between-cell comparisons, ps > .450) despite being measured after the experimental threat manipulation (for similar results see Duckitt & Fisher, 2003). Correlations and descriptive statistics were as expected (see Table 1). Collapsing across conditions, higher SDO was associated with decreased support for empowerment and direct assistance, and greater support for outgroup responsibility. The associations between the helping criterions were in the expected direction and predominately moderate in strength indicating that these constructs are related but distinct.

Table 1. Descriptive statistics and correlations among key variables, collapsing across conditions (Experiment 1)
 MSDNo. of items1234
  • Note: Numbers in parentheses represent scale range. Numbers in diagonal represent scale reliabilities. N = 120.

  • ***

    p < .001.

1. Social dominance orientation (1, 7)2.31.9616.90−.47***−.37***.61***
2. Empowerment (−3, 3)1.10.866 .74.59***−.52***
3. Direct assistance (−3, 3)−.40.898  .73−.32***
4. Outgroup responsibility (−3, 3)−.471.018   .82

SDO × Intergroup Threat Contrasts

Overview of Analytic Strategy

A series of hierarchical regression analyses were employed using orthogonal contrast coding to capture the experimental threat effects. The first threat contrast (C1) compared realistic and symbolic threat to the non-threat condition (i.e., threat vs. control). The second threat contrast (C2) compared symbolic and realistic threat. As recommended by Cohen, Cohen, West and Aiken (2003) the three outcome measures (empowerment, direct assistance, and outgroup responsibility) were individually regressed onto mean-centered SDO and the two threat contrasts (C1 and C2) on Step 1, and the corresponding product terms (SDO × C1 and SDO × C2) on Step 2. Follow-up tests of simple slopes were then estimated using dummy re-coding procedures (see Cohen et al., 2003; Jaccard & Turrisi, 2003). Semi-partial correlations (rsp) are reported for significant effects.

Empowerment

At Step 1, the threat versus control (C1) contrast was non-significant, β = −.10, p = .222, and there was no significant difference between realistic and symbolic threat conditions (C2), β = .13, p = .106. The main effect of SDO, β = −.48, rsp = −.48, p < .001, was qualified by a significant SDO × C1 interaction, β= .28, rsp = .27, p < .001. As expected, simple slopes analyses indicated that increased SDO was associated with less support for empowering Sandirian immigrants under realistic, β = −.63, rsp = −.39, p < .001, and symbolic threat, β = −.65, rsp = −.39, p < .001. The SDO-empowerment slope was not significant in the non-threat condition, β = −.01, p = .969. No significant SDO × C2 interaction emerged, β= −.01, p = .883, indicating that high SDOs' resistance to empowerment did not differ as a function of realistic versus symbolic threat.

Direct Assistance

At Step 1, the threat versus control contrast (C1) was non-significant, β = −.07, p = .445, and there was no significant difference between realistic and symbolic threat conditions (C2), β = .13, p = .139. A significant SDO main effect emerged, β = −.38, rsp = −.38, p < .001, but was qualified by a significant SDO × C1 interaction, β= .24, rsp = .23, p = .007. Mirroring the interaction pattern for empowerment, increased SDO was associated with less support for direct assistance under realistic (β = −.40, rsp = −.25, p = .003), and symbolic threat conditions (β = −.64, rsp = −.38, p < .001), but not in the non-threat condition (β = .02, p = .894). The SDO × C2 contrast was not-significant, β= −.10, p = .223.

Outgroup Responsibility

At Step 1, the threat versus control contrast (C1) was non-significant, β = .11, p = .139, and there was no significant difference between realistic and symbolic conditions (C2), β = −.10, p = .155. There was a significant SDO effect on outgroup responsibility, β = .62, rsp = .62, p < .001, with higher SDO predicting more support for outgroup responsibility. Neither SDO × threat contrasts were significant, βs < .05, ps > .471. All SDO-outgroup responsibility slopes were significant (ps < .001), indicating that SDO was positively associated with outgroup responsibility regardless of threat.

In keeping with previous research (Halabi et al., 2008; Jackson & Esses, 2000; Stephan et al., 2005, but see Esses et al., 1998), intergroup threat alone did not impact immigrant helping. Of particularly interest are the significant SDO × C1 contrast interactions. Overall, people higher in SDO were increasingly opposed to empowering and directly assisting a fictitious immigrant group upon exposure to either realistic or symbolic intergroup threats. Non-significant SDO × C2 threat contrasts demonstrate equivalent SDO effects on helping criterions across realistic and symbolic threat conditions. Contrary to expectations, high SDOs supported outgroup responsibility regardless of intergroup threat. At this point, it is unclear why those higher in SDO resist immigrant aid. In Experiment 2 we examine potential mediators for the effects of SDO on immigrant help.

EXPERIMENT 2

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

In Experiment 1, higher SDO predicted greater resistance toward helping immigrants under realistic or symbolic threat. Experiment 2 aims to replicate these SDO-based reactions to intergroup threat with some methodological modifications. We introduce a combined threat condition to explore whether high SDOs react to combined realistic–symbolic threats in an additive sense, beyond either single-threat condition alone, or whether the simple presence versus absence of threat (not degree) is the key (see Stephan et al., 2005, Study 1). Using a fictitious immigrant group in Experiment 1 eliminated concerns about previous group contact and conflict, but real outgroups represent greater competition for resources, physical well-being, and/or cultural dominance. Therefore in Experiment 2 we examined threats by a real immigrant outgroup, Somalis.

Although Experiment 1 clearly demonstrated SDO-based opposition to helping immigrants as a function of heightened threat; the processes underlying these effects remain unknown. We propose a two-stage mediation model. Modern prejudice (stressing immigrant un-deservingness) is expected to mediate relations between SDO and immigrant help in accordance with SDT. We also explore whether SDO-modern prejudice relations are themselves mediated by psychological processes (infra-humanization, intergroup anxiety) known to facilitate outgroup prejudice. We outline the bases for these predictions below.

Modern Prejudice as a Mediator of SDO-resistance to Immigrant Help

Central to SDT is the proposition that those relatively higher in SDO endorse “legitimizing myths,” such as negative stereotypes, cultural values, or prejudices (racism, sexism, etc) to justify policies entrenching their dominant intergroup positions (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Culturally shared negative beliefs and evaluations concerning an outgroup can serve to justify negative treatment of that outgroup. Prejudiced attitudes rooted in modern racism (McConahay, Hardee, & Batts, 1981) emphasize perceptions that minorities are getting more respect and demanding more influence than they deserve or have earned. Such beliefs can psychologically “justify” denial of support for minorities. According to SDT, such legitimizing myths are “potent” to the extent that they explain relations between SDO and the rejection of social policies benefiting outgroups. Based on SDT rationale (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), we anticipated higher SDO indirectly predicting greater resistance to immigrant help via the endorsement of modern prejudices stressing the un-deservingness of the immigrant outgroup.

Potential Mediators of SDO-modern Prejudice Relation

What factors might themselves explain why those higher in SDO endorse modern prejudices against the immigrant outgroup? In the context of immigration, the mediating role of outgroup dehumanization is of central interest. Dehumanization, the perception that outgroup members are relatively more “animal-like” or “less human,” can involve the lesser attribution of uniquely human characteristics to outgroup members, including traits or emotions (Costello & Hodson, 2010; Hodson & Costello, 2007; Leyens et al., 2000). Leyens et al. (2000) conceptualize infra-humanization as the subtle tendency to attribute fewer secondary (uniquely human) emotions to outgroup members relative to the ingroup. We adopt Leyens' infra-humanization construct to capture the perceived lesser humanity of immigrants relative to the ingroup. High SDOs' support for hierarchical relations, in which dominant groups are considered superior to inferior groups (Pratto et al., 1994), makes them naturally inclined to perceive immigrant outgroups as “inferior” humans. Indeed, high SDOs tend to infra-humanize immigrants, with perceptions of a lesser humanity partly accounting for their negative attitudes toward immigrants (Costello & Hodson, 2010; Hodson & Costello, 2007) and refugees (Esses, Veenviet, Hodson, & Mihic, 2008). Furthermore, because heightened infra-humanization can be used to excuse past ingroup negativity toward the outgroup (Castano & Giner-Sorolla, 2006), it may similarly explain why high SDOs exhibit modern prejudice toward incoming immigrants in the present.

Intergroup anxiety is also considered as a potential mediator for the SDO-modern prejudice relation. Intergroup anxiety involves feelings of uncertainty and discomfort caused by anticipating negative outcomes from intergroup contact (Stephan & Stephan, 2000). Those higher in SDO express heightened intergroup anxiety (Hodson, 2008), with intergroup anxiety a well-established predictor of negative intergroup attitudes (Riek et al., 2006; Stephan & Stephan, 2000). In summary, our two-stage mediation model predicts that: (a) increased outgroup infra-humanization and heightened intergroup anxiety mediate relations between SDO and modern prejudice toward immigrants; and (b) heightened prejudice itself exerts negative effects on immigrant helping intentions.

Moderated Mediation

Of theoretical interest, we also examine whether mediation effects for SDO-prejudice relations are moderated by threat. Moderated mediation can occur when a predictor exerts differential effects on a mediator as a function of experimental condition (i.e., first-stage moderation; Edwards & Lambert, 2007). We anticipated first-stage moderated mediation, with SDO exerting stronger effects on infra-humanization and anxiety following exposure to symbolic threats. Whereas “Infra-humanization is not linked to things that people can loose [sic] or gain (money, jobs)” (Leyens & Demoulin, 2009, p. 212), symbolic threats are conceptually relevant to infra-humanization because they emphasize intergroup differences in characteristics considered unique to humans (e.g., religion, language, culture, and morality, see also Leyens & Demoulin, 2009). In research by Pereira, Vala, and Leyens (2009), manipulations of outgroup infra-humanization increased perceptions of symbolic threat posed by that group. As noted by Simonton (1982), the manipulation of one variable to demonstrate causal effects on the other does not preclude the reverse pattern of causality. We explore the equally plausible but untested prediction that manipulations of symbolic threat increase infra-humanization, particularly among high SDOs who naturally endorse infra-humanizing perceptions.

At an emotional level, feelings of intergroup anxiety are most likely to be invoked by outgroups perceived as dissimilar (Stephan & Stephan, 1985), “unusual, exotic, or simply unfamiliar” (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003, p. 431). Therefore, symbolic threats depicting immigrants as worshipping strange gods, speaking foreign languages, and practicing unfamiliar customs, may instigate increasingly more anticipated feelings of uneasiness or anxiety among those higher in SDO.

We do not suggest that high SDOs will refrain from infra-humanizing or experiencing anxiety under the other experimental conditions. Rather, we predict that SDO-infra-humanization/anxiety relations will be relatively stronger following exposure to symbolic threats emphasizing negative intergroup differences in dimensions relevant to perceived humanity. In contrast, realistic threats are less relevant to perceived humanity (Leyens & Demoulin, 2009) and may even weaken high SDOs' need to infra-humanize or anticipate anxiety by inadvertently stressing the immigrant group's similarities (vs. differences) to the ingroup. After all, realistic threats highlight comparable intergroup needs, with outgroups perceived as desiring/competing for the same resources (e.g., jobs, health care) as the host society.

Overview and Predictions

Following exposure to realistic, symbolic, or (new to Experiment 2) combined realistic–symbolic threat, high SDOs were expected to increasingly resist empowerment and direct assistance, as well as endorse outgroup responsibility. SDO was also expected to exert indirect effects on modern prejudice via infra-humanization and anxiety, with modern prejudice itself predicting resistance to empowerment, direct assistance, and greater support for outgroup responsibility. Furthermore, the SDO-first stage mediator (infra-humanization, anxiety) paths were expected to be moderated by threat with stronger effects following exposure to symbolic intergroup threats.

METHOD

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Participants

Undergraduate psychology students at a Canadian university participated for course credit. Non-Canadian citizens (n = 13) were excluded from analyses, resulting in 162 participants (Mage = 19.85, SD = 3.34; 128 women, 34 men), 93.2% self-classifying as White/Caucasian. The procedure was identical to Experiment 1 except as noted below. Measures are described in the order administered.

Procedure and Materials

Experimental Threat Manipulation

Participants were randomly assigned to read an editorial describing a real immigrant outgroup (Somalis) planning to migrate to Canada to escape civil war and uninhabitable living conditions. Other than substituting “Somalis” for “Sandirians” the editorials were identical to Experiment 1. Editorials described Somali immigrants as posing symbolic threats (n = 41), realistic threats (n = 41), a combination of realistic–symbolic threats (n = 42; see Stephan et al., 2005, Study 1), or no threats (n = 38). As in Experiment 1, participants in the non-threat condition read a short description of the Somalis' situation (similar to the other experimental conditions), in addition to non-threatening information on the country of Somalia.

Manipulation Check

The threat manipulation effectiveness was assessed as in Experiment 1 (modified for Somalis).

Infra-humanization

Following Leyens et al. (2000) respondents indicated the extent to which Canadians and Somalis experience 12 emotions (derived from Demoulin, Leyens, Paladino, Rodriguez, Rodriguez, & Dovidio, 2004; Paladino, Leyens, Rodriguez, Rodriguez, Gaunt, & Demoulin, 2002): three positive primary emotions (excitement, joy, pleasure), three negative primary emotions (fear, pain, rage), three positive secondary emotions (friendliness, compassion, hope), and three negative secondary emotions (guilt, remorse, despair).

Intergroup Anxiety

Participants indicated whether they feel awkward/self-conscious/happy/accepted/confident/irritated/impatient/defensive/suspicious/careful when interacting with a different racial outgroup (Stephan & Stephan, 1985).

Intergroup Helping

Intergroup helping was assessed as in Experiment 1, substituting Somali for Sandirian. A PCA with an oblique promoax rotation revealed an interpretable 3-factor solution accounting for 46% of item variance and item-loadings largely representing the three helping subscales.

Modern Prejudice Toward Somali Immigrants

Participants completed a modified version of the Modern Racism Scale (MRS; McConahay et al., 1981), with instructions specifying that the questions pertained to Somali immigrants. A sample item reads, “Over the past few years, the government and news media have shown more respect for Somalis than they deserve.” After reverse scoring, higher scores reflect more negative attitudes toward Somali immigrants.

Social Dominance Orientation

SDO was assessed as in Experiment 1. A 1-factor solution emerged from a PCA, explaining 50% of the variance.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Manipulation Check

Mirroring Experiment 1, participants correctly identified the nature of the experimental manipulations, with significant omnibus effects on realistic threat, F(3, 158) = 84.25, p < .001, and symbolic threat, F(3, 158) = 43.32, p < .001. The realistic threat editorial (M = 4.10, SD = .70) was seen to stress threats to the economic status and well-being of Canadians more than the non-threat (M = 1.97, SD = .94), t(77) = 2.60, p < .01, and symbolic threat editorials (M = 2.17, SD = .89), t(80) = 10.88, p < .001, but not the combined threat editorial (M = 4.19, SD = .77), t(81) = −.61, p = .542. The symbolic threat editorial (M = 3.56, SD = 1.25) was perceived to threaten Canadian culture and values more than the non-threat (M = 1.63, SD = .67), t(77) = 8.46, p < .001, and realistic threat editorials (M = 1.88, SD = .87), t(80) = 7.09, p < .001, but not the combined threat editorial (M = 3.50, SD = 1.06), t(81) = .40, p = .694.

Preliminary Analyses and Correlations Among Key Variables

SDO was uninfluenced by experimental threat manipulations, F(3, 157) = 2.21, p = .089 (between-cell comparisons, ps > .100). To test for basic infra-humanization effects, a 2 (Group: Canadians vs. Somalis) × 2 (Emotion: primary vs. secondary) × 2 (Valence: positive vs. negative) repeated measures ANOVA was conducted. The analysis revealed significant main effects for Group, F(1, 161) = 17.58, p < .001, Emotion, F(1, 161) = 33.50, p < .001, and Valence, F(1, 161) = 24.27, p < .001, as well as significant Group × Valence, F(1, 161) = 154.95, p < .001, Emotion × Valence, F(1, 161) = 84.54, p < .001, and Group × Emotion, F(1, 161) = 46.07, p < .001, interactions. Contrary to theorizing that emotion valence plays no role (e.g., Leyens et al., 2000) all 2-way interactions were qualified by a significant Group × Emotion × Valence interaction, F(1, 161) = 108.77, p < .001. In unpacking the three-way interaction fewer positive secondary emotions were attributed to Somali immigrants relative to Canadians (Ms = 4.66 vs. 5.90, SDs = 1.48 vs. .94), t(161) = −10.42, p < .001, whereas no effect of emotion valence occurred for the attribution of primary emotions to Somali immigrants relative to Canadians (Ms = 4.79 vs. 4.67, SDs = 1.0 vs. 1.0), t(161) = 1.01, p = .316. Infra-humanization was therefore operationalized as the lesser attribution of positive secondary emotions to Somalis versus Canadians. A difference index score was created to reflect infra-humanization in the forthcoming analyses; reliability of this measure was calculated (Williams & Zimmerman, 1977) and found to be acceptable (see Table 2). This operationalization is consistent with research using English-speaking participants (see Brown, Eller, Leeds, & Stace, 2007), and captures the central idea that outgroups are seen to experience relatively fewer valued uniquely human emotions.

Table 2. Descriptive statistics and correlations among key variables, collapsing across conditions (Experiment 2)
 MSDNo. of items1234567
  • Note: Numbers in parentheses represent scale range. Numbers in diagonal represent scale reliabilities. Ns = 161–162.

  • *

    p < .05;

  • **

    p < .01;

  • ***

    p < .001.

1. Social dominance orientation (1, 7)2.511.0916.92.16*.43***.44***−.39***−.25***.36***
2. Infra-humanization (1, 7)1.241.5212 .76.15*.32***−.23**−.19*.35***
3. Intergroup anxiety (−3, 3)−.631.2010  .89.35***−.26**−.15*.30***
4. Modern prejudice (0, 4)1.49.657   .79−.61***−.47***.61***
5. Empowerment (−3, 3).80.926    .74.61***−.51***
6. Direct Assistance (−3, 3)−.52.898     .73−.28***
7. Outgroup responsibility (−3, 3)−.381.008      .80

Correlations and descriptive statistics are presented in Table 2, with inter-correlations in expected directions. Increased SDO was associated with greater infra-humanization, intergroup anxiety, modern prejudice, and support for outgroup responsibility, as well as less support for empowerment and direct assistance. Infra-humanization and intergroup anxiety were each positively associated with modern prejudice and outgroup responsibility, and negatively correlated with empowerment and direct assistance. As in Experiment 1, the inter-correlations among helping criterions were predominately moderate in strength, indicating that these constructs are related but distinct.

SDO × Intergroup Threat Contrast Effects

As in Experiment 1, orthogonal contrast coding was used to capture targeted predictions. Given the additional combined-threat condition, three contrast codes were required. The first threat contrast (C1) compared realistic, symbolic, and combined threats to the non-threat condition (i.e., threat vs. control effect). The second contrast (C2) compared realistic and symbolic threat, and the third contrast (C3) compared symbolic and realistic threat to the combined threat condition. Experimental analyses were otherwise similar to those conducted in Experiment 1.

Empowerment

At Step 1, none of the threat contrasts (C1, C2, and C3) were significant, βs < .10, ps > .177. A significant SDO main effect emerged, β = −.40, rsp = −.39, p < .001, but was qualified by an SDO × C1 interaction, β= −.16, rsp = −.14, p = .050. Mirroring Experiment 1, simple slope analyses reflected the hypothesized pattern (see Figure 1): increases in SDO predicted less support for empowering Somali immigrants under realistic, β = −.50 rsp = −.25, p < .001, symbolic, β = −.35, rsp = −.20, p = .007, and combined threat conditions, β = −.53, rsp = −.28, p < .001. The comparable slope was not significant in the non-threat condition, β = −.04, p = .861. All other SDO × threat contrasts (SDO × C2, SDO × C3) were non-significant, βs < .06, ps > .453.

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Figure 1. SDO-based reactions to immigrant empowerment as a function of experimental threat (symbolic, realistic, combined, non-threat, Experiment 2). SDO treated as a centered-continuous variable (High = + 1 SD and Low = −1 SD from the mean). Figure plotted using unstandardized beta weights from final regression equation. p-values reflect significance of simple slopes analyses

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Direct Assistance

At Step 1, no threat contrasts were significant, βs < .14, ps > .135, revealing only a significant SDO main effect with higher SDO predicting greater resistance to direct assistance, β = −.23, rsp = −.23, p < .010. At Step 2, none of the SDO × threat contrasts approached significance, βs < .06, ps > .481. Given a priori predictions, simple slopes analyses were conducted, revealing significant SDO-direct assistance slopes only under realistic threat, β = −.32, rsp = −.16, p = .042. Comparable slopes were not significant in symbolic, β = −.17, p = .207, combined, β = −.17, p = .249, or non-threat conditions, β = −.35, p = .102.

Outgroup Responsibility

At Step 1, no threat contrasts were significant, βs < .09, ps > .218, but a significant main effect of SDO emerged, β =.37, rsp = .36, p < .001. At Step 2 the SDO × C1 contrast approached significance, β = .14, rsp = .13, p = .086, but the other SDO × threat contrasts were non-significant, βs < .04, ps > .620. Given a priori predictions, simple slopes analyses were calculated, and results confirmed predictions: increased SDO predicted greater support for outgroup responsibility under symbolic, β = .45, rsp = .25, p < .001, realistic, β = .35, rsp = .17, p = .020, and combined threat, β = .43, rsp = .23, p < .01. The comparable SDO-outgroup responsibility slope was not significant under the non-threat condition, β = .03, p = .880.

Overall the results largely supported predictions and replicated Experiment 1, particularly for empowerment. The pattern in Figure 1 was replicated across several variables, with increased SDO predicting greater resistance to empowerment and heightened indifference to immigrant aid under threat conditions, but not the non-threat condition. Next, in separate analyses, we test SDO × threat contrast effects on the proposed mediators (infra-humanization, intergroup anxiety, and modern prejudice).

Mediators

At Step, none of the threat contrasts (C1, C2, and C3) were significant for infra-humanization, βs < .05, ps > .652, but a marginal main effect for SDO emerged, β = .15, p = .053. At Step 2, SDO × C1 was significant, β = .37, rsp = .20, p = .012, with SDO-infra-humanization slopes significant under symbolic threat only, β = .45, rsp = .25, p = .001; all other conditions, βs < .21, ps > .347. Neither SDO × C2 nor SDO × C3 were significant for infra-humanization, βs < .16, ps > .264. For intergroup anxiety, none of the threat contrasts were significant at Step 1, βs < .05, ps > .609, but a significant SDO main effect emerged, β = .41, p < .001. At Step 2, none of the SDO × threat contrast interactions approached significance, βs = −.15 to −.17, ps > .161, with SDO-anxiety slopes significant in all conditions, βs > .32, ps < .031. For modern prejudice, none of the threat contrasts were significant at Step 1, βs = −.02 to −.15, ps > .103, but a significant SDO main effect emerged, β = .46, p < .001. At Step 2, none of the SDO × threat contrast interactions were significant, βs < .07, ps > .564, with SDO-modern prejudice slopes significant in all experimental conditions, βs > .33, ps < .015.

Moderated Mediation Analysis

Overview of Analytic Strategy

Recall the predicted two-stage mediation model in which SDO is expected to indirectly predict modern prejudice via heightened infra-humanization and intergroup anxiety, with modern prejudice itself predicting negative attitudes toward immigrant help. The estimated model also included direct effects for SDO on modern prejudice, SDO on each of the three helping criterions, and correlated disturbances among the first-stage mediators (infra-humanization, intergroup anxiety) and among the three helping criterions. Stronger SDO-infra-humanization/anxiety paths were expected following exposure to symbolic threat.

Multi-group analysis (see Byrne, 2004; Kline, 2005) using AMOS 17 software was used to examine the above predictions, allowing for the simultaneous estimation of the mediation model across experimental conditions. The analysis involved several steps: (1) First, the model was specified by freely estimating the parameters within each experimental condition separately. Any paths found to be non-significant across all experimental conditions were dropped from the model. (2) The model was then freely estimated simultaneously across experimental conditions using multi-group analysis (Model A). (3) The fit indices for Model A were then compared to those of a fully constrained model (Model B), in which constraints of invariance were imposed on all directional parameters. Poorer model fit for the constrained model (Model B) indicates the existence of one or more moderated paths. (4) Standardized residual covariances (SRC) across each experimental condition in Model B were then examined to identify specific moderated paths; SRC values exceeding 1.96 indicate that the corresponding path is variant across conditions. (5) The two-stage mediation model was then re-estimated after releasing constraints for any identified moderated paths (Model C), with change in SRC values and model fit assessed. In all analyses, bootstrapping procedures (n = 2000) were used for estimating the significance of indirect effects. Recommended model fit criteria include: non-significant χ2-values, comparative fit index (CFI) values greater than .95, and root-mean-square-error of approximation (RMSEA) values less than .06 (Hu & Bentler, 1999; Kline, 2005). χ2-difference tests are conducted when appropriate to compare model fit.

Moderated Mediation Results

The two-stage mediation model was correctly specified in all experimental conditions (Step 1), and all estimated paths were retained. The model fit criteria for the multi-group analysis (Models A–C) is reported in Table 3. The freely estimated model (Model A) demonstrated good fit to the data. Furthermore, Model A demonstrated significantly better model fit than the fully constrained model (Model B), suggesting that one or more paths were variant across conditions. Upon examining the SRCs, only one moderated path was identified: SDO-infra-humanization under symbolic threat (SRC = 2.138). Re-estimating the model after releasing the equality constraint for the SDO-infra-humanization path under symbolic threat (Model C) led to a reduction in the corresponding SRC value (.008), significantly better model fit than the fully constrained model (Model B), and equivalent model fit to the freely estimated model (Model A). These findings unequivocally reveal path moderation for SDO-infra-humanization, with a stronger path under symbolic threat relative to the other conditions. In light of these findings and theoretical predictions, we retained the moderated model (Model C) as the most appropriate fit to the data.

Table 3. Model fit statistics for multi-group two-stage moderated mediation analysis (Experiment 2)
Model descriptionComparative modelsx2dfRMSEACFIx2diffdf
  • *

    Note: p < .05.

(A) Unconstrained model: Paths freely estimated27.5924.031.990
(B) Constrained model: Paths constrained to be invariantModels A, B79.21*57.050.93851.62*33
(C) Moderated model: Moderated path constraints releasedModels C, B73.0056.037.9536.21*1
 Models C, A45.4132

The final moderated two-stage mediation model is illustrated in Figure 2, with standardized direct and indirect effects presented in Table 4. As indicated in Figure 2, high SDO exerted direct effects on infra-humanization, anxiety, modern prejudice, and empowerment. However, consistent with expectations, high SDO also exerted indirect effects on modern prejudice and each of the helping DVs. That is, high SDOs attributed fewer positive uniquely human emotions to Somalis and anticipated increasingly more intergroup anxiety, each of which uniquely facilitated heightened modern prejudice toward Somali immigrants. Stronger beliefs that Somalis get more respect and influence than they deserve (i.e., modern prejudice) in turn uniquely predicted resistance to empowerment, direct assistance, and greater indifference to helping Somalis. These findings are consistent with SDT, with high SDOs using legitimizing myths (i.e., modern prejudices) to justify their endorsement for unequal outgroup treatment (i.e., immigrant help). Consistent with expectations, those higher in SDO were also increasingly likely to express heightened infra-humanization following exposure to symbolic threats relative to other conditions (see moderated SDO-infra-humanization path in Figure 2). This finding supports our theorizing that symbolic threats are of particular conceptual relevance to infra-humanization given that such threats highlight negative intergroup differences in uniquely human characteristics (e.g., religious beliefs, language, and cultural practices). Contrary to expectations, paths between SDO and intergroup anxiety were not moderated by symbolic threat manipulations but were equally strong across conditions.

thumbnail image

Figure 2. Moderated two-stage mediation model (Experiment 2). For ease of interpretation, non-significant paths, disturbances, and correlated disturbances are not shown. Path coefficients reflect unstandardized beta weights. Ranges for correlated disturbances across experimental conditions: Infra-humanization-intergroup anxiety (rs = .08–.46), empowerment–direct assistance (rs = .29–.67), empowerment–outgroup responsibility (rs = −.06 to −.36), direct assistance–outgroup responsibility (rs = −.03 to −.14). *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p ≤ .001

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Table 4. Standardized direct and indirect effects for moderated two-stage mediation model
Symbolic threatRealistic threatCombined threatControl condition
XYDirectIndirectXYDirectIndirectXYDirectIndirectXYDirectIndirect
  • Note: X = predictors; Y = criterion; Direct/Indirect = standardized direct/indirect path coefficients; SDO = social dominance orientation; prejudice = modern prejudice; Infra = infra-humanization; Empow = empowerment; Direct = direct assistance; Responsibility = outgroup responsibility. Path coefficients differ slightly across conditions due to differences in variance.

  • *

    p < .05;

  • **

    p < .01;

  • ***

    p ≤ .001.

SDOInfra.46***SDOInfra.10*SDOInfra.15*SDOInfra.14*
 Anxiety.44*** Anxiety.37*** Anxiety.44*** Anxiety.28***
 Prejudice.33***.23*** Prejudice.34***.11* Prejudice.35***.11* Prejudice.21***.07*
 Empow−.16*−.33*** Empow−.16*−.25*** Empow−.15*−.24*** Empow−.10*−.16***
 Direct−.03−.25*** Direct−.03−.21*** Direct−.03−.20*** Direct−.02−.14***
 Responsibility.12.32*** Responsibility.12.25*** Responsibility.13.27*** Responsibility.08.16***
InfraPrejudice.31***InfraPrejudice.25***InfraPrejudice.31***InfraPrejudice.22***
 Empow−.19*** Empow−.14*** Empow−.16*** Empow−.13***
 Direct−.14*** Direct−.12*** Direct−.14*** Direct−.11***
 Responsibility.18*** Responsibility.14*** Responsibility.18*** Responsibility.13***
AnxietyPrejudice.21**AnxietyPrejudice.25**AnxietyPrejudice.22**AnxietyPrejudice.20**
 Empow−.12** Empow−.15** Empow−.12** Empow−.12**
 Direct−.09** Direct−.12** Direct−.10** Direct−.10**
 Responsibility.12** Responsibility.14** Responsibility.13** Responsibility.12**
PrejudiceEmpow−.59***PrejudiceEmpow−.57***PrejudiceEmpow−.52***PrejudiceEmpow−.60***
 Direct−.45*** Direct−.47*** Direct−.44*** Direct−.50***
 Responsibility.58*** Responsibility.55*** Responsibility.57*** Responsibility.61***

GENERAL DISCUSSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Rejection of immigrant aid has serious consequences for the successful integration of immigrants into host societies, making it essential to understand factors that inhibit outgroup assistance. We adopted a person × situation approach to explore how people higher in SDO react to experimentally induced threat from fictitious (Experiment 1) and real (Experiment 2) immigrant outgroups. In Experiment 1, increased SDO was associated with greater resistance toward empowering and directly assisting fictitious immigrants under realistic or symbolic threat compared to the same immigrants posing no threats. In Experiment 2, the results for empowerment mirrored Experiment 1 (see Figure 1) for a real immigrant outgroup (Somalis): those higher in SDO demonstrated decreased support for empowering Somali immigrants under realistic, symbolic, and (new to Experiment 2) combined threat conditions, whereas SDO-empowerment relations were non-significant in the non-threat condition. Similar social dominance-based threat reaction patterns were revealed for outgroup responsibility.

Across both experiments, individuals higher in SDO consistently reacted negatively to experimental threat inductions, whereas the SDO-helping slopes were generally non-significant under conditions of non-threat. Previous samples without threat manipulations also report modest SDO-immigrant/immigration attitude relations (e.g., Esses et al., 2003; Hodson & Costello, 2007; Pratto & Lemieux, 2001). Our results likely reflect the nature of our non-threat condition, which described an immigrant group in need of assistance (i.e., escaping civil war and uninhabitable living conditions). Apparently, even those higher in SDO do not reject “needy” immigrants, at least in the absence of intergroup threat. This is in keeping with aversive racism, whereby people disavow personal biases generally, expressing outgroup negativity primarily when other exacerbating factors can “explain away” negative implications for the self (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004; see also Crandall & Eshleman, 2003). In the present context, denying help to needy immigrants would appear prejudicial and dominance motivated, and was largely avoided in non-threat conditions by all participants. However, denying help to needy immigrants who simultaneously threaten the host society's culture or resources is less clearly dominance-motivated behavior, facilitating expressions of bias among those higher in SDO.1 Future research can clarify the conditions under which high SDO is unrelated to negativity toward immigrant outgroups.

Despite successful manipulation checks in each study, no simple effects of threat emerged, contrary to some previous research (e.g., Esses et al., 1998), but in keeping with Halabi et al. (2008) and Jackson and Esses (2000 Study 1). Stephan et al. (2005, Study 1) found no attitude differences between control and realistic or symbolic threat conditions but found increased prejudice under combined threat. In contrast, our results indicate that SDO does not differentially predict helping under combined threat relative to symbolic or realistic threats alone. Rather, it appears individuals higher in SDO react to threat in a categorical versus additive fashion, with the presence (vs. absence) of threat mattering more than cumulative degree. Overall, the present results highlight the relative importance of SDO in understanding reactions to intergroup threat.

Central to our theoretical interest was the predicted two-stage mediation model examined in Experiment 2. As expected, SDO exerted unique indirect effects on modern prejudice through both heightened infra-humanization and intergroup anxiety, with modern prejudice itself uniquely predicting less empowerment and direct assistance, as well as greater indifference to immigrant aid. Support was also found for the anticipated first-stage moderated mediation predictions, with SDO exerting an especially strong effect on infra-humanization (but unexpectedly not anxiety) following exposure to symbolic threats. Although high SDOs expressed increased infra-humanization and intergroup anxiety under all experimental conditions, infra-humanization was particularly accentuated under symbolic threat relative to the other conditions, as expected.

Why did high SDOs infra-humanize more under symbolic threat, but not under combined threat, even though the latter threat condition contained identical symbolic threat content? Leyens and Demoulin (2009) note “…if fundamental [intergroup] differences matter, it is symbolic threat, dealing with values (customs, traditions) that should be associated with infra-humanization” (p. 212). Symbolic threats, in other words, maximally communicate differences between groups along uniquely human dimensions. In contrast, Leyens and Demoulin (2009) argue that realistic threats are less relevant to infra-humanization. Consistent with their position, we speculate that in the combined threat condition, the mere presence of realistic threats weakened or “diluted” the infra-humanizing effects elicited by the symbolic threat content. Because realistic threats depict immigrants as having comparable needs to the host society (e.g., need for jobs, health care), such threats may not invoke infra-humanization processes, perhaps even interfering with them. Our data point to this potential and future research can directly address this issue.

A note about our operationalization of infra-humanization is worth considering. In light of significant valence effects on emotion ratings, infra-humanization was defined as the lesser attribution of positive uniquely human emotions to immigrants relative to Canadians. This conceptualization differs from previous research considering uniquely human emotions regardless of valence (see Leyens et al., 2000), but is in keeping with Brown et al. (2007) who also found that valence mattered. Given this is the second English-speaking sample to find a valence effect, future researchers can explore whether semantic characteristics of the English language or cultural characteristics of English-speaking cultures underlie these differences. Our operationalization nonetheless captures the essence of the infra-humanization concept, with the ingroup perceived as relatively more human than the outgroup on desirable “human” emotions.

The present findings are of particular relevance because intergroup threats are commonplace in the media and promote negative attitudes toward refugees (Esses et al., 2008). It is important to understand SDO-based reactions to intergroup threats because individuals higher in SDO gravitate to positions of power (Haley & Sidanius, 2005) where they can influence public policy regarding intergroup hierarchies and restrict immigrant aid. Because people higher in SDO are particularly reactive to threatening outgroup representations, consideration should be given to immigrant depictions in the media. Encouragingly, our data suggest that highlighting the needs of an outgroup promotes altruism, at least among egalitarians (those lower in SDO), even when these groups are presented as “threatening.” Although it is possible that even stronger threat manipulations are needed to provoke negative reactions among low SDOs, it is more plausible that low SDOs are true egalitarians who are naturally less sensitive to threatening intergroup contexts (see also Pratto & Shih, 2000). Consistent with this reasoning, is the fact that SDO-based reactions to threat manipulations do not differ when comparing the combined threat condition to the realistic and symbolic threat conditions. Additional threats, therefore, are unlikely to elicit negative reactions to helping immigrants among low SDOs.

In each experiment, high SDOs consistently rejected immigrant empowerment as a function of increased threat (vs. non-threat)), highlighting empowerment as the most sensitive to threat manipulations among the helping DVs. This is a worrisome finding because empowerment represents a fundamental form of autonomy-oriented help best suited to improving the out-group's long-standing status and well-being within an intergroup hierarchy. Managing perceptions that immigrants pose threats to the host ingroup will play a significant role in modifying empowerment support among host members higher in SDO. Given that those higher in SDO benefit from intergroup contact (Hodson, 2008), intergroup friendship development might attenuate perceived intergroup threat among these otherwise threat-sensitive individuals. Additional effort must be devoted to understanding how to reduce modern prejudice among people higher in SDO. Our results suggest that infra-humanization and intergroup anxiety are important variables to target in high-threat settings. These findings clarify when and how high SDOs resist helping incoming immigrants. Further understanding of these processes will assist in the development of future interventions and public policy programs intended to reduce threat perceptions and enable immigrants to settle and integrate successfully.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES

Research supported by a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to the second author (410-2007-2133). The authors thank Michael Busseri for his statistical advice.

  • 1

    An alternative explanation for non-significant SDO-DV relations under control conditions is that the presentation of non-threatening information about the immigrant outgroup's home country familiarized those higher in SDO with the outgroup, neutralizing their natural inclination to deny help and express prejudice. We thank an anonymous reviewer for this suggestion.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. METHOD
  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  5. EXPERIMENT 2
  6. METHOD
  7. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
  8. GENERAL DISCUSSION
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. REFERENCES