Being and Feeling Unique: Statistical Deviance and Psychological Marginality


  • I am indebted to the following research assistants: Terri Belcher, Sandy Choi, Kristin Martin, Bridget Neiman, Claudia Pitts, Robert Weber, and Mark Yoder. I particularly appreciate Ray Ditrichs's assistance in programming Study 2. I am grateful to Hazel Markus, Clark McCauley, Claude Steele, Abigail Stewart, and John Seidel for their comments on this article. While completing this work, I was supported by NIMH Training Grant MH15801 to the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan. Portions of this article were presented at the June 1990 Nags Head Stereotypes and Intergroup Relations Conference, Nags Head, NC.

regarding this article should be addressed to Deborrah E. S. Frable, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.


ABSTRACT Two studies tested the hypothesis that people with culturally stigmatized and concealable conditions (e.g., gays, epileptics, juvenile delinquents, and incest victims) would be more likely to feel unique than people with culturally valued or conspicuous conditions (e.g., the physically attractive, the intellectually gifted, the obese, and the facially scarred). In Study 1, culturally stigmatized individuals with concealable conditions were least likely to perceive consensus between their personal preferences and those of others. In Study 2, they were most likely to describe themselves as unique and to make these self-relevant decisions quickly. Marginality is a psychological reality, not just a statistical one, for those with stigmatized and concealable “master status” conditions.