We Are the World—and They Are Not: Prototypicality for the World Community, Legitimacy, and Responses to Global Inequality



The relation between developed and developing countries is characterized by inequalities that sometimes hinder actions against worldwide problems. The current research presents an intergroup approach, based on the ingroup projection model, towards an analysis of psychological processes that perpetuate global inequality on a social group level. Precisely, we argue that people from developed countries perceive their group as more prototypical for the world population than they perceive people from developing countries. These perceptions of ingroup prototypicality should in turn relate to legitimacy beliefs and predict unfavorable behavioral intentions towards developing countries. We present two studies that corroborate our hypotheses: In Study 1, participants from a developed country perceived their ingroup as more prototypical for the superordinate group (i.e., world population) than the outgroup (i.e., developing countries), which in turn was related to beliefs that global inequality is legitimate. This finding was replicated in Study 2, and the predicted effect of ingroup prototypicality on behavioral intentions was mediated by legitimacy beliefs. These findings demonstrate that intergroup processes can contribute to perpetuating global inequality.