Aboriginal Self-Determination in Australia

The Effects of Minority-Majority Frames and Target Universalism on Majority Collective Guilt and Compensation Attitudes


Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106–4020; Email: scottreid@comm.ucsb.edu.


In the context of Aboriginal–Anglo Australian relations, we tested the effect of framing (multiculturalism versus separatism) and majority group members' social values (universalism) on the persuasiveness of Aboriginal group rhetoric, majority collective guilt, attitudes toward compensation, and reparations for Aboriginals. As predicted, Anglo Australians who are low on universalism report more collective guilt when presented with a multiculturalist than a separatist Aboriginal frame, whereas those high on universalism report high levels of guilt independent of frame. The same pattern was predicted and found for the persuasiveness of the rhetoric and attitudes toward compensation. Our data suggest that (a) for individuals low in universalism, framing produces attitudes consonant with compensation because it produces collective guilt and (b) the reason that universalists are more in favor of compensation and reparation is because of high collective guilt. We discuss the strategic use of language to create power through the manipulation of collective guilt in political contexts.