Affirmative Reaction: The Influence of Type of Justification on Nonbeneficiary Attitudes Toward Affirmative Action Plans in Higher Education


  • We would like to thank Bob Dipboye and Mickey Quinoñes for their insights and suggestions during the conceptual stages of this study and David Kravitz for sharing his previous materials with us. Furthermore, this study could not have been completed without the hard work of our research assistants Maria Arboleda, Tiffany Bludau, Kristin Stecher, and Laura VanWagoner.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Michelle R. Hebl, Department of Psychology, Rice University-MS 25, Houston, TX 77005 [e-mail:].


It is popularly believed that justifying an affirmative action plan (AAP) through emphasizing the advantages that diverse students can bring to a college campus will increase nonbeneficiary support for the program. However, there has been little empirical support for this proposition, perhaps because previous research has not directly articulated to participants the value of a diverse student body. As such, the current study sought to determine how the explicit framing of an AAP influences subsequent reactions. Both quantitative and qualitative data from 216 White undergraduate participants revealed that the utilitarianism justification that highlighted the benefits of the AAP to both minority and majority students, was the most effective means of increasing support for the plan.