How Disadvantaged Group Members Cope With Discrimination When They Perceive That Social Support Is Available1


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    Preparation of this article was supported, in part, by a grant from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. The authors are grateful to Jordan Adams and Antonietta Conte for their assistance with data collection. We also thank Laura Ann Petitto and Tamarha Pierce for their helpful comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Karen M. Ruggiero, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, William James Hall, Room 1140, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. e-mail:


This experiment examined how disadvantaged group members cope with discrimination when they perceive that social support is available. Women reacted to a failing test grade after ambiguous information about the probability for discrimination. With no social support, women minimized discrimination and attributed their failure to the quality of their answers. Participants were less inclined to minimize discrimination when social support was available. When they perceived that either emotional or informational support was available, women were equally likely to blame their failure on discrimination as on the quality of their answers. The results revealed less minimization of personal discrimination when both emotional and informational support were available, in which case participants blamed their failure more on discrimination and less on themselves.