Social Discrimination in a Personnel Selection Context: The Effects of an Authority's Instruction to Discriminate and Followers' Authoritarianism1



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    1. Department of Social and Organizational Psychology University of Halle-Wittenberg Halle, Germany
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    1. Richard Ivey School of Business University of Western Ontario London, Ontario, Canada
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    • 3

      The second author worked on this article while he was at Tulane University.

  • 1

    The authors contributed equally to the study. We thank Arthur P. Brief for his suggestions on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lars-Eric Petersen, Institut für Psychologie, der Martin-Luther-Universitat, Halle-Wittenberg, Abteilung für Sozial- und Organisationspsychologie, 06099 Halle (Saale), Germany. e-mail:


Social discrimination in a personnel-selection context was studied using an in-basket exercise. West German participants had to select personnel from an applicant pool that included West German applicants (in-group members) and East German applicants (out-group members). As predicted, we found a main effect for an authority's instruction to discriminate against out-group members. This main effect was, as predicted, qualified by an Instruction Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) interaction effect. Only high scorers on RWA discriminated against out-group members when instructed to do so.