We thank Charles Abernathy, Christopher Bryan, Geoffrey Cohen, Carol Dweck, Christine Logel, Richard Primus, Lee Ross, Claude Steele, Valerie Jones Taylor, Eric Uhlmann, Chris Whitman, and several anonymous reviewers for detailed and helpful input.
Article first published online: 7 JAN 2013
© 2013 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Social Issues and Policy Review
Volume 7, Issue 1, pages 1–35, January 2013
How to Cite
Walton, G. M., Spencer, S. J. and Erman, S. (2013), Affirmative Meritocracy. Social Issues and Policy Review, 7: 1–35. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-2409.2012.01041.x
Correction added on 19 March 2013 after first publication on 7 January 2013. Due to an error during the proofreading process a small change needed to be made to this version of the article. The main change is reflected in a correction to Table 1, indicated by the following symbol: §.
- Issue published online: 7 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 7 JAN 2013
Vol. 8, Issue 1, 233, Article first published online: 13 JAN 2014
We argue that in important circumstances meritocracy can be realized only through a specific form of affirmative action we call affirmative meritocracy. These circumstances arise because common measures of academic performance systematically underestimate the intellectual ability and potential of members of negatively stereotyped groups (e.g., non-Asian ethnic minorities, women in quantitative fields). This bias results not from the content of performance measures but from common contexts in which performance measures are assessed—from psychological threats like stereotype threat that are pervasive in academic settings, and which undermine the performance of people from negatively stereotyped groups. To overcome this bias, school and work settings should be changed to reduce stereotype threat. In such environments, admitting or hiring more members of devalued groups would promote meritocracy, diversity, and organizational performance. Evidence for this bias, its causes, magnitude, remedies, and implications for social policy and for law are discussed.