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Discrimination between the rich and the poor under contrasting conditions of wealth stratification


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Simon-Pierre Harvey or Richard Y. Bourhis, Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 8888 succursale Centre-ville, Montréal (Québec), Canada H3C 3P8. E-mail: or


Using minimal group procedures, 2 studies investigated money allocations made by rich/poor group members in wealth stratifications based on group chance, group merit, and individual merit. Study 1 participants were assigned to rich or poor groups based on a coin toss (group–chance) or on performance of each group on a test (group–merit). Study 2 participants completed a test ostensibly distinguishing between high/low effortful individuals. High-effort individuals were assigned to the rich group, low-effort individuals were assigned to the poor group (individual–merit). After personally receiving play money, participants distributed their money to the rich and the poor. Results show that wealth based on group chance, group merit, and individual merit yielded contrasting patterns of parity and discriminatory behaviors.