This article tackles a topic of theoretical importance (the inclusion vs. exclusion of ambiguous targets) both in lab settings and in real-world contexts (The Boston Marathon Bombings and the Woolwich attacks in London, U.K.). Authors provided evidence for the role of theoretically relevant moderators of these effects. They further showed that the perception of targets in ingroup versus outgroup terms matters: Seeing ambiguous perpetrators of an attack in outgroup terms was associated with endorsing harsher treatment of the attackers themselves, as well as greater support for aggressive policies that prioritize ingroup over outgroup outcomes.
We investigated individual difference predictors of ascribing ingroup characteristics to negative and positive ambiguous targets. Studies 1 and 2 investigated events involving negative targets whose status as racial (Tsarnaev brothers) or national (Woolwich attackers) ingroup members remained ambiguous. Immediately following the attacks, we presented White Americans and British individuals with the suspects’ images. Those higher in social dominance orientation (SDO) and right-wing authoritarianism (RWA)—concerned with enforcing status boundaries and adherence to ingroup norms, respectively—perceived these low status and low conformity suspects as looking less White and less British, thus denying them ingroup characteristics. Perceiving suspects in more exclusionary terms increased support for treating them harshly, and for militaristic counter-terrorism policies prioritizing ingroup safety over outgroup harm. Studies 3 and 4 experimentally manipulated a racially ambiguous target’s status and conformity. Results suggested that target status and conformity critically influence SDO’s (status) and RWA’s (conformity) effects on inclusionary versus exclusionary perceptions.
Nour Kteily, Sarah Cotterill, Jim Sidanius, Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington, and Robin Berg
“Not One of Us”: Predictors and Consequences of Denying Ingroup Characteristics to Ambiguous Targets
Pers Soc Psychol Bull October 2014 40: 1231-1247, first published on July 1, 2014 doi:10.1177/0146167214539708