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Understanding Dominant Group Resistance to Social Change: The Role of Prototypicality Threat

  • Author(s): Danbold, Felix
  • Advisor(s): Huo, Yuen J.
  • et al.

Why do so many members of dominant groups (e.g., White Americans, men, etc.) express opposition to diversity? Three papers argue that a primary driver of this resistance is that members of dominant subgroups (e.g., ethnic groups, gender groups, etc.) fear that increasing diversity will threaten their claim to represent their broader social categories (e.g., nations, professions, etc.). We term this concern prototypicality threat. As being the dominant subgroup ensures being prototypical (i.e., representative and normative), and being prototypical ensures an unquestioned sense of identity and belonging, members of dominant subgroups will seek to preserve this privilege when social change calls it into question. The antecedents, consequences, and boundary conditions of prototypicality threat are tested across a wide array of contexts: White Americans and White British reacting to projections of changing demographics in their country (Papers 1 and 3), men in STEM reacting to efforts to increase gender diversity in their field (Paper 2), and non-international undergraduates reacting to an increase in the representation of international students at their university (Paper 3). Across these papers, prototypicality threat emerges as a theoretically novel explanation for why increasing diversity can trigger pushback from members of dominant subgroups, shedding light on possible strategies for reducing intergroup tensions as we transition to a more diverse world.

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