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The Role of Stigma in Understanding Ethnicity Differences in Authoritarianism

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Ethnic minorities often have shown higher mean levels of authoritarianism compared to Whites. However, no theoretical mechanism has been directly tested to explain these ethnicity differences. Using the stigma literature as a framework, two studies are presented that test a novel explanation for this difference, rooted in the devaluing that accompanies being a member of a stigmatized group in society. The results show that, in Study 1, ethnic minorities reported higher levels of authoritarianism in ways that could not be explained by traditional explanations of authoritarianism, including lower income, lower education, or lack of cognitive complexity. However, in Study 2, when participants were given the opportunity to affirm their sense of worth, ethnic minorities did not differ in their mean levels of authoritarianism compared to Whites. These findings are discussed in the context of understanding ethnic minority endorsement of authoritarianism in terms of self-regulatory processes that may be related to their stigmatized condition in society.
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Keywords: authoritarianism; ethnicity; prejudice; stigma compensation theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: New York University—Abu Dhabi

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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