Prejudice and Inclusiveness in Adolescence: The Role of Multiple Categorization and Social Dominance Orientation

Background

Migration is rendering current societies increasingly diverse. This can be seen as a resource, given that social and cultural diversity might lead to augmented tolerance towards others. Nonetheless, many Western countries have witnessed an increase in ethnocentrism and nationalism, resulting in a call to establish barriers against “foreigners” and defend own nations against migrants. Anti-immigrant prejudice is, thus, a major risk factor for the establishment of harmonious intergroup relationships in modern multicultural societies. This raises a core question: How is it possible to lessen prejudice and promote people’s attitudes towards social inclusiveness?

Social psychological literature showed that defining outgroup members in terms of multiple categorization, by depicting them with more than four categorical dimensions, can reduce outgroup prejudice. Conversely, social dominance orientation, as an individual trait expressing support for group-based hierarchies on the basis of the belief that one’s group is superior than any other group, can heighten prejudice against disadvantaged groups such as migrants. However, it has not been shown how these two factors interact in explaining prejudice. It has also not been addressed whether they can affect individuals’ identification with the human group as a fundamental symbolic root of social inclusiveness that captures individuals’ awareness of being member of the human group, irrespectively of the differences that may characterize the large variety of social categories. In a novel way, this study examined the relations of multiple categorization and social dominance orientation with adolescents’ prejudice against migrants and identification with the human group over time.

Method

Participants were 304 Northern-Italian late adolescents (61.84% female, Mage = 17.49) attending the last 2 years (i.e., 11th and 12th grades) of secondary high school in the North‐East of Italy. The data were collected throughout 1academic year with an interval of 3 months between measurements. At each point, the adolescents completed the same paper‐and‐pencil questionnaire in their classrooms, during school hours. The questionnaire included measures of social dominance orientation, multiple categorization, prejudice against migrants, human identification.

Results

Results showed that multiple categorization was negatively linked to prejudice at a later time, whereas social dominance orientation was positively associated with it; prejudice also negatively affected multiple categorization and positively affected social dominance orientation at a later time. Moreover, prejudice mediated the effects of multiple categorization and social dominance orientation on human identification.

Conclusion

These findings have important implications suggesting the construens effect of multiple categorization for enhancing social inclusiveness. Besides this beneficial role of multiple categorization, the study also addressed the longitudinal association between social dominance orientation and prejudicial attitudes in late adolescence with the aim of clarifying previous inconsistent evidence about the bidirectionality of the phenomenon. A major novelty of this study regards the fact that it stands on the evidence that the path from prejudice to social dominance orientation was stronger than that from social dominance orientation to prejudice. Overall, these effects highlighted a “dark chain” in which prejudice affects the extent to which late adolescents endorse social dominance, showing that prejudice can work as a legitimizing myth of social inequalities.

Contact: flavia.albarello@unibo.it

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