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Identity functions among the stigmatized: More evidence for the schematically guided interpretation of negative social feedback

Sarah Ellen Zemore, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation introduces four studies targeting a central question in discrimination research: What is the relationship between ethnic identification and perceived discrimination? The studies support conclusions that, among minority populations, the same, ambiguous, discrimination-relevant feedback will tend to be interpreted by the highly identified as more biased than it is by the weakly identified, since identification makes ethnic self-schemas chronically accessible—and hence, central guides in the interpretation of discrimination-relevant feedback. Moreover, manipulations that make ethnic self-schemas temporarily accessible can increase attributions of ambiguous feedback to bias. Study 1 establishes some predicted links among ethnic identification, perceived discrimination, and self-schema accessibility; Study 2 demonstrates that manipulating schema accessibility can influence estimates of past, present, and future discrimination. Study 3, focusing on Asian Americans, suggests that ethnic self-schemas, when accessible, bias online information-processing. Conclusions regarding how ethnic identification operates in Whites remain less clear. Although Studies 1 and 2 suggest that the accessibility of ethnic self-schemas influences perceived bias among Whites, Study 4 produces only weak evidence that priming ethnic self-schemas in Whites increases their tendency to perceive ambiguous feedback from an Asian experimenter as biased. Ethnic self-schemas may motivate information-processing in Whites, but it is not yet clear how.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Zemore, Sarah Ellen, "Identity functions among the stigmatized: More evidence for the schematically guided interpretation of negative social feedback" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3068603.