Multiple categorization and intergroup bias: Examining the generalizability of three theories of intergroup relations
Research on intergroup bias usually focuses on a single dimension of social categorization. In real life, however, people are aware of others' multiple group memberships and use this information to form attitudes about them. The present research tests the predictive power of identification, perceived conflict, and perceived symbolic threat in explaining the strength of intergroup bias on various dimensions of social categorization in multiple categorization settings. We conduct a factorial survey experiment, manipulating 9 dimensions of social categorization in diverse samples from 4 countries (n = 12,810 observations, 1,281 participants representing 103 social groups). The dimensions studied are age, gender, ethnicity, religion, place of residence, education, occupation, income, and 1 country-specific dimension. This approach allows exploring the generalizability of established determinants of bias across dimensions of categorization, contexts, and target groups. Identification and symbolic threat showed good generalizability across countries and categorization dimensions, but their effects varied as a function of participant and target groups' status. Identification predicted stronger bias mainly when the participant belonged to a higher status and the target belonged to a lower status group. Symbolic threat predicted stronger bias mainly when the target was a minority group member. Conflict predicted bias only in few cases, and not only the strength but also the direction of the effects varied across countries, dimensions, and target and participant groups. These findings help to clarify the limits of generalizability of established determinants of intergroup bias and highlight the need for new explanations of social- cognitive processes among minority group members.