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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 Jan;78(1):64-80.

When are we better than them and they worse than us? A closer look at social discrimination in positive and negative domains.

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Division of Psychology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.


This article argues that in-group favoritism occurs on positive and negative dimensions only when the dimensions of comparison provide an appropriate and meaningful basis for self-other definition, that is, when traits comparatively and normatively fit in-group-out-group categorizations. Three studies are reported in which groups were evaluated on positive or negative traits that varied in their degree of normative fit to in-group and out-group identity. In line with predictions, fit rather than stimulus valence was the crucial determinant of (a) in-group favoritism and (b) absolute level of differentiation between groups. Implications of the findings for explanations of positive-negative asymmetry and broader understandings of intergroup discrimination are discussed.

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