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Psychol Sci. 2013 Aug;24(8):1420-7. doi: 10.1177/0956797612473608. Epub 2013 Jun 5.

Perceiving social inequity: when subordinate-group positioning on one dimension of social hierarchy enhances privilege recognition on another.

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Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0120, USA.


Researchers have suggested that viewing social inequity as dominant-group privilege (rather than subordinate-group disadvantage) enhances dominant-group members' support for social policies aimed at lessening such inequity. However, because viewing inequity as dominant-group privilege can be damaging to dominant-group members' self-images, this perspective is frequently resisted. In the research reported here, we explored the circumstances that enhance the likelihood of dominant-group members' viewing inequity as privilege. Because social hierarchies have multiple vertical dimensions, individuals may have high status on one dimension but low status on another. We predicted that occupying a subordinate position on one dimension of social hierarchy could enhance perceptions of one's own privilege on a different dimension of hierarchy, but that this tendency would be diminished among individuals who felt they had achieved a particularly high level of success. Results from three studies that considered gender-based and race-based hierarchies in organizational settings supported our hypothesis.


disadvantage; gender; hierarchy; privilege; race; racial and ethnic attitudes and relations; social perception; status

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