Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Shannon McCoy

Second Committee Member

Laurence Smith

Third Committee Member

Linda Silka


In 1962, Robert Lane argued that members of disadvantaged groups rationalize and defend their relative status positions by endorsing the idea that high status individuals are better than they are. The present work tested Lane's idea by examining whether members of disadvantaged groups will embrace negative group stereotypes relative to other groups in order to protect their negative emotional reactions to discrimination. Three studies examined whether greater endorsement of relative stereotypes would protect women from the negative emotional consequences of exposure to group discrimination. In Study 1, women exposed to discrimination showed less negative (more positive) emotional reactions the more they endorsed stereotypes described as relative to another group. Importantly, this effect was only found for those given the opportunity to endorse relative stereotypes prior to completing measures of well-being, suggesting that relative stereotyping is a strategic response and not an individual difference variable. Study 2 focused solely on discrimination but included a condition where participants were given absolute stereotypes instead of relative stereotypes. This study replicated the pattern of effects found in study 1, supporting a protective function for relative stereotyping and showed that absolute stereotypes are not protective. Study 3 served as a conceptual replication of study 2, where new measures of relative and absolute stereotyping were used. The findings from study 3 and an internal meta-analysis performed on the effect sizes for relative stereotyping across the three studies, support the idea that relative stereotypes serve a protective function in response to the threat of discrimination. Together, these findings suggest that members of disadvantaged groups may endorse negative relative stereotypes in order to protect themselves from negative emotional reactions to discrimination