Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2017

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Jordan LaBouff

Second Committee Member

Shannon McCoy

Third Committee Member

Darren Ranco


Native Americans face adverse socioeconomic and academic disparities. In addition to these disparities, Native Americans must also contend with unfair stereotypes about their groups. These stereotypes about Native Americans are reinforced through a number of public portrayals including Native American mascots. These mascots reinforce the idea that Native Americans are anachronistically frozen in time, and promote both positive and negative stereotypes about them. Although a national call by the American Psychological Association was made to discontinue use of the mascots, as well as a relatively large body of research suggesting the harm that these portrayals of Native Americans, the use of these mascots persist in both professional and amateur sports. Those opposing these mascots, claiming that these portrayals promote harmful stereotypes and discrimination, get dismissed as being overly sensitive – that they need to get over it and move on to more important issues. These findings are consistent with past research that demonstrates claiming discrimination leads people to label those targets as “complainers”.

The present research investigated the extent to which issues about Native Americans concerning their group image would be devalued compared to other issues Native Americans are facing, and similar group image issues other groups are facing. In Study 1 we investigated the extent to which a Native American target protesting the use of Native American mascots on the grounds of the mascot promoting stereotyping and discrimination would be dismissed as the target being hypersensitive compared to when discrimination was being attributed to an unfavorable court decision. In Study 2 we extended the findings from Study 1 by examining how other forms of cultural of appropriation that targets Native Americans would be dismissed in the same fashion for comparable ethnic minority group (i.e., African Americans). Specifically we expected Native American cultural appropriation issues (i.e., Redface) to be dismissed more than African American cultural appropriation issues (i.e., Blackface). Findings from each of these studies indicate that people hold general dismissive attitudes toward cultural appropriation issues involving Native Americans. In Study 1, results indicate that participants labeled the Native American target as being hypersensitive and discouraged him from engaging in proactive behaviors to improve his situation when discrimination was being attributed to mascot use compared to when discrimination was being attributed to an unfavorable court decision. In Study 2, contrary to expectations, we found that those who protest Blackface were more likely to be labeled as hypersensitive and discouraged from engaging in proactive behaviors compared to those protesting Redface – these effects were predicted by a worldview that ignores racial differences (i.e., colorblind racial ideology).

These studies found that claiming discrimination leads to dismissive attitudes from outgroup members. However, future research is needed to develop intervention methods in order to increase the understanding by outgroup members as to why stereotypical portrayals of underprivileged minority groups can have adverse consequences. In particular, due to a lack of general social psychological research, future studies should increase focus on understanding prejudice and discrimination against Native Americans and developing methods to mitigate these outcomes.