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      “A letter for Dr. Outgroup”: on the effects of an indicator of competence and chances for altruism toward a member of a stigmatized out-group

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          Abstract

          The lost letter technique is an unobtrusive method to investigate attitudes in a particular population. Ostensibly lost letters from senders who apparently belong to different groups or addressed to recipients from apparently different groups are dispersed in public places, and return rates represent a measure of altruistic or discriminatory behavior toward one group or another. In two field experiments using the lost letter technique, we investigated the influence of group membership and the presence or absence of a doctorate degree as an indicator of competence on the likelihood of receiving helping behavior. Experiment 1 showed that a generic member of a low-status ethnic out-group (Turks living in Germany) was the target of discrimination, while a generic member of a non-stigmatized out-group (French in Germany) was not. Moreover, when the name of the member from the stigmatized out-group was (vs. was not) preceded by a doctorate degree, more of the allegedly lost letters were returned. There were no such differential effects for recipients who were members of the in-group (Germans) or the non-stigmatized out-group (French). Experiment 2 showed that a recipient from the stigmatized out-group (Turk) with a doctorate degree received more letters when the sender was German versus Turkish (i.e., from the recipient’s own group). Overall, the sender’s ethnic group membership was an important factor for the likelihood of receiving an ostensibly lost letter, in that fewer letters arrived from a sender with a Turkish (vs. German) name. We conclude that the likelihood of altruistic behavior toward out-group members can increase when in-group members intend to communicate with competent out-group members. Therefore, under certain conditions, the presentation of a highly competent member of an otherwise stigmatized out-group may serve as a discrimination buffer.

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          Most cited references 30

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          Social categorization and intergroup behaviour

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            The BIAS map: behaviors from intergroup affect and stereotypes.

            In the present research, consisting of 2 correlational studies (N = 616) including a representative U.S. sample and 2 experiments (N = 350), the authors investigated how stereotypes and emotions shape behavioral tendencies toward groups, offering convergent support for the behaviors from intergroup affect and stereotypes (BIAS) map framework. Warmth stereotypes determine active behavioral tendencies, attenuating active harm (harassing) and eliciting active facilitation (helping). Competence stereotypes determine passive behavioral tendencies, attenuating passive harm (neglecting) and eliciting passive facilitation (associating). Admired groups (warm, competent) elicit both facilitation tendencies; hated groups (cold, incompetent) elicit both harm tendencies. Envied groups (competent, cold) elicit passive facilitation but active harm; pitied groups (warm, incompetent) elicit active facilitation but passive harm. Emotions predict behavioral tendencies more strongly than stereotypes do and usually mediate stereotype-to-behavioral-tendency links.
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              A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition.

               Jun Xu,  Peter Glick,  S Fiske (2002)
              Stereotype research emphasizes systematic processes over seemingly arbitrary contents, but content also may prove systematic. On the basis of stereotypes' intergroup functions, the stereotype content model hypothesizes that (a) 2 primary dimensions are competence and warmth, (b) frequent mixed clusters combine high warmth with low competence (paternalistic) or high competence with low warmth (envious), and (c) distinct emotions (pity, envy, admiration, contempt) differentiate the 4 competence-warmth combinations. Stereotypically, (d) status predicts high competence, and competition predicts low warmth. Nine varied samples rated gender, ethnicity, race, class, age, and disability out-groups. Contrary to antipathy models, 2 dimensions mattered, and many stereotypes were mixed, either pitying (low competence, high warmth subordinates) or envying (high competence, low warmth competitors). Stereotypically, status predicted competence, and competition predicted low warmth.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1664-1078
                25 September 2015
                2015
                : 6
                Affiliations
                1Center of Teaching in Higher Education, University of Münster Münster, Germany
                2Department of Psychology, University of Zurich Zurich, Switzerland
                3Department of Social Psychology and Center for Interdisciplinary Research, University of Bielefeld Bielefeld, Germany
                4Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony Hannover, Germany
                Author notes

                Edited by: Robert Böhm, RWTH Aachen University, Germany

                Reviewed by: Michele Denise Birtel, University of Surrey, UK; Niklas K. Steffens, University of Queensland, Australia

                *Correspondence: Jens H. Hellmann, Center of Teaching in Higher Education, University of Münster, Fliednerstraße 21, D-48149 Münster, Germany, jens.hellmann@ 123456uni-muenster.de

                This article was submitted to Evolutionary Psychology and Neuroscience, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Article
                10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01422
                4585100
                Copyright © 2015 Hellmann, Berthold, Rees and Hellmann.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 40, Pages: 8, Words: 0
                Categories
                Psychology
                Original Research

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