People from privileged groups may mistakenly believe that policies that promote equality are bad for them, even when they actually benefit.
Previous research has found that in zero-sum scenarios with limited resources, those in a dominant position often do not support interventions that reallocate resources to others in a disadvantaged position.
Now, researchers have explored the extent to which people from advantaged groups believe policies that promote equality can harm their access to resources, while supporting the resources of disadvantaged groups in situations where these strategies would benefit their groups or not. .
Derek Brown A series of studies were conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, involving more than 4,000 volunteers.
In one study, the policies they offered to non-Hispanic whites didn’t affect their own dominant groups, but instead benefited disadvantaged groups to which they didn’t belong – people with disabilities, past criminals, minorities or women’s member. Importantly, the team told participants that resources — in the form of work or money — were limitless.
One policy, for example, puts more money into mortgages for Latino homebuyers without limiting how much mortgages whites can get.
Participants were then asked to rank, from very harmful to very beneficial, how much they thought the policy would affect the access of resources to advantaged groups. The team found that, on average, advantaged people believed policies that promoted equality were detrimental to their access to resources, even when they were told the resources were unlimited.
“We found that advantageous members mistook these policies as sacrifices to their group, even when they weren’t,” Brown said.
The researchers then asked participants to consider a win-win scenario, including policies that promote equality, benefiting both disadvantaged and advantaged groups — but the latter to a lesser extent. People were also asked to consider policies that strengthen inequality, which would reduce everyone’s access to resources.
In this case, the team found that the most advantaged people believed that policies that promoted equality benefited everyone more than policies that promoted inequality hurt advantaged groups more.
“We thought, maybe if we can achieve a win-win or mutually beneficial situation, then maybe [advantaged people] would find policies that promote equality helpful. But they didn’t,” Brown said.
If policies that promote equality benefit those who are disadvantaged but share identities with them, those who are advantaged tend to see policies that promote equality less harmful to their access to resources. For example, white participants generally believed that they would lose less from a policy that allocated relatively more money to disadvantaged whites than a policy that gave disadvantaged blacks the same benefits.
“When we highlight differences within their own groups versus differences between groups, advantaged groups see these policies more accurately,” Brown said. “It shows that when we identify with a group and see differences within our group, we are motivated to reduce that within-group difference.”
In another experiment, researchers asked a different group of participants to take sham personality tests and then assigned them to a fictional dominant group. Once again, they found that people tend to mistake policies that promote equality as harmful, even when they benefit advantaged groups. This suggests that anyone at an advantage—for whatever reason—may mistake beneficial equality-promoting policies as harmful.
“Our findings are very disturbing. [But] I think people have the ability to believe these policies. I think there is a way forward, we just have to find it,” Brown said.
Education can help address inequality by making people more aware of this tendency to misunderstand equality-promoting policies that actually benefit them, Brown said.
“This is an ambitious set of studies that has done an excellent job of ruling out other explanations,” said Dan Meegan at the University of Guelph, Canada. “For those trying to persuade people to support policies aimed at reducing inequality between groups, this work paints a rather dark picture. The authors give their participants the opportunity to see that helping the disadvantaged does not have to come at the expense of At the expense of the dominant group, but to no avail.”
“In terms of reliability and significance, this study examines everything. What I’m saying is the facts [the findings] It’s not surprising, it blows my mind,” said Chai David at Columbia University in New York.
Further work is needed to determine whether the same behavior applies to people outside the United States, although Brown and David Day think it might.
“My own and others’ work has shown that zero-sum beliefs can be replicated in many cultural contexts and in different countries, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true of current work,” Davidai said.
Journal references: scientific progress, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abm2385
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