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Social Dominance Theory: Its Agenda and Method

Author(s): Jim Sidanius, Felicia Pratto, Colette van Laar, Shana Levin
Source: Political Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 6, Symposium: Social Dominance and Intergroup
Relations (Dec., 2004), pp. 845-880
Published by: International Society of Political Psychology
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Political
Psychology,
Vol.
25,
No.
6,
2004
Social Dominance
Theory:
Its
Agenda
and Method
Jim
Sidanius
Department of Psychology, University of California,
Los
Angeles
Felicia Pratto
Department of Psychology, University of
Connecticut
Colette van Laar
Departments of Psychology
and
Education,
Leiden
University,
Netherlands
Shana Levin
Department of Psychology,
Claremont McKenna
College
The
theory
has been misconstrued in
four primary ways,
which are
often expressed
as the
claims
of psychological
reductionism,
conceptual redundancy, biological
reductionism,
and
hierarchy justification.
This
paper
addresses these claims and
suggests
how social
dominance
theory
builds on and moves
beyond
social
identity
theory
and
system justifica-
tion
theory.
KEY WORDS: social dominance
theory, racism,
system justification theory,
social
identity theory
The civil and human
rights
reforms that
swept
the United States and much
of Western
Europe
in the 1960s and
early
1970s led
many
to conclude that
prej-
udice, discrimination,
and
oppression
were well on their
way
to democratic res-
olution.
However,
the
subsequent
scores of ferocious and
near-genocidal
interethnic outbreaks around the
globe
should convince all but the most near-
sighted
that this celebration of the
triumph
of tolerance was
premature
in the
extreme. As a result of renewed worldwide
mayhem,
the 1990s witnessed a
major
resurgence
of scientific interest in the
problems
of
prejudice, stereotyping,
racism,
and
intergroup
conflict.
Both classical and
contemporary
work have
yielded genuine insights
into
these
complex
and interrelated
problems.
Nonetheless,
these
insights
have not
845
0162-895X
?
2004 International
Society
of Political
Psychology
Published
by
Blackwell
Publishing. Inc., 350 Main
Street, Maiden,
MA
02148, USA. and 9600
Garsington
Road, Oxford, OX4
2DQ
been able to
fully explain why oppression
is so
widespread
and tenacious. We
suggest
that
part
of the reason for this hole in our theoretical
understanding
is that
almost all
approaches
have focused on some
specific psychological
or
sociologi-
cal cause of
prejudice
and discrimination.
Rarely
have social scientists
attempted
to understand these
problems by exploring
the interactions
among
several levels
of
analysis-that
is,
the manner in which
psychological,
sociostructural,
ideolog-
ical,
and institutional forces
jointly
contribute to the
production
and
reproduction
of social
oppression.1
For
example,
modern authoritarian
personality theory,
aver-
sive racism
theory,
and terror
management theory
all
conceptualize prejudice
and
discrimination in terms of the individual's
psychological
needs or values
(e.g.,
Altemeyer,
1998;
Dovidio &
Gaertner, 1998;
Greenberg,
Simon,
Pyszczynski,
Solomon,
&
Chatel, 1992).
Social
identity theory, self-categorization theory,
and
much
contemporary
stereotyping
research view these
problems
as
ultimately
resulting
from the social construals of the self
(e.g., Tajfel
&
Turner, 1986; Turner,
Hogg,
Oakes, Reicher,
&
Wetherell, 1987).
Such theories fail to address the main
consequences
of
prejudice
and discrimination
(i.e., systematic group oppression
and structural
inequality),
nor do
they
address the institutional and
ideological
underpinnings
of this
oppression.
That
is,
by focusing
on
strictly psychological
motivations and social
construals,
most
social-psychological
theories fail to
address both the context and
consequences
of
prejudice
and
discrimination,
namely group
differences in
power.
Like the
psychological approaches,
most structural theories also focus on a
single
root cause of
prejudice
and discrimination. For the most
part,
the structural
theories concentrate their attention on
competition
over material and
symbolic
resources
(e.g.,
Bobo, 2000; Jackman, 1994;
Levine &
Campbell, 1972). Despite
the valuable
insights
this
general approach
offers with
respect
to some forms of
group oppression
such as racism and
nationalism,
it is often not able to
easily
account for other forms of
group oppression
such as sexism and
generalized patri-
archy (see
Glick &
Fiske, 1996; Jackman, 1994;
Pratto &
Walker, 2001;
van den
Berghe, 1967).
In
addition,
these structural models fail to account for individual
differences in the
degree
of discrimination and
prejudice against
"the other"
among people
who have the same structural
relationships
to "the other"
(see
also
Huddy, 2004).
Social dominance
theory, by
contrast,
focuses on both individual and struc-
tural factors that contribute to various forms of
group-based oppression.
The
theory
views all of the familiar forms of
group-based oppression (e.g., group-
based
discrimination, racism, ethnocentrism, classism, sexism)
as
special
cases of
a more
general tendency
for humans to form and maintain
group-based hierarchy.
Rather than
merely asking why people stereotype, why people
are
prejudiced, why
they
discriminate,
or
why they
believe the world is
just
and
fair,
social dominance
For a
relatively
rare
partial exception,
see
Tilly (1998).
846 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
theory
asks
why
human societies tend to be
organized
as
group-based
hierarchies.
By framing
the
question
in this
way,
social dominance
theory
is not
simply
focused on the extreme
yet
all-too-common forms of
intergroup
truculence
(e.g.,
mass murder and
genocide),
as claimed
by
some critics
(see, e.g., Huddy,
2004;
Reicher, 2004),
but rather on the universal and
exquisitely
subtle forms of dis-
crimination and
oppression
that
large
numbers of
people
face in their
everyday
lives all over this
planet.
The research
agenda
of social dominance
theory
has
included consideration of the
cultural,
ideological, political,
and structural
aspects
of
societies,
leading
to a focus on similarities and differences across
societies,
interactions between
psychological
and social-contextual
processes,
and the subtle
yet important
similarities and differences between various
types
of
group-based
oppression (e.g., arbitrary-set
hierarchies vs.
patriarchy).2
In
specifying
the cul-
tural and
gendered aspects
of
oppression,
social dominance
theory
tries to avoid
ethnocentric and androcentric
overgeneralization.
In an effort to describe
group-
dominance societies as interactive
systems
rather than as the result of some
simple
and
singular
root cause
(e.g., "personality"),
social dominance
theory explores
the
manner in which
processes
at different levels of
analysis
interact with one another.
Finally,
rather than
concentrating
its attention on the
open-ended
nature of human
possibilities,
so dear to the interests of Reicher
(2004)
and other advocates of the
"blank slate" view of human nature
(see Pinker, 2002),
social dominance
theory
is devoted to
trying
to
deepen
our
understanding
of the recurrent realities of actual
human
existence,
including
the universal realities of
patriarchy,
ethnocentrism,
and dominance/submission
(see Brown, 1991; Pinker, 2002).
Most
proximally,
social dominance
theory
notes that chronic
group-based
oppression
is driven
by systematic
institutional and individual discrimination.
That
is,
many
social institutions
(e.g.,
schools,
organized religions, marriage prac-
tices,
financial
houses)
and
many powerful
individuals
disproportionately
allocate
desired
goods-such
as
prestige,
wealth,
power,
food,
and health care-to
members of dominant and
privileged groups,
while
directing
undesirable
things-
such as
dangerous
work, disdain,
imprisonment,
and
premature
death-toward
members of less
powerful groups.
Because institutions allocate resources on much
larger
scales,
more
systematically,
and more
stably
than individuals
generally
can,
social dominance
theory regards
institutional discrimination as one of the
major
forces
creating, maintaining,
and
recreating systems
of
group-based hierarchy.
According
to social dominance
theory, group
discrimination tends to be
sys-
tematic because social
ideologies help
to coordinate the actions of institutions and
individuals. That
is,
people
share
knowledge
and beliefs that
legitimize
discrim-
ination,
and most often
they
behave as if
they
endorsed these
ideologies.
As
such,
people support
institutions that allocate resources in accordance with those ide-
ologies (Mitchell
&
Sidanius, 1995; Pratto, Stallworth,
&
Conway-Lanz, 1998;
2
By
the term
"patriarchy"
we refer to the
pattern
of male dominance in
politics
and the
pubic sphere.
847
Pratto, Stallworth,
&
Sidanius, 1997), and,
as
individuals,
allocate resources in
accordance with those
ideologies, particularly
when
they
are in social contexts
that cue these
ideologies (Pratto, Tatar,
&
Conway-Lanz, 1999).
Another conse-
quence
of societal consensus on
legitimizing ideologies
is that members of more
powerful groups
tend to behave in their own interest more than do members
of less
powerful groups,
a
phenomenon
we call behavioral
asymmetry (e.g.,
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
chapter 9).
Finally,
the
acceptance
of
ideologies
that
legitimize inequality
and behaviors
that
produce inequality
is
partly
determined
by people's general
desire for
group-
based dominance. This desire for
group-based
dominance is
captured by
a con-
struct we call social dominance orientation. This
psychological
orientation is
important
not
only
for
understanding
individual differences in
sociopolitical
atti-
tudes and
behavior,
but also for
understanding group
differences in behaviors such
as
ingroup
favoritism and the attainment of social roles that influence the
degree
of
hierarchy.
As
such,
social dominance
theory
views the determinants of
group-
based
hierarchy
at
multiple
levels of
analysis, including psychological
orienta-
tions,
the
discriminatory
behaviors of
individuals,
the
legitimizing ideologies
that
permeate
entire social
systems,
and the social allocations of
groups
and social
institutions.
As a
relatively
new set of
ideas,
social dominance
theory
has in some
respects
been
poorly
understood,
which in turn has contributed to some confusion when
comparing
social dominance
theory
to other theories of
intergroup
relations. In
the remainder of this
essay,
we address the
ways
in which social dominance
theory
has been
misapprehended.
We then
compare
social dominance
theory
to the
related models of social
identity theory
and
system justification theory,
and con-
clude
by suggesting
how our theoretical
agenda
can
guide
further research on
stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination,
ideology,
and
intergroup
relations. We
will describe social dominance
theory
in richer detail as we
compare
the
theory
to other models and
respond
to the
major
criticisms that have been raised
against
it.
Misconstruals of Social Dominance
Theory
There are four
major ways
in which social dominance
theory
has been mis-
construed. These
misunderstandings
can be
expressed
as four distinct claims: the
claim of
psychological reductionism,
the claim of
conceptual redundancy,
the
claim of
biological determinism,
and the claim of
hierarchy justification.
The Claim
of Psychological
Reductionism
We are in
strong agreement
with Reicher
(2004)
when he
complains
that the
fate of
many psychological
theories is to see much of the richness and
complex-
ity
of the
original
formulations reduced to a
single aphorism
and to a
single
848 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
hypothesis.
This unfortunate fate has befallen not
only
authoritarian
personality
theory
and social
identity theory,
but
(despite
its
relatively young age)
social dom-
inance
theory
as well.
Although
a broader theoretical overview of social domi-
nance
theory
was
presented
as
early
as 1993
(see Sidanius, 1993),
a
good
deal of
the
early empirical
research
exploring
this rather broad
theory
focused on the indi-
vidual-difference construct of social dominance orientation
(SDO; e.g.,
Pratto,
Sidanius, Stallworth,
&
Malle, 1994; Sidanius, Liu, Pratto,
&
Shaw, 1994).
This
apparently
led
many
to
assume,
mistakenly,
that social dominance
theory
was
just
another
personality theory,
and as
such,
a model that focused
solely
on the role
of this individual-difference variable in
driving intergroup
conflict
(e.g.,
Schmitt,
Branscombe,
&
Kappen,
2003;
Turner &
Reynolds, 2003).
The role of SDO has
become so
large
in the minds of some that
they
have come to refer to the
theory
as "social dominance orientation
theory."
Whereas SDO is an
important compo-
nent of the broader
model,
social dominance
theory
is neither
primarily
nor exclu-
sively
concerned with this individual-difference construct. Our earliest work
using
SDO addressed its relation both to institutional discrimination and to social ide-
ologies,
which,
we have
always emphasized,
were the two more
important engines
of
group-based
social
hierarchy.
Indeed,
we have followed
Allport's (1954) suggestion
in
understanding
inter-
group aggression
and discrimination as the results of factors
working
at several
different levels of
analysis.
As social dominance
theory
describes the
process,
dis-
criminatory
acts are enacted
by persons
with
particular
behavioral
predispositions,
subgroup loyalties,
and social
identifications,
within
specific
social
contexts,
often
in connection with the activities of social institutions and social
roles,
and embed-
ded within cultures with
particular
social
ideologies
and structural relations.
Rather than
being
an exercise in
psychological
reductionism
(see
Schmitt et
al.,
2003;
Turner &
Reynolds, 2003),
social dominance
theory
is
explicitly
devoted
to
trying
to understand how
psychological predispositions,
social
identities,
social
context,
social
institutions,
and cultural
ideologies
all intersect to
produce
and
reproduce group-based
social
inequality.
Rather than
facilely stating
that dis-
crimination is
multiply determined,
research on social dominance
theory
has
explored
how
processes
at various levels of
analysis
intersect and reinforce one
another,
as we illustrate below. In other
words,
rather than
merely being
a "static"
personality
model,
as
suggested by
some
(e.g., Huddy,
2004; Sniderman,
Crosby,
&
Howell, 2000),
social dominance
theory
is
very
much a model about
process,
specifically
the
processes
that create and recreate
group-based
social
hierarchy.
The issue
of
social context.
Contrary
to the claims of some critics
(e.g.,
Guimond, Dambrun, Michinov,
&
Duarte, 2003; Reicher, 2004;
Schmitt et
al.,
2003;
Turner &
Reynolds, 2003)
that SDO is
conceptualized
as some immutable
and static
"personality"
variable,
and somehow
apart
from the "social
process"
and social
structure,
social dominance theorists have
long argued
that the sources
of SDO are not restricted to a
single
set of factors
(e.g., personality
or the "social
process"). Rather,
SDO arises from a number of factors such as socialization
849
experiences,
situational
contingencies
or
context,
and individual
temperament
(e.g., aggression, empathy;
see Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
pp. 77-81).
Social dominance theorists have
paid particular
attention to social context as
a factor in SDO.
Although
we have shown that SDO tends to be
fairly
stable over
time
(Pratto
et
al., 1994; Sidanius,
van
Laar, Levin,
&
Sinclair, 2003),
we have
also
argued
and shown that SDO does indeed interact with
particular
features of
the social
context,
such as the social identities
primed
within
specific
social con-
texts and
perceived
social threats. For
example,
in a
minimal-groups experiment,
we found that
people higher
in SDO were most
discriminatory against
the out-
group
when the
ingroup
was one with which
they
could
highly identify (Sidanius,
Pratto,
&
Mitchell, 1994).
In
implicit group
discrimination
experiments, people
high
and low in SDO
appeared equally discriminatory
until
they
were
put
under
group
threat,
at which
point high-SDO people
became
highly discriminatory
and
low-SDO
people
failed to discriminate
(Pratto
&
Shih, 2000). Independently,
Jackson and Esses
(2000)
have shown that
reducing perceptions
of the
group
threat
posed by immigrants
reduces
prejudice against
them
by
those low in
SDO,
but that this intervention does not work for those
high
in SDO.
Most
important,
social dominance theorists have
argued
and shown that SDO
levels are sensitive to both
transitory
and chronic differences in
perceived
social
power
between salient social
groups.
For
example,
we have
predicted
and found
that members of dominant
groups (e.g., European Americans),
because of their
privileged positions
within the social
hierarchy,
tend to have
higher
levels of SDO
than do members of subordinate
groups (e.g.,
African
Americans;
see
Levin,
Sidanius, Rabinowitz,
&
Federico, 1998;
Pratto et
al., 1994;
Pratto et
al., 2000;
Sidanius, Levin, Liu,
&
Pratto, 2000;
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999).
Furthermore,
as the status of one's
group
shifts across
intergroup
contexts,
we have demonstrated that one's level of SDO shows
corresponding
shifts as well.
Levin
(1996)
demonstrated this in a
study
conducted in Israel. There are three
major
ethnic status
categories among
Israeli Jews: Ashkenazi Jews
(Jews
of
European heritage
who have
high status),
Mizrachi Jews
(Jews
of Middle Eastern
heritage
who have low
status),
and those of mixed Ashkenazi/Mizrachi
heritage
who have intermediate status.
Using respondents
from all three
categories,
Levin
primed
Israeli Jews to think about two different
group
conflicts: the ethnic
conflict between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi
Jews,
and the national conflict between
Jews and Palestinians. When
primed
to think about the ethnic conflict
among
Jews,
Ashkenazi Jews showed
significantly higher
levels of SDO than did
Mizrachi
Jews,
with mixed Jews
falling
in the middle.
However,
when
primed
to
think about the conflict between Jews and
Palestinians,
all three Jewish
groups
showed a substantial increase in their level of
SDO,
and differences
among
the
groups disappeared.
In other
words,
rather than
being
an immutable characteris-
tic,
the
degree
to which one favors
group-based
social
inequality
is,
in
part,
situ-
ationally contingent
on how one frames one's social context
(see
also Guimond
et
al., 2003; Levin, 2004).
850 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
However,
the relative
degree
to which individuals
support group-based
social
inequality
also shows a
reasonably high degree
of cross-situational
stability.
For
example,
in this same
study,
the correlation between scores on the Social Domi-
nance Orientation scale
(henceforth
"SDO
scores")
across these two
priming
con-
texts was
fairly
robust,
r= .56
(p
<
.001).
In other
words,
people
who are
relatively
high
in SDO in one
intergroup
context also tend to be
relatively high
in SDO in
another context. In contrast to the
implications
of
Huddy (2004),
one of the things
implied by
this
finding
is that even after one is able to control for a wide
variety
of the
situational,
occupational,
and socialization factors
thought
to contribute to
SDO,
we should still
expect
to find reliable individual differences in
SDO,
largely
attributable to
temperamental
or
personality
factors.
Again,
this
reasoning
under-
scores the need to understand the individual's
support
for
group-based
social hier-
archy
as multidetermined and as a function of factors
operating
on several
different levels of
analysis.
The issue
of
social institutions. Another
implication
of the
psychological
reductionism
charge
is the
misapprehension
that social dominance
theory empha-
sizes the role of
psychological predispositions
at the
expense
of
addressing
the role
of social institutions in the
production
and maintenance of discrimination. In
point
of
fact,
almost
singularly among social-psychological
theories
(see
also
Jones,
1997),
social dominance
theory emphasizes
that social institutions are
centrally
implicated
in the establishment and maintenance of
group-based
social
inequality
and
intergroup
discrimination
(see, e.g.,
Mitchell &
Sidanius, 1995; Pratto,
Stallworth, Sidanius,
&
Siers, 1997; Sidanius, Liu,
et
al., 1994; Sidanius, Pratto,
Sinclair,
& van
Laar, 1996;
van
Laar, Sidanius, Rabinowitz,
&
Sinclair, 1999).
Indeed,
our review of research on institutional discrimination
(Sidanius
&
Pratto,
1999,
chapters 5-8)
found that institutional discrimination is
pervasive
across a
wide
range
of societies and domains of
life,
encompassing housing,
labor,
health
care, retail, education,
and law. The
greater
the institutional discrimination within
a
given society,
the
steeper
the level of social
hierarchy
we would
expect
to find.
Although many powerful institutions-including major
financial
organiza-
tions
(e.g.,
banks,
investment
houses,
insurance
companies)
and
major
sectors of
the criminal
justice system (e.g., police,
secret
police, prosecutors, judges, prison
administrators)-allocate
resources in
ways
that create and maintain
group
dom-
inance,
social dominance
theory
has also identified a class of institutions that
attenuate rather than enhance
group-based hierarchy.
Institutions that
dispropor-
tionately
allocate resources for the benefit of subordinates-such as civil and
human
rights organizations, public
and
private
welfare
agencies,
and the
public
defender's office-are labeled as
hierarchy-attenuating.
Social dominance
theory
postulates
that the
stability
of
group-based
social
hierarchy
is,
in
part,
a function
of the
equilibrium
created
by
the
counterbalancing
effects of these
hierarchy-
enhancing
and
hierarchy-attenuating
social institutions.
The intersection between individual behavioral
predispositions
and social
roles.
By considering
the
assignment
of individuals into
hierarchy-enhancing
and
851
hierarchy-attenuating
social roles and
institutions,
social dominance
theory
has
addressed some of the
ways
that social
ideologies,
social
context,
and individu-
als'
psychological proclivities
contribute to institutional discrimination. The
theory hypothesizes
that the
functioning
of
hierarchy-enhancing
and
hierarchy-
attenuating
institutions will be aided when
they
are staffed
by personnel
with the
values, attitudes,
and behavioral
predispositions
that are consistent with the insti-
tution's character.
Specifically, personnel
in
hierarchy-enhancing
institutions
should tend to be
relatively anti-egalitarian,
whereas
personnel
in
hierarchy-
attenuating
institutions should be
relatively egalitarian
in their views of the desired
relationship among
social
groups.
In other
words,
individuals' desires for
group-
based
inequality
and dominance should be
compatible
with their institutional
roles.
In one test of this
hypothesis,
Sidanius,
Liu et al.
(1994) compared
the SDO
scores of
people
in four different institutional
roles-police
officers in the Los
Angeles
Police
Department (a hierarchy-enhancing role), public
defenders from
the Los
Angeles County public
defender's office
(a hierarchy-attenuating role),
UCLA students
(people
with mixed intentions
regarding
their future
roles),
and
adults called to
jury duty
in Los
Angeles County (people
with mixed current hier-
archy roles)-both
before and after
controlling
for a number of
demographic
factors
(e.g.,
"race,"
age, gender,
social
class, education).
Because of their dif-
ferent
hierarchy
roles,
police
officers were
expected
to have
higher
SDO scores
and
public
defenders lower SDO scores than students and
jurors.
These
expecta-
tions were
confirmed,
even after
controlling
for
demographic
differences between
the
groups.
Police officers were found to be
significantly
more social domi-
nance-oriented than both students and
jurors (who represented
a random
sample
of Los
Angeles citizens),
whereas
public
defenders were found to be
significantly
less social dominance-oriented than both students and
jurors.
Pratto, Stallworth,
Sidanius,
and Siers
(1997)
later found that voters classified into
hierarchy
roles
on the basis of their current or most recent
occupations (for retirees)
showed
similar differences in SDO scores
(see
also
Dambrun, Guimond,
&
Duarte, 2002;
Guimond, 2000;
Guimond &
Palmer, 1996).
Sorting
individuals into
compatible
social roles. Because
people's
values
regarding group-based equality
will be
important
for the smooth
functioning
of
the social institutions in which
they
are situated and the social roles
they
are to
perform,
social dominance
theory expects
several
processes
to assort individuals
into
compatible
social roles. To
date,
some evidence has been
provided
for five
assortment
processes:
self-selection,
institutional
selection,
institutional social-
ization,
differential
reward,
and differential attrition.
Self-selection.
Social dominance
theory suggests
that when individuals are
given
a
choice,
they
will tend to choose social roles
compatible
with their SDO
levels. This effect was first demonstrated
by
Sidanius et al.
(1996) using
two
samples
of UCLA students. The students rated the attractiveness of four hierar-
chy-enhancing
careers
(i.e., government prosecutor,
law enforcement
officer,
FBI
852 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
agent, big
business
person)
and four
hierarchy-attenuating
careers
(i.e.,
civil
rights
lawyer, lawyer
for the
poor,
human
rights
advocate,
and
working
for the benefit
of
disadvantaged groups).
Even
controlling
for socioeconomic status and
politi-
cal
conservatism,
SDO was
positively
associated with the
perceived
attractive-
ness of
hierarchy-enhancing
careers and
negatively
associated with the
perceived
attractiveness of
hierarchy-attenuating
careers.
Similarly,
when Stanford Univer-
sity
students were asked to choose between
hierarchy-attenuating
and
hierarchy-
enhancing jobs,
their choices reflected their SDO levels
(Pratto, Stallworth,
Sidanius,
&
Siers, 1997,
experiments
1 and
2). Together,
these results
provide
support
for the idea that
people
will self-select into
"appropriate" hierarchy-
enhancing
or
hierarchy-attenuating
social
roles,
depending
on their orientation
toward
group-based inequality (see
also Sidanius et
al., 2003).
Institutional selection. Institutions are also
expected
to select
personnel
with
values
compatible
with the institution's
hierarchy
function.
Pratto, Stallworth,
Sidanius,
and Siers
(1997, experiments
3 and
4)
found evidence for institutional
selection in simulated
employment experiments. University
students assumed the
role of
employers
in a
position
to influence
hiring
decisions. In both
experiments,
participants
were
given
a set of
job descriptions,
half of which were
hierarchy-
enhancing
and half of which were
hierarchy-attenuating. Although
the
descrip-
tions varied
according
to whether the
job
was
hierarchy-enhancing
or
hierarchy-attenuating,
the
duties,
salary,
and title for each
job
within an
occupa-
tion were
equivalent.
Next,
the
respondents
were
given
resumes of
job
candidates,
which controlled for their
qualifications
but varied with
respect
to the
hierarchy
role
experience
of the candidate. For
example,
one candidate was described as
having
been a
camp
counselor at a selective
private camp
for elite
young
men and
women in Lake Tahoe and as co-founder and
president
of
"Capital Operations,"
a student club
promoting
free
enterprise
in Eastern
Europe
and Russia. In another
rendition,
this
applicant
was described as
having
been a
camp
counselor for a
Head Start
program
in San Francisco and as co-founder and
president
of "Life
Savers,"
a student club
promoting
international
legislation
to
protect
rainforests
and their inhabitants. Pretests confirmed that
people
inferred that these
applicants
had
high
and low SDO
levels,
respectively.
Simulated
employers
hired more
apparently
low-SDO candidates into
hierarchy-attenuating jobs
and hired more
apparently high-SDO
candidates into
hierarchy-enhancing jobs. They
also hired
more women into
hierarchy-attenuating jobs
and more men into
hierarchy-
enhancing jobs.
Because men have
higher average
SDO levels than women
(Pratto
et
al., 2000;
Sidanius et
al., 2000;
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999; Sidanius, Pratto,
&
Bobo, 1994;
see also
Sidanius, Pratto,
&
Brief, 1995),
this bias would also assort
more
high-SDO people
into
hierarchy-enhancing
roles and more low-SDO
people
into
hierarchy-attenuating
roles.
Likewise,
when
choosing among
white, black,
and
Hispanic job applicants
for these
roles,
people preferred
to hire white
appli-
cants for
hierarchy-enhancing
roles and
especially preferred
to hire black and
Hispanic job applicants
for
hierarchy-attenuating
roles
(Pratto
&
Espinoza,
853
2001).
This race bias also contributes to
compatibility
between
employees'
SDO
levels and the roles for which
they
are selected because of racial differences in
SDO levels
(Pratto, 1999; Sidanius, Pratto,
&
Rabinowitz, 1994).
Institutional socialization.
Another
process leading
to
compatibility
between
individuals'
discriminatory predispositions
and their roles within social institu-
tions is institutional socialization. Formal institutional
rules,
peer pressure,
insti-
tutional
incentives,
dissonance reduction
processes,
and other subtle and direct
pressures may
all induce
people
to
adopt
the
values, beliefs,
and attitudes com-
patible
with the social roles
they occupy.
For
example,
Teahan
(1975a)
examined
the racial attitudes of 97 white
police
officers
upon entry
into the
police academy
and over the next 18 months. As the officers
progressed through
their
police
train-
ing,
their racial attitudes became
progressively
more hostile toward blacks. In a
separate study designed
to examine the effects of
role-playing experiences
on the
attenuation of racial
hostility,
Teahan
(1975b)
found that
role-playing
increased
racial
hostility
toward blacks
among
white
officers,
whereas it decreased racial
hostility
toward whites
among
black
police
officers. In
essence,
socialization for
the
hierarchy-enhancing
role of
police
officer led members of dominant
groups
to
hold more hostile attitudes toward
subordinates,
and led members of subordinate
groups
to
develop
more
obsequious
attitudes toward dominants.
Similarly,
Dambrun et al.
(2002)
examined how the
impact
of
"hierarchy-enhancing
vs.
attenuating"
academic
majors
related to racial
stereotypes
of French
Arabs, SDO,
and
perceived
social norms
regarding
tolerance in
samples
of
psychology
students
(hierarchy-enhancing majors)
and law students
(hierarchy-attenuating majors)
from a French
university.
Relative to law
students,
psychology
students were
found to have lower levels of anti-Arab
stereotyping
and SDO as well as
higher
support
for tolerance norms
(see
also
Guimond, 2000).
A
major study
of
political
socialization shows similar evidence of the differ-
ential effects of
socializing
environments on dominants and subordinates. In a
little-noted
finding
from a
large panel study
of American
high
school
students,
"good
citizenship"
attitudes were studied as a function of the number of civics
courses taken
among
white and black
high
school students
(Jennings
&
Niemi,
1974). Being
a
"good
citizen" could be defined either as
political participation
(e.g., voting, running
for
political office)
or as
showing
obedience and
loyalty
to
leaders and
political
institutions. Consistent with normative democratic
theory,
Jennings
and Niemi
(1974)
found that the more civics courses white students took
in
high
school,
the more
likely they
defined
"good citizenship"
in terms of
par-
ticipation
rather than as
loyalty
to
political authority.
However,
the
opposite
trend
was found
among
black students. The more civics courses black students
took,
the more
they
defined
"good citizenship"
as
loyalty
to
authority
rather than as
political participation.
This trend was
especially pronounced among
black stu-
dents with well-educated
parents.
Although
these results are at odds with normative democratic
theory, they
are
very
consistent with the
general spirit
of social dominance
theory. Together,
these
854 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
results
suggest
that not
only
will social institutions socialize
people
to function
effectively
within the social roles
assigned
to
them,
these socialization effects are
also
likely
to be
qualitatively
different
depending
on whether a
person
is a member
of a dominant or subordinate social
group.
If institutional socialization encour-
ages
children and adults from dominant
groups
to
participate
in the
political
process
and to hold dominant racial attitudes while
encouraging
those from sub-
ordinate
groups
to
display political
obedience and submission to
dominants,
such
socialization should lead to the continued
authority
of dominants and
political
passivity
of subordinates. Because of these differential socialization
effects,
the
American
secondary
school
system
would have to be classified as
hierarchy-
enhancing.
In
contrast,
there is some evidence that American
higher
education has
hierarchy-attenuating
effects. Cross-sectional and
longitudinal
studies show that
prejudice against
subordinates
usually
decreases with increased
higher
education
(e.g.,
Bobo &
Licari, 1989; Sidanius, Pratto, Martin,
&
Stallworth, 1991).3
For
example,
Sinclair, Sidanius,
and Levin
(1998)
examined social attitudes and racial
policy preferences among
1,623
students at UCLA
just
before their enrollment
and
upon completion
of their freshman
year.
After 9 months of
exposure
to the
university
environment,
students became
reliably
less
group
dominance-oriented,
less convinced of the inevitable conflict between racial
groups,
less
racist,
less
opposed
to the
egalitarian
distribution of social
resources,
and less
opposed
to
welfare for the
poor.
Differential
reward. If institutions are interested in
ensuring
that their
per-
sonnel
display role-appropriate
behavior,
one should
expect
them to reward
behavior
compatible
with their social roles and to
punish
behavior
incompatible
with those roles. For
example, personnel
in
hierarchy-enhancing
roles should
enjoy
institutional rewards for
displaying aggressive, demeaning,
or
oppressive
attitudes toward members of subordinate
groups,
at least so
long
as these
oppres-
sive behaviors do not too
obviously
violate
broadly accepted
norms of "fairness
and
justice."
Consistent with this
idea,
Leitner and Sedlacek
(1976)
found that
campus police
officers with
higher
racial
prejudice
scores were more
likely
to
receive
positive performance
evaluations from their
supervisors,
even after con-
trolling
for a number of other factors.
Similarly,
in a
comprehensive investigation
of the Los
Angeles
Police
Department following
the infamous
Rodney King police
brutality
case,
personnel
files of the 44 officers with the
highest
number of civil-
ian
complaints
for
brutality,
use of excessive
force,
and
improper
tactics revealed
that their
supervisors
had favorable
impressions
of them and were
unusually opti-
mistic about their future
prospects
on the
police
force
(Christopher
et
al., 1991).
Together,
these
findings suggest
that
race-targeted
cases of
police brutality (e.g.,
the torture of Abner
Louima;
the
police shootings
of Amadou
Diallo,
Patrick
3
For
exceptions
and nuances to this
general trend,
see Jackman
(1981),
Jackman and Muha
(1984),
Weil
(1985),
and
Sidanius, Pratto,
and Bobo
(1996).
855
Sidanius et al.
Doresmond,
and
others)
and "racial
profiling"
are not
really examples
of "a few
bad
apples"
on the
police
force,
but rather
represent
extreme
examples
of a more
general pattern
in which the
police
force enacts its
hierarchy-enhancing
function
by behaving
in an
especially intimidating
fashion toward members of subordinate
groups.
The fact that ethnic subordinates
(i.e.,
blacks and
Latinos) experience
more fear of the
police
than do ethnic dominants
(i.e., European Americans)
also indicates that the
hierarchy-enhancing
and
differentially threatening
character of the
police
force is
being
communicated
(see
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
pp. 220-223).
We have found evidence for differential rewards for
role-appropriate group
dominance attitudes in other
organizations
as well. For
example,
van Laar et al.
(1999)
examined the
grades given
to
university
students as a function of how well
their racial attitudes fit their academic
major.
On the basis of academic
major,
5,655
students at the
University
of Texas at Austin were classified into one of
three
categories: hierarchy-enhancers, hierarchy-attenuators,
or "neutrals." As
expected, hierarchy-enhancers
had
reliably higher
racism scores than
neutrals,
and
hierarchy-attenuators
had
reliably
lower racism scores than neutrals.
Next,
stu-
dents were classified as either
"congruents"
or
"incongruents" depending
on the
precise configuration
of their racial attitudes and their
college majors.
Students
were classified as
congruents
if
they
had racism scores in the
top
third of the dis-
tribution and had
hierarchy-enhancing college majors,
or if
they
had racism scores
in the bottom third of the distribution and had
hierarchy-attenuating college
majors.
Students were classified as
incongruents
if
they
had racism scores in the
top
third of the distribution and had
hierarchy-attenuating college majors,
or if
they
had racism scores in the bottom third of the distribution and had
hierarchy-
enhancing college majors.
One of the
major
kinds of institutional feedback
provided
to
college
students
is course
grades;
all else
being equal,
we therefore
expected congruents
to
enjoy
relatively higher grade-point averages
than
incongruents.
This
predicted
interac-
tive
pattern
was
supported by
the data. The
majority
of students with
incongru-
ent attitudes received less than a C
average,
whereas the
majority
of students with
congruent
attitudes received above a C
average.
This
pattern
held even after con-
trolling
for
racism,
college major, ethnicity, political conservatism,
and
year
in
school. If this result
generalizes,
it would indicate
that,
all else
being equal, people
are rewarded when
displaying
attitudes toward
group-based
social
hierarchy
that
are
compatible
with their social roles and are
punished
for
displaying
attitudes
that are
incongruent
with these social roles
(see
also Sidanius et
al., 2003).
Differential
attrition. Given that
people may
be
differentially
rewarded or
punished
for
holding role-compatible
or
role-incompatible group
dominance atti-
tudes,
we also
expect
differential attrition from social roles
among congruents
and
incongruents. People
with
incompatible
attitudes toward
group
dominance
(i.e.,
incongruents)
should leave their
hierarchy
roles at
higher
rates than
people
with
compatible
attitudes
(i.e., congruents).
Because
high grades
were
likely
to be
856
Social Dominance
Theory
differentially given
to students with a
good
match between their racial attitudes
and their chosen
college majors,
van Laar et al.
(1999) expected
that there should
be evidence of an
increasing
match between students' racial
prejudice
scores and
their chosen
majors
as students
progress through
the
university. Again,
the data
were consistent with
expectations. Among
freshmen,
incongruents
tended to be
significantly overrepresented,
whereas
congruents
tended to be
significantly
underrepresented.
However,
among juniors,
the
opposite
trend was found. This
increasing
match between students' racial attitudes and their
college majors
held
even when
controlling
for other factors
(e.g., gender, ethnicity, political ideology).
This
increasing
match can be accounted for
by
at least two
processes: greater
attri-
tion of
incongruents
from inconsistent
majors,
or institutional socialization
leading
students to
change
their racial attitudes toward
greater congruence.
Overall,
this evidence for the assortment of individuals into
compatible
social
roles shows
that,
over time and
given appropriate
feedback,
people
are self- and
institutionally
selected, socialized,
and rewarded such that their orientations
toward
group
dominance fit with their
surrounding
institutional contexts.
In
sum,
rather than
being
an exercise in
psychological
reductionism,
social
dominance
theory argues
that
group-based
social
hierarchy
and its attendant man-
ifestations
(e.g., prejudice
and
discrimination)
are the results of the interactions
among phenomena
at several different levels of
analysis. Among
these
processes
are the interactions between the individual's
ideological predispositions
and the
individual's immediate social
contexts,
including
the contexts created
by
social
institutions.
The Claim
of Conceptual Redundancy
Social dominance
theory
has also been criticized for
merely renaming
familiar constructs such as authoritarianism and
political
conservatism with new
labels such as social dominance orientation
(J. Citrin,
personal
communication,
November
1997; Turner, 1999).
Social dominance orientation versus authoritarianism. One of the several
major
contributions that authoritarian
personality theory
made to the literature on
intergroup
relations was the observation that
people
who are
prejudiced against
one
group
are also
likely
to be
prejudiced against
other
groups.
This
generalized
ethnocentric
predisposition
was not
merely
an isolated attitude toward
outgroups,
but was found to be
part
of a
larger syndrome
of
personality
characteristics and
sociopolitical
beliefs
consisting
of
components
such as
political conservatism,
pseudo-patriotism,
and
religiosity.
This
complex
of
personality
and
sociopolitical
beliefs was labeled the authoritarian character
(see Fromm, 1941).
Like authoritarian
personality theory,
social dominance
theory
assumes that
people's
ethnocentric orientations and
sociopolitical
attitudes are reflections
of,
and are rooted
in,
personality
and
cross-situationally
consistent behavioral
pre-
dispositions.
However,
despite
this
commonality,
the
specific etiologies
and foci
857
of authoritarianism and SDO are assumed to be
qualitatively
different.
First,
authoritarianism is
regarded
as a
pathological
state of mind and a
complex
set of
ego-defensive
mechanisms
designed
to
protect
the individual from
feelings
of
inadequacy
and almost existential
anxiety,
all
resulting
from
oppressive
and
highly
conditional
parent-child
interactions
(see Adoro, Frenkel-Brunswik,
Levinson,
&
Sanford, 1950; Frenkel-Brunswik, 1948).
Whereas social dominance
theory
lacks a detailed
etiological explanation
for the
development
of
SDO,
rather
than
being regarded
as a
pathological
condition,
SDO is a dimension
thought
to
reflect normal human variation and to be influenced
by
a combination of social-
ization
experiences, contextually
sensitive material and
symbolic
interests
(e.g.,
high
social
status),
and
dispositional
differences in factors such as
aggression
and
lack of
empathy.
Second,
modem
conceptualizations
of authoritarianism
largely
focus on the
individual's
relationship
to the
ingroup, including
the individual's
proclivity
to
submit to
ingroup authority, display ingroup-sanctioned aggressiveness
toward
individuals,
and adhere to
ingroup
norms
(i.e., conventionalism).
In
contrast,
SDO
focuses
entirely
on attitudes toward hierarchical
relationships
between
groups
and
the desire to
promote intergroup
domination.4
Third,
although
both SDO and authoritarianism are individual-difference con-
structs,
the construct of SDO is embedded within a much
larger
and multilevel
theory
of
intergroup
relations. In
contrast,
authoritarian
personality theory really
is a strict
personality theory
of
prejudice
and focuses almost all of its attention on
intrapsychic
mechanics.
Consequently,
whereas most research
stemming
from
authoritarian
personality theory paid
almost no attention to the role of cultural or
ideological
context
(see Pettigrew, 1958),
the role of cultural and
ideological
context has been central to social dominance
theory's understanding
of how dis-
criminatory practices
are
justified
and rationalized
(see, e.g.,
Pratto, 1999;
Pratto
et
al., 2000; Sidanius, 1993; Sidanius, Levin, Federico,
&
Pratto, 2001;
Sidanius
&
Pratto, 1999).
Not
only
are authoritarianism and SDO
conceptually
distinct,
but a consis-
tent line of research shows these two constructs to be
empirically
distinct as well.
For
example,
whereas both modem scales of authoritarianism
(e.g., right-wing
authoritarianism)
and SDO have been found to be
strong predictors
of
prejudice
against generalized outgroups (women, blacks,
gays, foreigners, prisoners, etc.),
they
make
quite independent
contributions to the
prediction
of these attitudes
while
being largely independent
of each other
(see Altemeyer,
1998; Duckitt,
4
Whereas the earliest
conceptualizations
of SDO defined it as
expressing
the desire for
ingroup
dom-
ination over
outgroups (e.g., Sidanius, 1993),
the definition has been modified to reflect a more
general
desire for hierarchical
relationships among
social
groups (see
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999).
This
also
implies
that,
in the terms of
system
justification
theory (Jost
&
Banaji,
1994;
Jost et al..
2001),
SDO should be conceived as
"system-justifying"
rather than
"group-justifying," although
for
members of dominant
groups,
SDO is both
system-
and
group-justifying.
858 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
2003;
Jackson &
Esses, 2000;
McFarland &
Adelson, 1996;
Pratto et
al., 1994;
Whitley,
1999;
Whitley
&
Aegisdottir,
2000;
for a detailed
discussion,
see
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999).
Social dominance orientation versus
political
conservatism. Some scholars
have also claimed that SDO is
simply
another term for
political
conservatism
(e.g.,
J.
Citrin,
personal
communication,
November
1997).
Of
course,
the
degree
to
which one views these two constructs as
overlapping depends
on how one chooses
to define
"political
conservatism." Of the 13 definitions of conservatism discussed
by
Sidanius and Pratto
(1999),
there is one that bears some
conceptual similarity
to SDO. Edmund Burke
(1790/1955), widely
known as "the father of conser-
vatism,"
defined
political
conservatism,
among
other
ways,
as
opposition
to social
leveling
and
support
for the rule of "social
superiors"
over "social inferiors." In
Burke's
day,
this meant continued
support
for the
political
dominance of Euro-
pean aristocracy
and
opposition
to
political democracy
and universal
suffrage.
However,
few if
any contemporary
conservatives would be
willing
to endorse this
definition as
representing
core or even
peripheral
ideas within modern conser-
vatism.
Rather,
contemporary
conservatives tend to define
political
conservatism
as some admixture of
respect
for the
integrity
of "individual
freedom,"
belief in
the
importance
of
maintaining
established values and
institutions,
opposition
to
government
interference in the
economy,
and the
sanctity
of
private property (see
Buckley
&
Kesler, 1988).
Some conservatives even claim that conservatism is
centrally
concerned with
support
for
equality of opportunity
as
opposed
to
equal-
ity of
result
(e.g., Connerly, 1997). Thus,
not
only
are moder
political
conser-
vatism and SDO
conceptually
distinct,
but
previous
research shows that
they
are
empirically distinguishable
as well
(see, e.g.,
Pratto et
al., 1994; Sidanius, Pratto,
&
Bobo, 1994).
For
example,
across 15
independent
American
samples,
Sidanius
and Pratto
(1999)
found that the median correlation between
political
conser-
vatism and SDO was about
.28,
an association much too low to indicate
concep-
tual
redundancy.
The Claim
of Biological
Determinism
Another criticism of social dominance
theory
is that it is
just
an exercise in
biological
determinism
(Jost, Banaji,
&
Nosek, 2004;
Turner &
Reynolds, 2003;
Ward, 1995).
At its
heart,
the thesis of
biological
determinism assumes that much
of human behavior is a function of the autonomous actions of
genes
rather than
environmental or cultural factors.
Thus,
within the
conceptual
framework of bio-
logical
determinism,
it is
quite
reasonable to
go
in search of such
things
as "the
gene
for"
alcoholism,
schizophrenia, intelligence,
or
aggression. Although
this
simplistic "geneticism"
did indeed characterize most Darwinian and
evolutionary
thought
of the late 19th and
early
20th
centuries,
this
type
of
biological
deter-
minism does not
represent
the
thinking
of moder
evolutionary psychology
in
general,
nor of social dominance
theory.
859
Furthermore,
rather than
regarding
"cultural" and
"biological"
factors as sov-
ereign
and
competing
sources of human
behavior,
modem
evolutionary psychol-
ogy theory
(and
social dominance
theory) regard
both "nature" and "nurture" as
mutually dependent
and
continuously interacting
sources of human action
(see,
e.g., Boyd
&
Richerson, 1985;
Sober &
Wilson, 1998;
Wrangham
&
Peterson,
1996).
It is now
broadly recognized
that the manner in which a
given genotype
expresses
itself as a
phenotype
is
very strongly dependent
on environmental and
contextual factors. Because "evolved
predispositions"
and "cultural
phenomena"
are
mutually interdependent,
the
duality implied by
the "nature versus nurture"
framing
is both
misleading
and
intellectually
sterile. What we consider "culture"
may
be attributable to the
aggregated
and
highly
interactive action of
genes
expressed
within
specific
environmental
contexts,
and the continued evolution of
genetic predispositions
takes
place
within the selection environments
created,
in
part, by
"culture." Instead of
falling
into the theoretical black hole of the "nature
versus nature"
fallacy,5 together
with other
evolutionary psychologists,
social
dominance theorists have
strongly argued
that social behavior must be seen as the
result of a
complex
and
mutually endogenous
interaction between
"genetic"
and
"social" factors
(Caporael
&
Brewer, 1991; Cosmides,
Tooby,
&
Barkow, 1992;
Sidanius &
Kurzban, 2003;
Tooby
&
Cosmides, 1992).
Even more
profoundly,
we have
argued
that the mutual
endogeneity
of these
"genetic"
and "social" factors
is so fundamental and so
powerful
that it is
essentially meaningless
and
quite
mis-
leading
to even
try
to
separate
one set of factors from the
other,
or to
speak
in
terms of the
percentages
of behavior due to either
"genetic"
or "environmental"
factors. In
addition,
unlike some
evolutionary
theorists who
argue
that the forces
of natural selection are
strictly
located at the
genetic
level
(see, e.g.,
Dawkins,
1989),
in
agreement
with Sober and Wilson
(1998),
we
suggest
that it is much
more reasonable to think of the forces of natural selection as
operating
at several
different levels
simultaneously, including
the
genetic,
the
organismic,
and the
level of social norms and forms of social
organization (see
also
Gould, 2001).
In
short,
we should
regard
human action as the result of an
enormously complex
interaction between an
array
of
weakly
determinative
factors,
including genotype,
specific
environmental conditions at
multiple
levels of
organization (e.g.,
inter-
cellular,
interpersonal, intergroup, etc.),
and
pure
chance. This multilevel and
inherently
interactionist
perspective
is a far
cry
from the
simplistic genetic
deter-
minism of the
past,
or
"pallid
interactionism" in which
psychological predisposi-
tions dominate and
distinctly
social factors are treated
merely
as
epiphenomena
(see Reicher, 2004).
The accusation of
biological
determinism
may
in
part
be
generated
because,
in
emphasizing
the
ubiquity
of
group-based
dominance in human societies and
The "nature versus nurture"
question
is also referred to as "Galton's error"
(see Wrangham
&
Peterson, 1996).
860 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
the
instability
of
egalitarian
societies,
we have written about the
seeming
"inevitability"
of
group
dominance
(e.g.,
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1993). Although
it is
not the
place
of scientific theories to
predict
the
future,
we have
emphasized
the
ubiquity
and
stability
of
group-based inequality precisely
because so
many
of our
colleagues
insist that "democratic" societies such as the United
States, Canada,
and
Germany
are so
fundamentally
different from
empires, dictatorships,
monar-
chies,
and other
group-based
dominance hierarchies.
Despite
some obvious dif-
ferences between "democratic" and "nondemocratic"
societies,
blindness to the
underlying
similarities
among
these societies leads
many
social scientists to triv-
ialize the
suffering
of
subordinates,
to underestimate the
stability
of
group-based
inequality,
and to
ignore many
of the subtle and
converging
social forces that con-
tribute to the
stability
of this
hierarchy (e.g.,
Blossfeld &
Shavit, 1993). Simply
put,
scientists cannot be
expected
to theorize about
inequality
if
they
do not first
admit its existence and examine its form.
The accusation of
biological
determinism
may
also have been aimed at social
dominance
theory
because social dominance
theory argues
that the
political
psychology
of
gender
is
qualitatively
different from the
political psychology
of
"arbitrary
sets"
(e.g.,
differences between social
classes,
ethnic
groups,
tribes,
or
nations;
see Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
chapter 10).
Research on social dominance
theory
has found small and rather context-invariant male/female differences in
SDO and associated
political
and social attitudes
(Levin, 2004; Pratto, Sidanius,
&
Stallworth, 1993; Sidanius,
Cling,
&
Pratto, 1991;
Sidanius et
al., 2000;
Sidanius, Pratto,
&
Bobo, 1996).
We have
interpreted
these male/female differ-
ences as
partly
determined
by
the
long-range
male/female differences in
mating
strategies.
However,
even if one
accepts
the notion of certain
predispositional
dif-
ferences between males and females with
respect
to
intergroup aggression
and
group-based hierarchy,
in contrast to the
implications
of
Huddy (2004),
this does
not
imply
a deterministic
relationship
between
gender
and SDO.
Rather,
just
as
with male/female differences in
height,
this sex difference is
probabilistic
rather
than deterministic. This is to
say
that even
though
males are taller than females
on
average,
and even
though
this difference most
likely
has a substantial evolu-
tionary component,
there are still a substantial number of women who are taller
than the
average
male.
Moreover,
this
evolutionary interpretation
of the
average
male/female differ-
ence in
group
dominance orientation does not
necessarily imply
that one is also
endorsing
the notion of the autonomous and
sovereign
action of
"genes"
and
thereby falling prey
to the "nature versus nature"
fallacy.
Rather,
to the extent that
there are robust and
situationally
stable male/female differences in
intergroup
aggression
and social
dominance,
these differences should also be seen as the
result of
complex
interactions between
genotypes
and social and cultural envi-
ronments
unfolding
over broad swaths of
evolutionary
time.
861
Sidanius et al.
The Claim
of Hierarchy Justification
Finally,
because social dominance
theory
is
centrally
concerned with the
resilience and
ubiquity
of
group-based
social
hierarchy,
some critics have accused
the
theory
of
providing
moral and intellectual
legitimacy
for continued social
inequality (e.g.,
Jost,
Burgess,
&
Mosso, 2001). Ironically,
we have
repeatedly
spoken
out
against
the misuse of scientific
theorizing
as an
ideological justifica-
tion for
gender
and race
inequality (Pratto, 1996, 1999;
Pratto &
Hegarty,
2000;
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
chapter 11).
To conflate
evolutionarily
informed
descrip-
tions of human behavior with
morally proscriptive
statements is to commit the
naturalistic
fallacy.
Whereas the naturalistic
fallacy
was a central feature of the
notorious distortions of
evolutionary theory represented by
scholars such as
Edmund
Spencer
and his followers
(commonly
misnamed "social
Darwinism"),
this idea is not
only rejected by
most
contemporary evolutionary
theorists,
but
was also
definitely rejected by
Charles Darwin himself. For
example,
in a letter
to a
good
friend,
Charles
Lyell,
Darwin wrote: "I have noted in a Manchester
newspaper
a rather
good squib, showing
that I have
proved
that
'might
is
right'
and therefore
Napoleon
is
right
and
every cheating
tradesman is also
right"
(Rachels, 1990). Following
G. E. Moore's
arguments
of almost 100
years ago (see
Wright, 1995), evolutionarily
informed
analysis
of human behavior is no more a
moral endorsement of that behavior than
geology
is a moral endorsement of earth-
quakes, epidemiology
a moral endorsement of Ebola
outbreaks,
or
psychiatry
an
endorsement of madness.
With
optimism
that is
unanticipated by
its
critics,
and
following
Marxist and
feminist
thinking
rather than
Spencerian
fallacies,
social dominance
theory
has
highlighted
the
problem
of
group-based inequality
as a
starting point
to
seeing
the
problem
addressed. Rather than
being
an endorsement of
oppression,
social dom-
inance
theory
can be seen as a
prerequisite
to
morally
driven intervention. That
is,
when the
processes producing
and
maintaining group-based
social
hierarchy
are
acknowledged
and well
understood,
moral
beings
can then make informed
decisions about how to
modify
these
processes
and make them more consistent
with their
values,
whatever those values
may
be. Whereas
hierarchy-enhancers
could
certainly
use our research to further their
goals, they
are not the ones most
in need of
help
from science to
accomplish
their
goals.
Indeed,
human
history
shows that
tyrannical
and
ferociously
hierarchical social
systems
are all too
easy
to establish and maintain. In
contrast,
complex
social
systems
even
approaching
"democratic" and
egalitarian
ideals
appear
to be
horribly
difficult to establish and
are
only
maintained with
great difficulty
and near-constant
vigilance (Sidanius
&
Pratto, 1999,
chapter 1).
Basing
social action on unrealistic and false
assumptions
about human nature will not
only
fail to
bring
us
any
closer to the elimination of
group-based oppression,
it will also make this task seem more intractable than it
really
is.
Rather,
because we would like to see societies with democratic ideals
actually
realize these
goals,
it is critical that
hierarchy-attenuators appreciate
how
862
Social Dominance
Theory
social hierarchies
actually function
rather than allow their
analyses
to be com-
promised
and distorted
by
how
they
would
prefer
social hierarchies to function.
Similarities and Differences
Among
Social Dominance
Theory, System
Justification
Theory,
and Social
Identity Theory
Social
Identity Theory
As one of social
psychology's major contemporary
theories,
social
identity
theory
and its derivatives have
deeply inspired
and influenced the
development
of social dominance
theory (see Sidanius, 1993).
In
particular,
social
identity
theory (Tajfel,
1978;
Tajfel
&
Turner, 1986) emphasizes
the
dynamic ways
in
which
people
can construct their social identities to suit their needs. This flexi-
bility
influenced us to
conceptualize
the
group
distinctions based on
race,
nation-
ality,
class,
ethnicity,
and
religion
as
"arbitrary-set"
distinctions,
because we note
similarities in how
they
function,
regardless
of the
particular
histories and local
ideologies
on which
they
are based. Another influence derives from social iden-
tity theory's surprising
but robust
finding
of
ingroup
favoritism in
minimally
defined
groups-that
is,
groups
in name
only-even
when these
"groups"
have
no
prior history,
no actual
interaction,
and no material stakes
(see Mullen, Brown,
&
Smith, 1992). Although
the exact
meaning
of this
phenomenon
is still in
dispute,
it
suggests
to us
that,
besides
paying
attention to the sociostructural sit-
uations in which
people
live,
we must also consider the
possibility
that
people
have a
predisposition
to form
situationally contingent ingroup/outgroup
distinc-
tions and to discriminate on the basis of these boundaries.
Finally,
social
identity
theory
is one of the most
elegant social-psychological
theories there
is,
describ-
ing
in detail how
people's psychological
motivations
(e.g.,
desire for
positive
regard)
interact with their
understandings
of their social situation
(e.g.,
whether
group
boundaries are stable or
legitimate)
to influence
intergroup
attitudes and
behaviors.
Partly
because of the
many expansions
of social
identity theory
and
partly
because of our own theoretical
agenda,
social dominance
theory
also differs sub-
stantially
from social
identity theory.
As
primarily
a
psychological theory,
social
identity theory posits
that
intergroup
discrimination is motivated
by
the desire to
achieve
positive group
distinctiveness for the
purpose
of
enhancing
individual
self-esteem.
However,
there are three
problems
with this tenet.
First,
numerous
studies show that self-esteem is not as
consistently implicated
in
intergroup
dis-
crimination as social
identity theory
assumes.
Specifically,
it is unclear whether
intergroup
discrimination is a cause of enhanced self-esteem or a result of low
self-esteem
(see, e.g.,
Abrams &
Hogg,
1988;
Hogg
&
Abrams, 1990;
Rubin &
Hewstone, 1998). Second,
whereas the desire for
positive
distinctiveness
may
explain ingroup
favoritism
(e.g.,
Brewer, 1979),
it strains
credibility
to assume
that it can also
explain
extreme forms of
outgroup denigration
such as hate
crimes,
863
mass
murder,
or
genocide (e.g., Mummendey, 1995)
or discrimination
by
institu-
tions.
Indeed,
institutional
discrimination,
arguably
that form of discrimination
having
the
greatest impact
on
people's
lives,
has been almost
completely neg-
lected
by
social
identity theory.
Third,
social
identity theory expects people
to
evaluate their
ingroups
more
favorably
on dimensions that are
directly
tied to dif-
ferences in
group
status
(Mullen
et
al., 1992;
Sachdev &
Bourhis, 1987, 1991).
However,
outgroup
favoritism is not uncommon
(Hinkle
&
Brown, 1990),
even
among
members of low-status
groups,
who
presumably
have the
greatest
need for
positive identity (e.g.,
Clark &
Clark, 1947;
Gopaul-McNichol,
1988;
Powell-
Hopson
&
Hopson,
1992).
Social dominance
theory
has
attempted
to resolve some of the dilemmas in
social
identity
research
by paying
more attention to the real social and
asymmet-
rical context in which
intergroup
behavior takes
place. Specifically,
social domi-
nance
theory emphasizes
that the means of
achieving legitimacy, prestige,
and a
sense of
belonging
differ for members of dominant and subordinate
groups
because
they
are not
equally legitimized by
cultural
ideologies
and because
they
hold different amounts of
power (see
also some
important
work on social iden-
tity
and social context
by
Branscombe, Ellemers,
Spears,
&
Doosje,
1999;
Ellemers, Barreto,
&
Spears,
1999; Smith,
Spears,
&
Hamstra, 1999;
Spears,
Doosje,
&
Ellemers, 1999;
Wigbolus, Spears,
&
Semin, 1999).
For
example,
social dominance
theory predicts
that endorsement of
hierarchy-enhancing
ide-
ologies
and
greater
SDO will increase
ingroup
favoritism
among
dominant
groups
but will decrease
ingroup
favoritism
among
subordinate
groups.
When subordi-
nates endorse
hierarchy-enhancing ideologies
to an extreme
degree, they
will not
only
fail to exhibit
ingroup
favoritism but will
actually
show
outgroup
favoritism,
even on
very general
evaluative dimensions
(see
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
chapter
9).
The notion that
legitimizing ideologies
will be
differentially
related to
ingroup
favoritism and
ingroup
identities
among
members of dominant and subordinate
groups
is known as the
asymmetry hypothesis,
and is an
example
of social dom-
inance
theory's agenda
of
examining asymmetries
between the situations of dom-
inant and subordinate
groups.6
Group asymmetries
also
explain why ingroup
identification is not
consistently
associated with
ingroup
favoritism,
contrary
to
predictions
from social
identity
theory (Hinkle
&
Brown, 1990). Ingroup
identification can serve both
positive
functions in
promoting positive identity
and
negative
functions in
promoting
intol-
erance and discrimination.
Thus,
as a
descriptor
of one's
goals
vis-a-vis
groups,
SDO is an
important
moderator of the
relationship
between
ingroup
identification
and
ingroup
bias. For
example,
Sidanius, Pratto,
and Mitchell
(1994)
found that
individuals with
strong ingroup
identification and
high
SDO exhibited the most
ingroup
bias,
whereas Levin
(1992)
found that subordinate
group
members with
6
Contrary
to the claims of Turner and
Reynolds (2003),
the
asymmetry hypothesis
does not claim
that subordinates will
always display outgroup
favoritism.
Sidanius et al.
864
Social Dominance
Theory
low
ingroup
identification and
high
SDO
maximally
favored the
outgroup.
Further,
the direction of the association between
ingroup
identification and SDO
also
depends
on
group power.
Individuals who favor
group-based inequality
should tend to
identify
more
strongly
with dominant
ingroups
because their
members have
greater
access to resources
(e.g., political power)
that can be used
to maintain social
hierarchy.
However,
the situation of
high-SDO
individuals
within subordinate
groups
is more
problematic.
Because desire for
group-based
inequality emphasizes
the
inferiority
of subordinate
groups, high-SDO
individu-
als from low-status
groups
should
disidentify
with subordinate
ingroups. High
levels of SDO should thus be associated with increased
ingroup
identification
among
dominants and decreased
ingroup
identification
among
subordinates.
Consistent with these
expectations, Sidanius, Pratto,
and Rabinowitz
(1994)
found
that SDO was associated with increased
ingroup
salience and identification
among
whites but decreased
ingroup
salience and identification
among
Latino and
African Americans.
Similarly,
in a
study comparing
whites and Latinos in the
United
States,
Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews in
Israel,
and Israeli Jews and
Arabs,
Levin and Sidanius
(1999)
found that SDO was
positively
related to
ingroup
iden-
tification
among
all dominant
groups (white Americans,
Ashkenazi
Jews,
and
Jews,
respectively)
but
negatively
related to
ingroup
identification
among
subor-
dinate
groups (Latinos,
Mizrachi
Jews,
and Israeli
Arabs).
This
study
also indi-
cated that SDO and
ingroup
identification have differential effects on
ingroup
and
outgroup
affect
among
members of
high-
and low-status
groups. Specifically,
whereas
ingroup
identification was
positively
associated with
ingroup
affect
among
all
groups,
SDO was associated with more
negative
affect toward low-
status
groups, regardless
of one's own
group membership. Therefore,
even if the
ingroup
identification
processes emphasized by
social
identity theory
can
explain
ingroup
favoritism under certain conditions
(see
Hinkle &
Brown, 1990),
the
desires for social dominance
emphasized by
social dominance
theory may
be able
to better
explain
the
derogation
of low-status
groups among
members of both
high-
and low-status
groups.
A further distinction between the two theories is that unlike social
identity
theory,
social dominance
theory emphasizes
the distinction between social status
and social
power.
Social
power
refers to the
ability
to
impose
one's will on
others,
despite
resistance
(e.g.,
French &
Raven, 1959),
whereas social status refers to
the amount of
prestige
one
possesses along
some evaluative dimension
(e.g.,
Weber, 1946).
Given that
achieving positive
social
identity
is the focus of social
identity theory,
it is not
surprising
that its associated research focuses on social
status
(see, e.g., Tajfel, 1978;
Tajfel
&
Turner, 1986).
As social dominance
theory
is more concerned with
group-based inequality,
it has focused on social
power.
Recent research
suggests
that
distinguishing
between status and
power
is
important
because
they
have different
effects,
even in
minimal-group
contexts
(for
a
review,
see Abrams &
Hogg, 1988).
Whereas both
group power (e.g., Ng,
1982b;
Sachdev &
Bourhis, 1985, 1991)
and
group
status
(e.g.,
Caddick, 1982;
Commins
865
Sidanius et al.
&
Lockwood, 1979;
Mullen et
al., 1992;
Sachdev &
Bourhis, 1987, 1991;
Skevington,
1981; Turner, 1978;
Turner &
Brown, 1978;
van
Knippenberg,
1984;
van
Knippenberg
& van
Oers, 1984)
both enhance
ingroup
favoritism,
they
do so
in different
ways.
Most
important,
whereas status
may
lead to
ingroup
favoritism,
the existence of social
power
makes discrimination
possible
in the first
place (Ng,
1982b, 1984;
Sachdev &
Bourhis, 1985, 1991). Thus,
for
example, groups
with
insecure
high power
show less
ingroup
favoritism
(see Ng,
1982a, 1984),
but
groups
with insecure
high
status show more
ingroup
favoritism
(see
Brewer &
Kramer, 1985).
Results such as these
suggest
that,
whereas threats to the status
of one's
group may
indeed
encourage compensatory ingroup
favoritism,
ingroup
favoritism will not be
attempted
when the
group's ability
to
impose
its will on
others is in doubt.
In
addition,
there is evidence that status and
power
affect different
group-
relevant
phenomena.
Status differentials
explain
most of the variance in
ingroup
identification and
intergroup perceptions,
whereas
power
differentials
explain
most of the variance in actual discrimination
(Ng,
1984;
Sachdev &
Bourhis,
1991). Thus,
although considering
status differentials does
help
to
explain
certain
patterns
of beliefs about
groups,
a
complete understanding
of the actual
oppres-
sive behaviors
underlying group-based systems
of
hierarchy requires examining
the role of
power
in
intergroup
relations,
as social dominance
theory
does.
Another
way
in which social dominance
theory
differs from social
identity
theory
and
self-categorization theory
is that the latter theories are concerned
pri-
marily
with shifts in definitions of the self as a member of some
generic ingroup
in relation to some
generic outgroup.
This
implies
a theoretical
equivalence
between
membership
in
groups
based on different characteristics such as
race,
age, gender,
or some
minimal-group
distinction. Failure to make a theoretical dis-
tinction between
membership
in different
types
of
groups equates
discrimination
by
whites
against
blacks,
by
adults
against
children,
by
men
against
women,
and
by any minimally
defined
ingroup against
a
minimally
defined
outgroup.
In con-
trast,
social dominance
theory distinguishes among group
relations based on
gender,
those based on the adult-child
distinction,
and those based on the most
salient
groups
in a
society (such
as those based on
race,
ethnicity, religion,
nation-
ality,
or
class),
which we call the
"arbitrary-set"
distinction.
Although
some
aspects
of these three
systems
are similar
(e.g.,
the existence of
stereotyping
and
discrimination for both
gender
and
race),
social dominance
theory
asserts that
these three forms of
group inequality
are also
qualitatively
different. For
example,
gender
and adult-child relations
generally appear
to have a
strong paternalistic
or
familial
component (see
also
Jackman, 1994).
Whereas
arbitrary-set
relations
can,
at
times,
be
personal
and
paternalistic (e.g., involving physical intimacy
or
common
households),
the level of
oppression
and violence
against arbitrary-set
groups typically surpasses
the level associated with
patriarchy
or adult-child rela-
tions,
at times
becoming quite systematic
and extensive.
Thus,
genocide, espe-
cially
directed at
outgroup
males,
is much more common than either
"gynocide"
866
Social Dominance
Theory
or mass infanticide. Social dominance
theory argues
that differences
among
the
three
systems
occur because
they
serve different functions both for individuals
and
society
at
large.
In
particular, gender oppression appears
to be an
attempt by
males to control the
reproductive,
sexual,
and economic
prerogatives
of
females,
whereas
arbitrary-set hierarchy
is
primarily
an exercise in economic
exploitation,
debilitation,
and
aggression by ingroup
males
against outgroup
males
(see
Pratto
&
Walker, 2001;
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999;
Sidanius &
Veniegas, 2000).
In addition to social dominance
theory's emphasis
on
group
differences in
power
and the different
systems
of
group-based hierarchy,
the
theory
can also be
distinguished
from social
identity theory
in its
emphasis
on the consensual nature
of hierarchical
intergroup
relations. For
example,
and
contrary
to the claims of
Jost et al.
(2004),
we have
formally analyzed
the extent to which
legitimizing
ide-
ologies
are
consensually
held across the
groups
that
they
either
privilege
or den-
igrate (Sidanius
et
al., 2001;
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
chapter 4).
As summarized
above,
many ideologies
do not serve the social or
psychological
ends of subordi-
nate
groups
as well as
they
do those of dominant
groups.
Not
surprisingly,
rela-
tive to members of dominant
groups,
members of subordinate
groups
tend to
behave in less self-interested or
group-interested ways (for
a
review,
see Sidanius
&
Pratto, 1999,
chapter
9;
see also van Laar &
Sidanius, 2001). Thus,
group-based
inequality
is not
only
the result of the
greater power
of and discrimination
by
dominant
groups,
but is also
partly
the result of the
complementary
and
cooper-
ative behaviors of subordinate
groups.
The notion that
exploitative
and hierar-
chically organized relationships
between dominant and subordinate
groups
are,
in
part,
the
product
of active
cooperation
between these two
groups
is an
assump-
tion shared with
system justification theory (see
Jost et
al., 2004)
and has been a
part
of social dominance
theory
since its
inception (see Sidanius, 1993; Sidanius,
Levin,
&
Pratto, 1996;
see also Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
chapter 3). Having
been
heavily
influenced
by
neoclassical elitism theorists
(see, e.g.,
Marx &
Engels,
1846/1970; Michels, 1911/1962; Mosca, 1896/1939; Pareto, 1901/1979,
1935/
1963),
social dominance
theory
has
argued
that
legitimizing ideologies
draw their
formidable
strength
from the fact that
they
function to
justify inequitable
social
relationships
not
only
in the minds of
dominants,
but
(perhaps
even more
important)
in the minds of subordinates as well.
One of the
key
distinctions between social dominance
theory
and other
models concerns the issue of
"scope." Many
theories of
intergroup
discrimination
and
prejudice
born
during
the
"cognitive"
revolution of the
1970s,
including
social
identity theory
and
self-categorization theory,
view discrimination and
prejudice
as
products
of the individual's normal
cognitive processes. Although
social dom-
inance
theory
does not
dispute
the
importance
of such
psychological processes,
it
is both broader and more
socially
contextualized. Social dominance
theory argues
that a
comprehensive understanding
of the
dynamics
of
intergroup
conflict and
discrimination
requires
the
integration
of
processes
at several different levels of
analysis, including
the differential behavior of dominant and subordinate
groups,
867
the
subtly
different
strategies
and
goals
of men and
women,
the role of
distinctly
different
types
of social institutions
(e.g., hierarchy-enhancing
and
hierarchy-
attenuating institutions),
and the functions of
consensually
shared
legitimizing
social
ideologies.
Finally,
one of the clearest and most fundamental differences between social
dominance
theory
and social
identity theory,
and a difference related to the "levels
of
analysis
issue,"
concerns the
question
of individual differences. As
already
mentioned,
social dominance
theory
is a multilevel
approach
in which the
dynam-
ics of
intergroup
relations are
explored
as a function of
situationally contingent
construals of social
identity,
societal-level
legitimizing ideologies,
the net effects
of social
institutions,
and individual
predispositions
to discriminate
against gen-
eralized
outgroups.
In
contrast,
social
identity theory
has
put essentially
all of its
theoretical
emphasis
on
situationally contingent
social identities and the manner
in which social
groups
are
represented
"in the head." Most
important-and
com-
pletely
at odds with social dominance
theory
in its
attempt
to
completely reject
anything resembling
a
"personality theory"-social identity
theorists also tend to
reject
the notion of
relatively
stable individual differences or individual
predis-
positions
to discriminate
against outgroups (see, e.g.,
Turner &
Reynolds, 2003).
As mentioned
by Huddy (2004),
this
represents
a rather extreme
example
of sit-
uationism and is a
position
that is rather difficult to reconcile with the
empirical
data. Even
though
an individual's
response
to
outgroups
is multidetermined and
also driven
by situationally contingent
social
identities,
all else
being equal,
certain individuals are still more
likely
to discriminate
against outgroups
than
others,
and
people
who discriminate
against
a
particular outgroup
are also
likely
to discriminate
against outgroups
in
general.
System Justification Theory
Social dominance
theory
was
developed just prior
to and
independently
of
system justification theory (see
Jost &
Banaji,
1994;
Jost et
al., 2004). However,
the two models share a common theoretical
heritage
in the work of Marx and
Engels (1846/1970).
Marx and
Engels argued
that the
social,
political,
moral,
and
aesthetic
ideologies
of
society
are
widely
shared and that these
ideologies
are
largely manufactured
to serve the
political
and economic interests of the domi-
nant class. Because of their control of the means of intellectual
production (e.g.,
mass
media, universities),
the
"ruling
classes" are able to convince non-elites of
the moral and intellectual
righteousness
of social
policies, especially
allocative
policies
that
primarily
serve the interests of the owners of the means of
produc-
tion rather than the interests of the workers and lower classes
(see
similar
argu-
ments
by
Gramsci, 1971; Mosca, 1896/1939). Contrary
to the claims of Jost et al.
(2004),
with certain
modifications,
both
system justification theory
and social
dominance
theory
have
applied
this basic idea of "false consciousness" to the
868 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
general study
of ethnic and
intergroup
relations.7 For
example,
both
system jus-
tification
theory
and social dominance
theory postulate
that
race,
gender,
and class
stereotypes
are not
just cognitive simplifications
or
negative expectations
of other
groups.
Rather,
social
stereotypes
are also
consensually
shared across
group
boundaries,
and
they give
moral and intellectual
legitimacy
to the hierarchical
relations
among
these
groups.
In other
words,
social
stereotypes
not
only
serve
cognitive
or
ego-defensive
functions for individuals and
group-validating
func-
tions for
advantaged
social
groups,
but also serve to
support
and
justify
entire
systems
of hierarchical
relationships
within the
society
as a whole.
Although
system justification
theorists
appear
loath to admit
it-perhaps
out of a desire to
manufacture
positive
distinctiveness-social dominance theorists have
always
been in
complete agreement
with them
concerning
their central
thesis,
namely
that
both dominants and subordinates
participate
in the
legitimization
of the hierar-
chical social
system.
Thus,
within social dominance
theory,
the creation and main-
tenance of
group-based hierarchy
is
very
much a collaborative and
cooperative
enterprise
between dominants and subordinates.
Although
subordinates will often
not endorse the
hierarchy-enhancing
and
system-justifying ideologies
and
myths
with the same
degree
of enthusiasm as will
dominants,
this endorsement will often
still be of sufficient
magnitude
and breadth as to lend net
support
to the set of
hierarchically
structured
group
relations
(see
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999,
chapter 9).
If there is
any
difference between
system justification theory
and social domi-
nance
theory
on this
point,
it concerns the relative
degree
to which dominants and
subordinates endorse
hierarchy-enhancing
social
ideologies: System justification
theory
tends to view subordinate endorsement of these beliefs to be
slightly
stronger
than found
among
dominants,
whereas social dominance
theory
tends to
posit
the reverse
pattern. Similarly,
both theories
imply
that
hierarchy-enhancing
ideologies produce
a more difficult
social-psychological
and
political
situation for
members of subordinate
groups
than for members of dominant
groups. Specifi-
cally, people's
needs for
positive ingroup
identification
(i.e., "group justification"
according
to Jost &
Thompson, 2000)
are
compatible
with
support
for a hierar-
chical social
system (i.e., "system justification" according
to Jost &
Thompson,
2000)
if
they
are in dominant
groups.
For
people
in subordinate
groups, ingroup
identification is
incompatible
with
support
for the hierarchical social
system
(Pratto, 1999; Sidanius, Pratto,
&
Rabinowitz, 1994)
and is associated with more
neuroticism
(Jost
&
Thompson, 2000)
and ambivalence about
problems
con-
fronted
by ingroup
members
(Jost
&
Burgess, 2000).
These theories neither
presume
that members of subordinate
groups simply acquiesce
to cultural ide-
ologies
that demean and restrict
them,
nor
presume
that
people only adopt
and
are influenced
by ideologies
that serve their own interests.
Rather,
both theories
7For some
important
differences between
system justification theory
and social dominance
theory
with
respect
to the manner in which this idea of "false consciousness" is
applied,
see Sidanius et al.
(2001).
869
distinguish
between the
social-psychological
situation of members of dominant
and subordinate
groups by focusing
on the different
purposes
that
ideologies
serve
for members of these
groups.
This
recognition
is
relatively
new for
system justi-
fication
theory,
and that
theory
has
yet
to articulate when
people
will and will not
try
to
justify
the social
systems
in which
they
live.
Indeed,
system justification
theory
relies on a universal
cognitive
bias to
explain why people support systems
that work
against
their own
interests,
characterized
by acquiescence
to "whatever
is,
is
right" (Jost, 2001).
Although system justification theory
and social dominance
theory really
do
not differ with
respect
to their views
concerning
the
functioning
and
dynamics
of
consensual social
ideology, they really
do differ with
respect
to two other issues.
First,
whereas
system justification theory largely
restricts itself to those ideolo-
gies
that
justify
social
hierarchies,
social dominance
theory
has
argued
that social
systems
also contain
widely
shared
ideologies,
which serve to
delegitimize
hier-
archy
and its
practices.
Social dominance
theory
has
argued
that it is the balance
of these
hierarchy-enhancing
and
hierarchy-attenuating ideologies
that contributes
to the maintenance of hierarchical
stability
of a social
system
over time.
Second is the issue of
"scope"
we raised in the
previous
section. Whereas
system justification theory largely
restricts itself to one
general
level of
analysis
(i.e.,
the
functioning
of
legitimizing ideologies),
social dominance
theory
exam-
ines
processes
at
multiple
levels of
analysis.
Social dominance
theory recognizes
that human societies are
complex systems,
influenced
by
humans'
evolutionary
past, people's
current
reproductive,
material,
psychological,
and social
needs,
and
the historical context in which
they
have been socialized and behave. Further-
more,
social dominance
theory argues
that
group-based oppression
is the result of
the
reciprocal
influences of
institutional, cultural, historical,
and structural con-
ditions on the one
hand,
and
psychological
and behavioral
predispositions
and
fitness interests of individuals and
groups
on the other hand.
Furthermore,
like
Marx and
Engels'
classic work
(1846/1970)
and
contemporary
feminist Marxist
theory,
social dominance
theory
also
argues
that
gender
relations are not reducible
to
class, race,
or other
arbitrary-set group
distinctions,
but have
dynamics
that are
uniquely
their
own,
a refinement not
generally appreciated by system justification
theory
or other moder models of
intergroup
relations.8
Conclusion
In
comparing
social dominance
theory
with other
theories,
we
emphasize
that
social dominance
theory
is not an
attempt
to
reject
the
insights
of other
important
models of
intergroup
relations and
discrimination,
such as social
identity theory
(Tajfel
&
Turner, 1986),
authoritarian
personality theory (Adorno
et
al., 1950;
Altemeyer, 1988),
realistic
group
conflict
theory (Blumer, 1960; Bobo, 2000;
8
For one
exception
to this
general trend,
see Jackman
(1994).
870 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
Campbell,
1965; Sherif,
Harvey,
White, Hood,
&
Sherif, 1961;
Stephan
&
Stephan, 2000),
and the several modem racism theories
(see, e.g.,
Dovidio &
Gaertner, 1998;
Katz &
Hass, 1988;
Pettigrew
&
Meertens, 1995; Sears, 1988).
Such
approaches
contain too
many
valuable
insights
for such wholesale dismissal.
Rather,
social dominance
theory
is an
attempt
to
integrate
the most valid features
of these other models into a more
comprehensive
and multileveled
understanding
of the
dynamics
of
group-based
social
oppression.
Whereas alternative models
largely
concentrate on a
single
level of
analysis
to the exclusion of others
(e.g.,
the
psychological,
the
interpersonal,
the
situational,
the
organizational,
the struc-
tural),
social dominance
theory attempts
to examine
processes
at several levels of
analysis.
Even more
important,
social dominance
theory
describes how
processes
at one level of
analysis (e.g.,
individual
differences)
both affect and are affected
by processes
at other levels of
analysis (e.g., institutional),
all
resulting
in the cre-
ation and recreation of
group-based
social
hierarchy.
We
suggest
that it is
only by
efforts at
"conceptual integration"
across several different levels of
analysis
that
major progress
toward
understanding
the
complex
nature of
prejudice,
discrimi-
nation,
and
oppression may
be achieved. Social dominance
theory
is one of the
earliest
attempts
at such
conceptual integration.
Our more
synthetic
method of
theorizing
and our broader theoretical
agenda
have also
pointed
out some new directions for research on
prejudice,
discrimina-
tion,
stereotyping,
and
ideologies.
First,
our work
(like
that of
others,
e.g., Ng,
1982b, 1984;
Sachdev &
Bourhis, 1985, 1991)
resurrects the
study
of
power,
and
not
just prestige
or
status,
as a central
aspect
of
intergroup
relations and social
psychology.
We
suspect
that this
change
in focus leads more
naturally
to consid-
erations of
inequality
and
political
and material concerns than to the individual-
istic self and
psychological
construals of
reality.
Second,
our
systems approach highlights
the
importance
of shared social
processes
and
aggregate
social
behaviors,
such as social
discourse,
cultural ide-
ologies,
and institutional
discrimination,
rather than individual
cognition
and
adjustment.
Discourse
analysis (e.g.,
Potter, Edwards,
&
Wetherell, 1993)
and
research on the communication of
stereotypes
have also
promoted
the
importance
of the shared nature of
ideologies
in
recreating
social
inequalities,
as have
par-
ticular broad-minded
anthropological
studies of how
ideologies reify
social rela-
tions
(see Sanday, 1981). Nonetheless,
more research and
theorizing
on the
origins
of
ideologies
and how
they
are
spread
is needed.
Third,
by
active consideration of culture and of the shared
meaning systems
and action
patterns
of
societies,
social dominance
theory
has
distinguished
between
patterns
of
relationships
that are common and those that differ across
cultures.
Again,
however,
a more detailed
understanding
of alternative forms of
gender, arbitrary-set,
and adult-child relations and how these
systems
intersect is
needed.
Fourth,
social dominance
theory suggests
that we must
pay
more attention
not
only
to the behavior of institutions in the creation and maintenance of
group-
871
based social
hierarchy,
but also to the manner in which institutions interact with
the behavioral
predispositions
of
personnel
within these institutions
(see
van Laar
et
al., 1999).
Fifth,
inspired by
feminist and ethnic
studies,
social dominance research has
sought
to examine the actual situations of
people
in
oppressed
or dominant
posi-
tions,
rather than
assuming
that
laboratory experiments
on
peers
can
fully
simu-
late such conditions. American
psychologists' growing
but still
atypical
habit of
studying people
other than white middle-class
college
students is
only part
of a
step
toward
having
researchers articulate the
cultural,
political,
and historical
context in which
they
work.
Sixth,
following
van den
Berghe (1967),
social dominance
theory
has
pointed
out that not all
intergroup oppressive
or
exploitative relationships
have the same
properties,
nor are
they supported by
the same kinds of
ideologies.
In
particular,
we have found that discrimination
against
men in subordinate
groups
takes a dif-
ferent and often more virulent form than discrimination
against
women
(Jackman,
1994;
Sidanius &
Pratto, 1999;
Sidanius &
Veniegas,
2000;
Wrangham
&
Peterson, 1996). Although
some feminist critics have
objected
to this
distinction,
we believe that
theorizing
and
examining
the
meaning
of
gender
for both men and
women,
and
pointing
out variance
among
men as well as
among
women,
is well
in
keeping
with the feminist research
agenda.
Finally,
we
agree
with some of our critics
(see Huddy, 2004) concerning
one
important
limitation of social dominance
theory.
This limitation concerns the
issues of social
change
and the obvious facts that the
degree
of
intergroup
hier-
archy
within a
given society changes
over time and that different societies
display
substantially
different levels of
group-based hierarchy,
even
stretching
over rela-
tively long periods
of historical time
(e.g.,
the differences in sexism between
Scandinavia and
Afghanistan).
The fact that social dominance
theory
does not
have
well-developed
mechanisms for
dealing
with intra- and intersocietal differ-
ences in the
degree
of
group-based hierarchy (i.e.,
social
change)
was first
pointed
out
by
social dominance theorists themselves
(e.g.,
Sidanius, 1993,
pp. 217-218).
However,
this admitted
shortcoming
does not
put
social dominance
theory
at
any
particular competitive disadvantage
because none of the other
major
models of
intergroup
relations contain well-theorized mechanisms of social
change.
Even
more
important,
this accusation of
being "theoretically
static" is
actually
beside
the
point.
Even
though
there are
temporal
and intersocietal differences in the
"degree"
of
group-based
social
hierarchy,
the sad fact of the matter is that all
known
surplus-producing
social
systems9
are,
in
fact,
organized
as
group-based
social hierarchies. There are no known
exceptions.
As
already
mentioned,
the
basic
goal
of social dominance
theory
is to
identify
and understand the multi-
leveled mechanisms
responsible
for this
ubiquitous
form of social
organization
By
the term
"surplus-producing
social
systems"
we refer to societies that
produce
stable economic
surplus,
in contrast to the situation for most
hunter-gatherer
societies.
872 Sidanius et al.
Social Dominance
Theory
and how these mechanisms
express
themselves in the form of
intergroup
bias,
discrimination,
and
intergroup oppression.
Social dominance
theory
has been
greeted
with substantial
skepticism
in
some circles. From what we can
tell,
much of this
skepticism
is due to funda-
mental misconstruals and
misapprehensions
of what social dominance
theory
is
actually
about. We
hope
that the
present paper
will
help dispel
these
mispercep-
tions. We have tried to show that social dominance
theory
has benefited from
several research traditions and has
sought
to build on some of their
important
find-
ings
and
perspectives.
Moreover,
we have
attempted
to show how the methods
and theoretical
agenda
of social dominance
theory
are
quite compatible
with some
of the most
intellectually
and
politically progressive
movements in the social sci-
ences
today.
AUTHOR'S ADDRESS
Correspondence concerning
this article should be sent to Jim
Sidanius,
Department
of
Psychology, University
of
California,
Box
951563,
Los
Angeles,
CA 90095-1563
(sidanius@psych.ucla.edu)
or to Felicia
Pratto,
Department
of
Psychology, University
of
Connecticut,
406
Babbidge
Road, Storrs,
CT 06269-
1020
(pratto@psych.psy.uconn.edu).
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