Exploring the impact of outgroup membership discoveries on individual outcomes and intergroup relations
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Group memberships represent important components of identity, with people holding membership in various groups and categories. The groups that one belongs to are known as ingroups, and the groups that one does not belong to are known as outgroups. Movement between groups can occur, such that an individual becomes a member of a former outgroup. In some cases, this movement between groups can represent a sudden discovery for the self and/or others, especially when one becomes a member of an ambiguous, concealable, or otherwise not readily visible group. The effects of this type of movement, however, are poorly documented. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate these outgroup membership discoveries, examining the individual intrapsychic, interpersonal, and potential intergroup effects of both self- and other-outgroup membership discoveries. Specifically, discoveries of homosexuality were examined in three studies. In Study 1, hypothetical reactions to self- and other-homosexuality discovery were assessed; in Study 2, the effects of discovering self-homosexuality (vs. self-heterosexuality) were experimentally examined; and in Study 3, the effects of discovering another’s homosexuality earlier relative to later in a developing friendship were experimentally examined. Study 1 revealed that, upon a discovery of self-homosexuality, participants expected negative emotions and a more negative change in feelings toward the self. Upon a discovery of a friend’s homosexuality, participants expected a more negative change in feelings toward the friend, but more a positive change in feelings toward homosexuals. For both hypothetical self- and friend- homosexuality discoveries, more negative expected emotions predicted more negative expected change in feelings toward the target individual (the self or friend), which in turn predicted more negative expected change in feelings toward homosexuals as a group. Further, for self-homosexuality discovery, the association between negative expected emotions and negative expected change in feelings toward the self was stronger among those higher in authoritarianism. Study 2 revealed that, upon discovering one’s own homosexuality (vs. heterosexuality), heterosexual participants experienced more negative emotions, more fear of discrimination, and more negative self-evaluations. The effect of the homosexuality discovery manipulation on negative self-evaluations was mediated by fear of discrimination. Further, those higher in authoritarianism or pre-test prejudice toward homosexuals demonstrated more negative emotions following the manipulation. Study 3 revealed that upon discovering an interaction partner’s homosexuality earlier (vs. later) participants reported a more positive contact experience, a closer bond with the partner, and more positive attitudes toward the partner. Earlier (vs. later) discovery predicted more positive contact experience, which in turn predicted a closer bond with the partner. Closer bond with the partner subsequently predicted more positive evaluations of the partner. Interestingly, the association between bond with partner and more positive attitudes toward the partner was stronger among those higher in authoritarianism or pre-test prejudice toward homosexuals. Overall, results suggest that self-homosexuality discovery results in negative outcomes, whereas discovering another’s homosexuality can result in positive outcomes, especially when homosexuality is discovered earlier (vs. later). Implications of these findings for both actual outgroup membership discoveries and social psychological research are discussed.