Date of Degree

6-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor(s)

Demis E. Glasford

Committee Members

Tracey A. Revenson

Daryl A. Wout

Curtis D. Hardin

Masi Noor

Subject Categories

Social Psychology

Keywords

intergroup threat, intergroup contact, regulatory focus, status, segregation

Abstract

A variety of groups, such as White and Latino Americans, predominantly live in segregated clusters. This is evident by looking at demographic data in the U.S., and often occurs in the absence of legal mandates. To explain why segregation occurs, this dissertation developed a theoretical model with hypotheses on how perceiving a threat to ingroup resources could cause segregation behaviors, but with unique behaviors for high and low status groups. Whites (high status) could view Latinos as a threat to jobs, for example, and be motivated to avoid Latinos. Latinos (low status) could similarly view Whites as a threat to jobs, but instead be motivated to approach other Latinos. Further, this model proposed that regulatory focus motivations, such as concern over preventing economic losses (i.e., prevention focus) or promoting economic gains (i.e., promotion focus), would explain group avoidance and approach. Broadly, this model hypothesized that threat perceptions would increase prevention focus for high status groups, and this would explain outgroup avoidance. On the other hand, the model hypothesized that threat perceptions would increase promotion focus for low status groups, and this would explain ingroup approach.

This model was tested in two studies that balanced external and internal validity. Study 1 focused on threat perceptions of White and Latino Americans, using a news article to manipulate threat perceptions in an online setting, with self-report measures of regulatory focus and group contact. Study 2 focused on threat perceptions of competitive teams, using monetary points to manipulate both status and threat perceptions in a laboratory setting, with self-report and behavioral measures. Analyses across studies used structural equation modeling, with findings providing mixed support to the present model. Specifically, results demonstrated that threat perceptions could cause high status groups (Whites and teams with more points) to avoid a threatening group, approach their own group, and a promotion focus (in employment and points) explained these segregation behaviors. However, threat perceptions did not cause low status groups (Latinos and teams with fewer points) to engage in segregation behaviors. The discussion addresses how these results contribute to understanding segregation; implications for theories on intergroup threat, contact, and regulatory focus; and implications for decreasing segregation in applied contexts, such as neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces.

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