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Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 97, 2021, 104228

Climate change threats increase modern racism as a function of social dominance orientation and ingroup identification

Fatih Uenala,b, Jim Sidaniusb,1, Jon Roozenbeeka, Sander van der Lindena

Faculty of Management, Canadian University Dubai, UAE.


Processing information on the negative consequences of climate change can have unrelated side-effects such as increased outgroup derogation. Previous research suggests differing theoretical explanations for these “generalization” effects such as buffering existential anxiety. Across two pre-registered experiments (N = 1031; USA & UK), we examine whether ingroup identification and social dominance orientation (SDO) moderate the relationship between experimentally induced collective threats and subjective threat perceptions (i.e., climate change and intergroup threat), modern racism, and pro-environmental collective action support. In Study 1, SDO and ingroup identification were measured 2 years prior to our experiment as antecedents of threat perceptions. Our results suggest that informing individuals about negative consequences of climate change (e.g., wildfires, floods, resource scarcity, health etc.), leads to higher intergroup threat perceptions and modern racism. These generalization effects, in turn, are moderated by SDO but not by ingroup identification. In Study 2, we successfully replicate our findings, measuring SDO and ingroup identification directly after the threat manipulation. Moreover, we use a behavioral measure of pro-environmental collective action to assess more direct stimuli-responses. In Study 2, again, we show that SDO moderates the generalization effects. In contrast, ingroup identification showed only marginally significant moderation of the generalization effect and did not increase itself in response to experimental threat-cues. Notably, we also find that intergroup threat-cues generalize onto higher climate change threat perceptions. No effects on behavioral collective action support were found.

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