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ASYMMETRIC ATTRIBUTIONS TO DISCRIMINATION: WHY BENEFITTING FROM DISCRIMINATION IS NOT SEEN AS DISCRIMINATORY
Keywords: discrimination, diversity, inequity
Abstract: Discriminatory decision-making continues to plague organizational life. While much of the research on this topic suggests that prejudice is at the root cause, we offer an overlooked, complementary explanation for its persistence: discriminatory decisions that are described as favoring candidates, compared to disfavoring candidates, are less likely to be recognized as discrimination. We theorize that this relative lack of recognition of discrimination is driven by positive perceptions of the decision-maker intent. We find evidence for our theory across an experience sampling study (Experiment 1) and a large-scale experiment (Experiment 2), covering a wide range of contexts including race, gender, citizenship status, and more. We additionally found even trained experts in HRM were less likely to recognize discrimination when described as favoring rather than disfavoring (Experiments 3a and 3b), and the framing of the same discriminatory decision affected potential job applicants’ willingness to apply to work at the company (Experiment 4).