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People Adjust Their Impressions More for Applicants’ Disadvantages than Advantages
When making admissions decisions, decision makers are tasked with assessing the quality of applicants based on their achievements and the context in which those achievements took place. In the present research we examine whether, how, and why decision makers update their impressions of and decision to admit an applicant after learning that the applicant faced socioeconomic advantage or disadvantage. In two studies (N = 1,326), we find that decision makers positively adjust their impressions and decisions after learning that the applicant faced disadvantage more than they negatively adjust after learning that the applicant faced a symmetric advantage, which further reinforces the present inequality in who attends college. These findings further our understanding of how people reason about advantage and disadvantage, and they shed light on how gatekeepers’ decision making can maintain or mitigate inequality in higher education.