IACM 2022 Abstract Book »
Insidious Effects of Compliments: Positive Stereotypes Help Legitimize Discrimination
Positive stereotypes are frequently seen as more complimentary and innocuous than negative stereotypes. However, these overgeneralizing attributions of positive traits to entire demographic groups can incur harmful consequences. Past literature found minority members targeted by positive stereotypes experience greater psychological distress and performance pressure. We examine the other side of the story, i.e., how positive stereotypes hurt minority groups by masking the discrimination they are subject to. We argue that positive stereotypes both serve as moral licenses and trigger threat, making discrimination claimants appear more disruptive of the status quo. In two studies, we show that holding positive stereotypes about minority groups reduces acknowledgement of discrimination against these groups due to observers’ increased threat and greater oversensitivity attributions. Implications of the findings are discussed.