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The effects of sensitive symbols on class project selection decisions

Katherine Wiegand (School of Liberal Arts, Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA)
C. Douglas Johnson (School of Business, Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA)
Bryan Dawson (Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Mathew Ward (Department of Psychology, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, USA)

Equal Opportunities International

ISSN: 0261-0159

Article publication date: 2 May 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to test the idea that symbols can serve as a cue to group membership and to assess discrimination towards working with individuals displaying certain symbols – the ichthus, the gay pride symbol and the Confederate flag.

Design/methodology/approach

This study looked at one particular method (i.e. clothing worn) of revealing one's attitude towards an issue or group, such as the Confederacy or Christianity. This study was designed to test selection preferences for three different symbols each against a control group. The experimental independent variable of symbol had four levels (control, ichthus, gay pride triangle, and Confederate flag). Two subject variables were tested as moderating variables (ethnic identity and Christian identity). Each of these was measured via a questionnaire, and a median split on scores was used to create two groups: strong and weak identity for each scale. The dependent variable was the selection preference for the target individual. Participants were 265 undergraduate students enrolled in introductory psychology and management classes.

Findings

It was confirmed that there are many signs that people give off in their verbal and non‐verbal behavior that reveal bits and pieces of their personality and ideologies.

Originality/value

The discrimination that students showed in this study reveals the importance of training those who may go into management roles and be involved in selection decisions to be aware of their natural tendencies to categorize people and the behavioral outcomes this can have.

Keywords

Citation

Wiegand, K., Johnson, C.D., Dawson, B. and Ward, M. (2008), "The effects of sensitive symbols on class project selection decisions", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 355-371. https://doi.org/10.1108/02610150810874313

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited