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Separate and Unequal: Predicting Intergroup Behavior and Emotions from Social Identity Meanings

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-1-80071-678-0, eISBN: 978-1-80071-677-3

Publication date: 27 October 2021


Purpose: Prior work has convincingly argued that social inequalities arise from the basic human tendency to place others into social categories with different cultural meanings and to allocate resources unequally across those categories. However, few studies have sought to identify the micro-level mechanisms that sustain and justify this categorical inequality. In this research, I show how affect control theory (ACT) can be used to generate novel predictions about the interaction processes that perpetuate stratification.

Methodology/Approach: I present a series of analyses based in ACT that examine (1) whether categorical inequality is reflected in cultural sentiments for social groups, (2) whether patterns of normative behavior and social treatment vary based on category membership, and (3) whether interactions produce different emotions based on category membership.

Findings: Analysis 1 identifies four distinct patterns of cultural meanings that differentiate the groups studied. Analyses 2 and 3 show how these differences in cultural meanings produce categorical inequality through interpersonal behavior and emotional experiences in normative social encounters. Unequal cultural meanings for social groups correspond with their positionality in the social order and support patterns of situated behavior and emotions that keep groups with different levels of status and power separate and unequal.

Originality/Value: This research shows how social norms constrain and enable actions and emotions by members of different social categories, how they depend on the combinations of actors who appear together in a given social encounter, and how they contribute to the reproduction of inequality in ways not well accounted for by earlier work.




Many thanks to my undergraduate research assistants Meara Algama, Mallory Kaniss, Katharine Elder, and Kashfi Ahmed, who provided valuable support in helping design the study and gather the data used in this paper. Thanks also to my colleagues at Dartmouth College and anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this paper.


Rogers, K.B. (2021), "Separate and Unequal: Predicting Intergroup Behavior and Emotions from Social Identity Meanings", Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 23-51.



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