Distinctive negative reactions to intermediate social groups

Sara E. Burke, Sylvia P. Perry, John F. Dovidio, Marianne LaFrance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Although considerable research has examined how members of advantaged groups think and feel about disadvantaged groups, fewer studies have examined responses to “intermediate” social groups—groups that are perceived to fall between more commonly acknowledged groups on the same dimension of social identity. We measured judgments of intermediate groups, including novel groups designed to manipulate social group intermediacy (Studies 1–5), Black/White biracial people (Study 6), and bisexual people (Study 7). In each study, participants provided separate evaluations of an intermediate group and two comparison groups (e.g., Black/White biracial people, Black people, White people). Intermediate groups were consistently rated as less conceptually legitimate (e.g., less distinctive, not a “real” group) than other groups. The view that intermediate groups are not “real” groups helped explain negative evaluations of them, and participants who strongly identified with an advantaged ingroup were especially prone to this pattern of judgments. These results are consistent with the idea that an intermediate group can threaten the distinctiveness of a valued ingroup, leading people to dismiss and denigrate the intermediate group. Studying perceptions of intermediate groups facilitates a nuanced account of an increasingly heterogeneous social world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)600-630
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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