Group Threat and the Black Sheep Effect

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Fall 2018


The purpose of the present study was to examine the differences in degree of punishment of ingroup and outgroup members when the ingroup is, or is not, under threat. Students from a mid-sized university in rural Northeast Texas were first asked to complete a measure assessing identification with Americans to make participants' ingroup identity salient. Next, participants were randomly assigned to learn about a threat to the ingroup (vs. not) and about a deviant ingroup or outgroup member. Following the manipulations participants rated perceptions of the deviant person, retributive justice, perception of the group, felt angst, and ingroup strengthening behaviors. As past researchers discovered who previously examined the black sheep effect, it was hypothesized that participants who were exposed to a deviant ingroup (vs. outgroup) member would rate the ingroup member more harshly. However, it was also predicted that recommended punishment would be attenuated when the group is under threat (e.g., Moskalenko, McCauley, & Rozin, 2006). The results showed no differences between the groups, both in the control condition and the threat condition. These findings highlight that more research into this area is needed to better explain if the type of threat experienced (i.e., extinction, stereotype, symbolic) leads to more or less reaction from group members, as well as explaining if the reaction group members display is dependent on context.


Stephen Reysen

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences