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Definitional boundaries of discrimination: Tools for deciding what constitutes discrimination (and what doesn’t)

Greenland, Katy ORCID:, West, Keon and Van Laar, Colette 2022. Definitional boundaries of discrimination: Tools for deciding what constitutes discrimination (and what doesn’t). Journal of Applied Social Psychology 52 (10) , pp. 945-964. 10.1111/jasp.12902

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What counts as discrimination? Sometimes an event has to be a deliberate act of hate before it is described as discrimination. Sometimes “discrimination” can include much more subtle actions (e.g., microaggressions). There is good evidence that “what counts” as discrimination is mired in controversy, uncertainty, or ambivalence. We present a novel approach that bridges sociocultural and social cognitive accounts of “discrimination.” Definitional boundaries of discrimination are the widely shared, common sense rules that people deploy when arguing whether an event constitutes discrimination or not (e.g., an emphasis on the personality of the alleged perpetrator; the importance of intention; and claims that the problem of discrimination is small and/or mostly limited to the past). These rules are culturally situated but also deployed by individuals in specific local contexts. We introduce a 15-item measure of the extent to which participants are deploying broader or narrower definitional boundaries of discrimination (DBDs). We demonstrate that the measure has good convergent and discriminant validity (Study 1); that participants who are deploying narrow DBDs are less likely to make attributions to discrimination (Study 2); that participants' DBDs predict judgments for some intergroup contexts but not others (Study 3), and that participants who identify as racialized majorities have significantly narrower racism DBDs compared to participants who identify as racialized minorities (Study 4). We conclude with suggestions about how DBDs could be used in future research.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0021-9029
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 June 2022
Date of Acceptance: 14 June 2022
Last Modified: 06 May 2023 11:33

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