Relating pattern deviancy aversion to stigma and prejudice


What predicts people’s powerful and universal dislike of social deviancy? Across six studies, aversion towards non-social pattern deviancy, for example, a row of triangles with one triangle out of line, predicted aversion towards stigmatized individuals, social norm breakers, statistically negative and positive deviants, and a racial minority group (Black individuals). The relationship between pattern deviancy and social deviancy aversion emerged across explicit and implicit measures, across cultures (United States and China), and was of a moderately large magnitude (meta-analytic effect size: d = 0.68). Studies 7 and 8 examined developmental differences. Older but not younger children’s pattern deviancy aversion related to their dislike of social norm breakers. Although non-social pattern deviancy and social deviancy judgements may seem distinct given their differing domains, people’s aversion towards non-social pattern deviancy and social deviancy consistently overlapped. These findings raise the possibility that pattern deviancy aversion plays an important role in stigmatization and prejudice.

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Fig. 1: Pattern deviancy aversion measure.
Fig. 2: Study 8 interaction effect.


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The authors thank G. Oettingen, P. M. Gollwitzer, J. A. Richeson, S. W. C. Chang, A. Osorio Pizarro and the members of the Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Evaluation Lab for their generous feedback on this research and paper. No funders had any role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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A.G. developed the study concept and design. Testing and data collection were performed by A.G., J.M. and Y.W. under the supervision of J.A.B. A.G. completed the data analysis and interpretation. A.G. and J.M. drafted the paper and J.A.B. provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the paper for submission.

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Correspondence to Anton Gollwitzer.

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Gollwitzer, A., Marshall, J., Wang, Y. et al. Relating pattern deviancy aversion to stigma and prejudice. Nat Hum Behav 1, 920–927 (2017).

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