International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 203–215

Own Group Oppression, Other Group Oppression, and Perspective Taking

Authors

    • Counseling Psychology ProgramLoyola University Chicago
  • Jennifer Moulton
    • Counseling Psychology ProgramLoyola University Chicago
  • Gihane Jeremie-Brink
    • Counseling Psychology ProgramLoyola University Chicago
  • Meghan Hansen
    • Counseling Psychology ProgramLoyola University Chicago
    • Clinical Psychology ProgramIllinois Institute of Technology
ORIGINAL ARTICLE

DOI: 10.1007/s10447-012-9177-1

Cite this article as:
Yoon, E., Moulton, J., Jeremie-Brink, G. et al. Int J Adv Counselling (2013) 35: 203. doi:10.1007/s10447-012-9177-1

Abstract

This survey research examined the relationship of awareness of own versus awareness of other group oppression across sexism, racism, and homonegativity, by including perspective taking (PT) as a moderator. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that awareness of sexism (own group oppression) predicted awareness of racism (other group oppression) in a sample of 116 European American females (Study 1), whereas awareness of racism (own group oppression) did not predict awareness of homonegativity (other group oppression) in a sample of 113 U.S. racial minorities (Study 2). High PT, compared to low PT, did not predict a stronger relationship between awareness of own and awareness of other group oppression. Post-hoc speculation on the role of PT in intergroup relations and implications for research and counseling are discussed.

Keywords

OppressionIntergroup relationPerspective taking

Introduction

Collective identity encompasses multiple dimensions such as race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, and so on. Most people are likely to experience both oppression and privilege depending on their membership to different groups. For example, a European American female is privileged in terms of racial status but may experience oppression within a sexist society. A well-educated, heterosexual minority male may have privilege in terms of class, sexual orientation, and gender but is likely to experience oppression regarding his racial status. Although the history, nature, and consequences of oppression may differ across groups, there may be shared experiences and a mutual understanding among the oppressed groups. Nevertheless, research in counseling and psychology has typically focused on only one dimension of oppression at a time, such as sexism or racism (Croteau et al. 2002). This unilateral, simplified approach greatly diminishes our understanding of the complexity of oppression and privilege.

Recently, there has been increasing interest in the intersection of various collective identities and oppressions (see Meyer 2010; Moradi and Subich 2003; Syzmanski and Sung 2010). Nevertheless, it remains mostly unexamined whether one’s awareness of own group oppression predicts awareness of other group oppression in the area in which one may be privileged. To facilitate cooperation among diverse groups, intergroup relations warrant a better understanding. This understanding may start with the awareness of own group oppression and awareness of how other groups share the experience of oppression. Understanding the relationship between awareness of own versus awareness of other group oppression could inform counselors and psychologists about how to build a common societal ground based on shared experiences of oppression and eventually contribute to harmonious coexistence of diverse groups.

A qualitative study with 18 individuals from diverse backgrounds of race, gender, and sexual orientation revealed that the participants translated their particular oppressive experiences to an understanding of other groups’ oppression (Croteau et al. 2002). However, to our knowledge, no quantitative study has explored this issue. Therefore, the present research examined quantitatively whether awareness of own group oppression predicted awareness of other group oppression across domains of sexism, racism, and homonegativity.

As a more inclusive term than homophobia, homonegativity describes “all possible negative attitudes towards homosexuality and gay men and lesbians” (Mayfield 2001, p. 54). We selected sexism, racism, and homonegativity as representing historically most common oppressive experiences. To contrast sexism and racism as in-group versus out-group oppression, we selected European American females as study participants; to contrast racism and homonegativity, we selected racial minorities to participate. First, we investigated whether European American females’ awareness of sexism (own group oppression) predicted awareness of racism (other group oppression). Next, we examined whether racial minorities’ awareness of racism (own group oppression) predicted awareness of homonegativity (other group oppression). Especially, we examined the moderating role of perspective taking (PT) in this relationship (i.e., whether higher PT, in contrast to lower PT, predicted a stronger relationship).

Perspective Taking as a Moderator

Perspective taking (PT) is defined as “actively imagining the world from another’s vantage point” (Galinsky et al. 2008, p. 404). In other words, PT requires viewing the world in the framework of others’ cognitions, affects, and motivations (Galinsky et al. 2006). By seeing the self in the target (i.e., other people, other groups) and seeing the target in the self, PT promotes cognitive overlap between the self and the target (Davis et al. 1996; Vescio et al. 2003). This self and target merging has been found to reduce stereotypes and prejudices toward the target (Galinsky and Moskowits 2000). By changing the perceptions of people who were previously categorized as members of a different group to be in-group members, PT has been found to create more positive attitudes toward other people and improve interpersonal and intergroup relations (Dovidio et al. 2004).

The beneficial effects of PT have long been documented in both interpersonal and intergroup relations. In interpersonal relations, PT has been found to result in greater altruism and less egocentrism (Davis et al. 1996), increase satisfaction in close relationships (Franzoi et al. 1985), and predict marital adjustment (Long and Andrews 1990). In intergroup relations, PT has been found to diminish egocentric biases in judgment (Savitsky et al. 2005; Wade-Benzoni et al. 1996), increase negotiation effectiveness (Neale and Bazerman 1983), improve intergroup attitudes via empathy arousal and situational attributions (Vescio et al. 2003), and reduce stereotypes and prejudices and promote social bonds (Galinsky et al. 2005; Galinsky et al. 2006; Galinsky and Moskowits 2000).

Interestingly, most of these studies on PT have been conducted in the fields of social psychology and business. Only a few studies in counseling have investigated PT in relation to interpersonal conflict resolution and counselor training (Chen et al. 1997; Corcoran and Mallinckrodt 2000). Quintana and his colleagues researched cognitive development of children’s reasoning about ethnicity by applying Selman’s (1980, in Quintana et al. 1999) model of social perspective taking ability (Lee and Quintana 2005; Quintana et al. 1999; Quintana et al. 2000). It is puzzling that PT has rarely been studied in counseling research in spite of the intuitively important role that PT could play in counseling practice (e.g., conflict resolution). Therefore, counseling researchers’ attention is warranted to this potentially important construct.

Overall, given the beneficial effects of PT in prejudice reduction via the mechanism of merging the self and the target (Galinsky and Moskowits 2000), we hypothesized that high PT would strengthen the relationship between awareness of own and awareness of other group oppression. Study 1 examined whether European American females’ awareness of sexism predicted awareness of racism. We also investigated if this prediction was stronger in high compared to low perspective takers. Study 2 examined whether racial minorities’ awareness of racism predicted awareness of homonegativity. We also examined if this prediction was stronger in high versus low perspective takers.

Study 1

Methods

Participants and Procedures

A total of 116 self-identified European American female undergraduate and graduate students were recruited from a large private university in a Midwestern U.S. metropolitan area. Participants were recruited from education classes (e.g., adolescent development) and school events (e.g., an annual interdisciplinary research symposium). Ages ranged from 18 to 53 years (M = 21.13, SD = 4.59). The sample consisted of 93 (80.2 %) undergraduate, 22 (19.0 %) graduate, and 1 unreported study-level students.

Students who volunteered to participate received a consent form to complete and a survey packet. The survey packet included measures for demographic information, awareness of sexism, awareness of racism, and perspective taking in that order. The questionnaire of own group oppression (i.e., awareness of sexism) was placed before that of other group oppression (i.e., awareness of racism) so that the participants might consider own group oppression before responding to other group oppression. Participants completed the survey packet in class or during the event concerned and returned it in a large collection envelop. No course credit or monetary reward was provided as an incentive for participation.

Instruments

Awareness of Sexism

The Modern Sexism Scale (MS; Swim et al. 1995) measures covert and subtle forms of sexism. The eight items involved are rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), with higher scores representing greater sexist responses and lower scores reflecting the opposite. Sample items are “Discrimination against women is no longer a problem in the United States” and “It is rare to see women treated in a sexist manner on television.” Swim and Cohen (1997) showed that the items of the MS loaded on a separate factor from that of old-fashioned sexism that measured overt and blatant discrimination. The MS demonstrated predictive validity in relation to attitudes toward different categories of women and men - specifically, people who scored high on the MS tended to have negative attitudes toward women and feminists but positive attitudes toward men and chauvinists (Swim and Cohen 1997). To make the interpretation of scores easier, we reversely scored the MS; thus, higher scores represented higher awareness of sexism. The Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was .77.

Awareness of Racism

The Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRA; Neville et al. 2000) measures “cognitive attitudes that deny, distort, or minimize the existence and effects of racism” (Spanierman et al. 2008, p. 78). The total of 20 items are rated on a 6-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree), with higher scores representing higher levels of color-blindness and lower scores reflecting the opposite. Sample items include “Everyone who works hard, no matter what race they are, has an equal chance to become rich” and “Talking about racial issues causes unnecessary tension.” Neville et al. (2000) found that the CoBRA was related to higher levels of racial prejudice and belief in a just and fair society. Again, to make the interpretation of scores easier, we reversely scored the CoBRA; thus, higher scores represented higher awareness of racism. The Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was .89.

Perspective Taking

The Perspective Taking subscale (PT) of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis 1980, 1983) was used for this study. The total of seven items of the PT are rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (does not describe me well) to 5 (describes me very well), with higher scores indicating a higher ability to adopt the point of view of other people. Sample items read “I try to look at everybody’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision” and “When I’m upset at someone, I usually try to ‘put myself in his/her shoes’ for a while.” The PT was found to be positively related to self-esteem and negatively associated with shyness, loneliness, and social anxiety (Davis 1983). Davis (1980) reported that the PT was significantly related to other empathy scales of the IRI in support of concurrent validity. The Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was .77.

Results

Preliminary Analyses

Table 1 presents item-level means and standard deviations, Cronbach’s alphas, and the correlation matrix for demographic and study variables. Examination of the correlation matrix indicated that years in college had a significant correlation with awareness of racism at the level of p < .05. Consequently, the variable of years in college was included as a covariate for subsequent analyses.
Table 1

Correlations and Descriptive Statistics for Study 1

 

1

2

3

4

5

1. Age

1

    

2. Years in college

0.76***

1

   

3. Awareness of sexism

−0.04

0.08

1

  

4. Awareness of racism

0.12

0.19*

0.46***

1

 

5. Perspective taking

0.12

−0.02

−0.01

0.06

1

M

21.13

3.17

5.17

4.25

4.03

SD

4.59

2.55

0.83

0.70

0.57

Cronbach’s alpha

  

0.77

0.89

0.77

N = 116. *p < .05. ***p < .001

Main Analyses

Following the recommendations of Aiken and West (1991), we performed a hierarchical multiple regression analysis to test the main effect of awareness of sexism and the moderation effect of PT in predicting awareness of racism. The covariate of years in college was entered in Step 1, the predictor (awareness of sexism) and the moderator (PT) in Step 2, and their interaction term (awareness of sexism x PT) in Step 3. The raw scores of the predictor and the moderator were centered (i.e., subtracted their sample means to produce revised sample means of zero) to reduce potential problems with multicollinearity (Aiken and West 1991; Frazier et al. 2004). A later examination of regression equations provided additional assurance that multicollinearity was not a problem: variance inflation factor (range = 1.00 to 1.08) and condition index values (range = 1.00 to 2.88; see Tabachnick and Fidell 2001).

Given the typically small moderation effects in non-experimental studies, in addition to the dependency of p values on sample sizes, Type II error was of concern (see Bettendorf and Fischer 2009; McClelland and Judd 1993). Therefore, we examined the size of R2 change to decide on meaningful moderation effects. By the time a third variable (e.g., interaction term in this study) is entered in a regression equation, the size of the semipartial r for the third variable tends to reduce due to the inevitable interrelations of variables in social sciences (Hunsley and Meyer 2003). Thus, following Hunsley and Meyer’s recommendation, we used R2 change of .0225 (2.25 %; square of a small r size of .15), instead of p values, as a criterion for a meaningful moderation effect.

As shown in Table 2, awareness of sexism had a significant main effect on awareness of racism, β = .50, t = 6.01, p < .001. In other words, European American females’ awareness of sexism predicted awareness of racism. The interaction term accounted for an additional 2.4 % of the variance in the awareness of racism, above and beyond the 26.1 % explained by the covariate (i.e., years in college) and the first-order effects (i.e., awareness of sexism and PT). The particular form of the moderation effect was inspected by examining the simple slopes of the interaction (plotted at ±1 SD of the item level mean; see Figure 1). Simple slope analyses revealed that the slopes of the simple regression lines for high and low PT were both significantly different from 0: high PT, t (116) = 2.89, p < .01; and low PT, t (116) = 4.48, p < .001. Nevertheless, the slopes were not significantly different from each other, t (116) = 1.41, p > .05. Although the interaction effect was not statistically significant due to the small sample size, it reached our criterion for meaningful interaction. Interestingly, the pattern of interaction effect was contrary to our hypothesis. The association of awareness of sexism with awareness of racism tended to be stronger in low perspective takers than in high perspective takers.
Table 2

Hierarchical Multiple Regressions for Study 1

Variable

B

SE B

Beta

R2

Adjusted R2

Δ R2

Δ F

DV: Awareness of Racism

Step1

 Years in college

0.04

0.02

0.16†

0.05

0.04

0.05

5.39*

Step 2

 Awareness of sexism

0.42

0.07

0.50***

    

 Perspective taking

0.08

0.10

0.06

0.26

0.24

0.22

16.22***

Step 3

Awareness of sexism x Perspective taking

−0.22

0.12

−0.16†

0.29

0.26

0.02

3.73†

p < .10 *p < .05. ***p < .001

https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs10447-012-9177-1/MediaObjects/10447_2012_9177_Fig1_HTML.gif
Fig. 1

Moderation Plots of Awareness of Sexism x Perspective Taking on Awareness of Racism

Study 2

Methods

Participants and Procedures

A total of 113 self-identified racial minority students was recruited from a large private university in a Midwestern U.S. metropolitan area. Participants were recruited from education classes (e.g., adolescent development), school events (e.g., an annual interdisciplinary research symposium; special topic lectures), and minority student organizations (e.g., organizational meetings). The sample consisted of 23 men (20.4 %), 89 women (78.8 %), and 1 whose sex was unreported (.9 %); ages ranged from 18 to 56 years (M = 21.75, SD = 4.72). The sample consisted of 87 (77.0 %) undergraduate, 25 (22.1 %) graduate, and 1 study-level unreported students. Of the 113 participants, 42 (37.2 %) self-identified as African Americans, 31 (27.4 %) as Asian Americans, 21 (18.6 %) as Latino/as, 15 (13.3 %) as biracial individuals, and 3 (2.7 %) as other minorities. Generational status after immigration was classified into six levels: the participant was born outside the United States (e.g., Mexico, Philippines) and moved to the United States (7.1 %); the participant was born in the United States but both parent(s) had immigrated (46.0 %); one parent and the participant were born in the United States (11.5 %); both parents and the participant were born in the United States (15.9 %); grandparents, parents, and the participant were born in the United States (5.3 %); great-grandparents and beyond were born in the United States (13.3 %).

Self-identified racial minority students who volunteered to participate received a consent form and a survey packet. The survey packet included the measures for demographic information, awareness of racism, awareness of homonegtivity, and perspective taking in that order. Again, the questionnaire of own group oppression (i.e., awareness of racism) was placed before that of other group oppression (i.e., awareness of homonegativity) so that the participants might consider own group oppression before responding to other group oppression. The participants completed the survey packet in class, during school events, or organization gatherings and returned it in a large collection envelope. No course credit or monetary reward was provided as an incentive for participation.

Instruments

Awareness of Racism

As described in Study 1, the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRA) was reversely scored, with higher scores indicating higher awareness of racism. The Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was .83.

Awareness of Homonegativity

The Attitudes toward Lesbians and Gay Men (ATLG; Herek 1988) includes two subscales of the Attitudes toward Lesbians (ATL) and the Attitudes toward Gay Men (ATG) that respectively measure prejudicial attitudes towards lesbians and gay men. The 20 items of the ATLG are rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), with higher scores representing higher levels of negativity and lower scores indicating the opposite. Sample items read “Lesbians just can’t fit into our society” and “Male homosexuals shouldnotbe allowed to teach school.” Herek showed that the ATL and the ATG were positively related to religiosity and traditional sex-role attitudes but were negatively related to positive contacts with lesbians and gay men and the number of lesbian and gay friends. To make the interpretation of scores easier, we reversely scored the ATLG; thus, higher scores represented higher awareness of homonegativity. The Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was .80.

Perspective Taking

As described in Study 1, the Perspective Taking subscale (PT) of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) was used, with higher scores indicating higher perspective taking ability. The Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was .80.

Results

Preliminary Analyses

Before collapsing data across demographic variables, we examined possible group differences in study variables. Specifically, we performed a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) by including gender, ethnicity, and generational status as independent variables and awareness of racism, awareness of homonegativity, and PT as dependent variables. No significant main or interaction effects were detected at the significance level of p < .05. Table 3 presents item-level means and standard deviations, Cronbach’s alphas, and the correlation matrix for demographic and study variables. Examination of the correlation matrix revealed that age and years in college had significant correlations with awareness of racism at the significance level of p < .05. Consequently, age and years in college were included as covariates for subsequent analyses.
Table 3

Correlations and Descriptive Statistics for Study 2

 

1

2

3

4

5

1. Age

1

    

2. Years in college

0.73***

1

   

3. Awareness of racism

0.25**

0.42***

1

  

4. Awareness of homonegativity

−0.05

−0.11

−0.07

1

 

5. Perspective taking

−0.05

0.09

0.04

0.09

1

M

21.75

3.71

4.63

4.09

3.91

SD

4.72

2.51

0.61

0.81

0.71

Cronbach’s alpha

  

0.83

0.80

0.80

N = 113. ** p < .01. *** p < .001

Main Analyses

We conducted a hierarchical multiple regression analysis to test the main effect of awareness of racism and the moderation effect of PT in predicting awareness of homonegativity. Age and years in college were entered as covariates in Step 1, the centered scores of the predictor (awareness of racism) and the moderator (PT) in Step 2, and their interaction term (awareness of racism x PT) in Step 3. In addition to the centralization of the predictor and the moderator, a later examination of the regression equation provided additional assurance that multicollinearity was not a problem: variance inflation factor (range = 1.04 to 2.59) and condition index values (range = 1.00 to 15.38; see Tabachnick and Fidell 2001). As explained in Study 1, we used R2 change of .0225 (2.25 %), instead of a p value, as a criterion for a meaningful moderation effect.

As shown in Table 4, awareness of racism had no significant main effect on awareness of homonegativity. In other words, racial minorities’ awareness of racism did not predict awareness of homonegativity. The interaction term also failed to account for a meaningful moderation effect (1.7 %). Nevertheless, we inspected the plots for high versus low PT (plotted at ±1 SD; see Figure 2) for an exploratory purpose – to see if the plot patterns were consistent with the study hypotheses or the results of Study 1. The plot patterns indicated that PT did not strengthen the relationship between awareness of racism and awareness of homonegativity. The patterns tended to be rather toward an opposite direction, such that high PT, when combined with high awareness of racism, predicted lowered awareness of homonegativity.
Table 4

Hierarchical Multiple Regressions for Study 2

Variable

B

SE B

Beta

R2

Adjusted R2

Δ R2

Δ F

DV: Awareness of Homonegativity

Step1

 Age

0.02

0.03

0.12

    

 Years in college

−0.06

0.05

−0.19

0.02

−0.00

0.02

0.81

Step 2

 Awareness of racism

−0.06

0.14

−.04

    

 Perspective taking

0.13

0.11

0.11

0.03

−0.01

0.01

0.70

Step 3

Awareness of racism × Perspective taking

−0.24

0.18

−0.13

0.04

−0.00

0.02

1.84

https://static-content.springer.com/image/art%3A10.1007%2Fs10447-012-9177-1/MediaObjects/10447_2012_9177_Fig2_HTML.gif
Fig. 2

Moderation Plots of Awareness of Racism × Perspective Taking on Awareness of Homonegativity

General Discussion

In the sample of European American females, awareness of sexism predicted awareness of racism. However, the positive association between the two constructs tended to be stronger in low opposed to high perspective takers. In the sample of racial minorities, awareness of racism did not predict awareness of homonegativity. High perspective takers, interestingly, tended to show a rather negative association between the two variables.

Overall, the unexpected findings of PT suggest that PT may be a much more complicated process than was initially understood in hypotheses generation. Contrary to the straightforward association of awareness of own and awareness of other group oppression among low perspective takers, the combination of high awareness of own group oppression and high PT did not result in the highest awareness of other group oppression. These findings imply that high perspective takers may be more complicated thinkers than low perspective takers. Therefore, we speculated on post-hoc explanations for these paradoxical findings among high perspective takers. We asked two questions to guide the speculation: (a) whose perspectives do people take?, and (b) what do people see when they take perspectives? (Epley et al. 2006; Galinsky et al. 2005).

First, contrary to the aforementioned experimental studies that found beneficial effects of PT in reducing stereotypes and prejudice (Galinsky and Ku 2004; Galinsky and Moskowits 2000; Vescio et al. 2003), the present research did not manipulate the participants to take the perspective of a specific target. Therefore, it is possible that high perspective takers considered the perspective of oppressors in addition to or rather than the perspective of the oppressed. In fact, the target of PT is as important to consider as the capability of PT. For example, if an individual takes the perspective of skinheads, he/she may form positive evaluations toward skinheads and become inadvertently associated with their negative characteristics (Galinsky et al. 2005). Thus, depending on the target of PT, PT may either promote or hamper social cohesion (Galinsky et al. 2005).

Next, what perspective takers see in competitive versus cooperative situations can produce paradoxical effects of PT (Epley et al. 2006). Epley et al. found that PT reduced egoistic behavior in cooperative contexts but increased it in competitive contexts, by inducing expectation that others would behave selfishly. In competitive contexts, PT activated cynical thoughts about others’ perspectives and highlighted self-interested motives. Therefore, if high perspective takers in the current research saw intergroup competition among the oppressed groups, it could have led to the less favorable outcome of PT. Specifically, the organization of the survey (i.e., presenting own group oppression before other group oppression) could have produced priming effects of inducing a strong in-group mentality. Then, the salience of in-group versus out-group (us vs. them) could have activated intergroup comparison. Previous research found that concern for relative in-group standing led to the mentality of intergroup competition (Wolf et al. 2008). Thus, it is possible that high perspective takers, as complicated and contextual thinkers, perceived the situation as involving competition with other oppressed groups as to which group is more oppressed and whose oppression requires more recognition.

Furthermore, the current findings can also be interpreted from the angle of egocentric biases in fairness and resource allocation (Babcock and Loewenstein 1997; Paese and Yonker 2001). People typically are motivated to favorably view themselves and have better access to their behaviors than others. Hence, in a group work setting, people tend to egocentrically claim more contribution to the total work by themselves (Caruso et al. 2006; Epley et al. 2006). Furthermore, when the participants in a group project were induced to take the perspective of other members, the participants who thought they made most contributions to the project became less motivated to collaborate in the future (Caruso et al. 2006). Given that in-group bias is an extension of egocentrism (Galinsky and Ku 2004), it is possible that egocentric motivational (i.e., favorable view of oneself) and cognitive (i.e., better access to one’s own behaviors) mechanisms have a similar effect on intergroup relations. Specifically, perspective takers who believe that their group is most oppressed may be less motivated to collaborate with other groups that they perceive as less oppressed. In the present research, high PT combined with high awareness of own group oppression may have attenuated acknowledging other group oppression if high perspective takers perceived the situation to be competitive as to which group was most oppressed and whose oppression was of most legitimate concern.

Interestingly, high perspective takers in Study 1 indicated a positive association between awareness of own and awareness of other group oppression, whereas those in Study 2 revealed a rather negative association. In addition, the variables of Study 1 explained a total of 29 % in the variance of awareness of racism, while the variables in Study 2 accounted for only 4 % in the variance of awareness of homonegativity. Attitudes toward sexual orientation involve highly personal, cultural, and religious values (Borgman 2009). Thus, compared to other types of oppression, predicting awareness of homonegativity may be less straightforward and entail multiple intervening factors (e.g., religious beliefs). Furthermore, it is possible that racial minorities consider that they are the most oppressed group and feel uncomfortable about the inclusive discourse of oppression across dimensions.

Galinsky and Ku’s (2004) study on self-evaluation might shed additional light on the lack of association between racial minorities’ awareness of own group oppression and awareness of other group oppression. Galinsky and Ku found that PT reduced prejudice only when the perspective taker had high self-esteem, which can be seen as parallel to a secure sense of in-group standing in intergroup relations. Therefore, if the racial minorities in Study 2 felt that the seriousness of racism was diluted by the inclusive discourse of oppression and, thus, their in-group standing as the most oppressed was threatened, they could have been rather reluctant to acknowledge the other group’s oppression. In support, Arab students in the U.S. who were highly involved in religious and ethnic organizations but thought that their group was not seen favorably by others tended to be the most prejudiced toward Jewish people, a salient out-group (Ruttenberg et al. 1996). Taken together, several potentially influencing factors should be considered when seeking to interpret the current findings: the target of PT, in-group versus out-group mentality, perception of cooperative versus competitive contexts, egocentric biases, and in-group standing in the discourse of oppression.

The findings of the present research should be understood in the context of limitations. First, the preliminary analysis in Study 2 detected no group differences and, thus, the data were collapsed across demographic variables. However, given the variant histories and experiences of oppression by racial/ethnic groups, future research should recruit a larger sample and conduct separate analyses according to racial/ethnic groups. It would be interesting to examine if racial group differences in the perception of own group oppression influence awareness of other group oppression. Next, given the nature of this research (e.g., self-report measures; politically sensitive topics), socially desirable responses are possible. To avoid this possible contamination, future research may consider including implicit measures (e.g., projective testing, association testing). Also, including affective and behavioral measures as well as cognitive measures (i.e., awareness) would likely add richer information regarding attitudes toward oppression. Lastly, the post-hoc explanations for the findings of PT were speculative and, thus, require empirical examination.

Future research may examine awareness of oppression in pairs to have a better understanding of between-group relations (e.g., predicting awareness of racism from awareness of sexism within European American females and predicting awareness of sexism from awareness of racism within minority males). Examination of associations between awareness of diverse types of oppression will likely enrich the understanding of intergroup relations (e.g., sexism and homonegativity, racism and classism, etc.). Future research may consider the role of critical consciousness as a cognitive device to enhance awareness of own and other group oppression. PT is a lateral process occurring between the self and the target. On the other hand, critical consciousness, which is defined as “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (Freire 1970, p. 19), is an overarching, higher order cognitive device that comprehends oppression across multiple dimensions. Thus, critical consciousness may be more effective than PT in developing awareness of various types of oppression regardless of specific relations or history between the self and the target. Furthermore, as shown in its definition, critical consciousness is action oriented, requiring actions to vanquish oppression.

As for implications for practice, categorizing groups into in-group and out-group would result in intergroup bias although categorization is a fundamental cognitive process to provide order to the chaotic world (Levine and Campbell 1972). Therefore, in order to alleviate intergroup bias, counselors, psychologists, and educators should help clients and trainees re-categorize in-groups and out-groups as one cohesive group rather than consider them to be in competition with each other (Dovidio et al. 1998). Previous literature has suggested the importance of reframing intergroup relations in cooperative terms and inducing a superordinate identity to improve intergroup conflict (Gaertner et al. 1990; Gaertner and Dovidio 2000; Hewstone et al. 2002; Ledgerwood and Chaiken 2007). Cultivating a common in-group identity across oppressed groups may be critical for this purpose (Dovidio et al. 2004). For example, facilitating clients’ and trainees’ awareness of other group oppression might help them see the shared experiences of oppression and the common goal of social justice. Counseling, training, and outreach efforts to highlight these shared experiences and goals would increase permeability of identity boundaries and reduce social distance between groups. Overall, the present research was exploratory by examining intergroup relations among the oppressed across multiple dimensions. It is expected that the current findings might stimulate future research in the intersection of multiple oppressions and positively contribute to the intergroup relations of the oppressed.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012