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Ambivalence in Intergroup Evaluation: The Role of Fairness Norm

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We conducted two studies to examine the role of the social norm of fairness on cognitive (beliefs and judgments) and affective (emotions and feelings) ambivalence in an intergroup context of evaluation. As predicted, we found that ambivalence toward the ingroup is constantly higher in the cognitive dimension than in the affective dimension. Instead, cognitive and affective ambivalence toward the outgroup are generally similar but when the outgroup is highly protected by the fairness norm (i.e., the elderly), cognitive ambivalence is considerably lower than affective ambivalence. These findings provide evidence that (1) cognitive ambivalence is more controlled by the fairness norm than affective ambivalence, and that (2) it holds an adaptive function, changing in accordance with the demands of the normative context.

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  1. 1.

    Furthermore, Jost and Burgess (2000) found similar results via different approaches, i.e., Similarity–Intensity Model (Thompson et al., 1995), Conflicting Reactions Model (Kaplan, 1972), and Gradual Threshold Model (Priester & Petty 1996).

  2. 2.

    According to Italian culture and language, the term “giovani” refers to young adults whereas the term “adulti” refers to “middle-age adults”. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to “young people” and “adults”.

  3. 3.

    The analysis also showed an interaction between target group and attitude domain, F(1,138) = 37.48, p < .001, and a marginally significant interaction between attitude domain and NPO, F(1,138) = 3.88, p = .05.


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This research was supported by a grant from the Italian Ministry of Education and University PRIN n. 2005112780_004.

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Correspondence to Angelica Mucchi-Faina.

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Mucchi-Faina, A., Pacilli, M.G., Pagliaro, S. et al. Ambivalence in Intergroup Evaluation: The Role of Fairness Norm. Soc Just Res 22, 117–133 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-009-0090-7

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  • Attitudinal ambivalence
  • Intergroup evaluation
  • Social norm of fairness