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University of Connecticut Social Psychology Intergroup Relations

Political Psychology

Recent Works

The Salience of Group Distinctions Moderates the Relationship between People's Social Dominance Orientation and Their Political Attitudes

Social Dominance Theory predicts that people who oppose group-based dominance in general will support social and political policies and practices that promote low-power groups. In addition, SDT predicts that this relationship will be stronger for group distinctions that are especially salient in people's society. We tested both predictions in a cross-national study, using a new Short SDO scale, and attitudes about women, the poor, and ethnic or religious minorities. Using national indicators pertaining to salience of these groups, we found that the expected negative relationship between SDO and each attitude was stronger in countries where that group distinction was stronger. The salience of each of the target groups was not related. For the paper,

Note: The Simplified Chinese version in the on-line article is not correct. For the SSDO scale in 16 languages, click here SSDO

U.S. Hegemony and Regional Politics in the Levant

 How do people in nations subordinated by other nations think about hegemonic nations? What is the relationship between their support or opposition to hegemonic nations and to political factions in their country or region? This paper examined Syrian and Lebanese citizens’ attitudes towards their own governments and toward Hezbollah in 2010, considering what kind of relationship those factions had toward their own government. We found that people who are generally opposed to group-based dominance (Social Dominance Orientation) disliked American influence over Arabs, and this predicted whether they liked factions that oppose the U.S. (Syrian government, Hezbollah) or that were friendly towards the U.S. (Lebanese government at the time of the study). You can download the pre-publication draft of the paper here: Domestic & International Relations

Projects Under Development

The Desire to Emigrate

Economic and Monetary Systems

With this research study, we examined politically-motivated desire to emigrate in 8 developing nations. So far, we are finding that far from indulging in system justification,  it is disempowered people who are most critical of their domestic political systems who are most desirous of emigration, and the most constrained from doing so.

Bou Zeineddine, F., Pratto, F., Stewart, A.L., Foels, R., Aiello, A., Cidam,  A., Eicher, V., Licata, L., Li, L., Meyers, I.,  Morselli, D., Petrovic, N., Prati, F., Saab R., Sweetman, J. (2012) Getting engaged instead of getting out: Restricting migration, system condemnation, and political engagement. Paper presented on the symposium, Migrants and migration, D. Garbin (Chair). Annual conference on Processes Influencing Democratic Ownership and Participation conference in Surrey, England.

The Visceral Experience of Political Violence (NEW!!)

Do identity and the sensory experience of political violence interact to alter individuals' empathic responding? When are experiences of political violence most associated with different empathic responses (e.g., empathic distress, concern for others) and  levels of attributional complexity? Do the type and strength of empathic response and attributional complexity levels in turn affect support for violent policies and related broad psycho-political ideologies such as egalitarianism, resistance to oppression, and social inclusion?

Dominance and Counter-Dominance


This 2-year project has given us the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with scholars in over 25 countries, looking for the answer to many questions. Is people's near-consensual rejection of oppression in the abstract
psychologically distinct from counter-
dominance, the term we use for people's admiration and support of active resistance against oppression? We are looking to learn more about that underdog-loving crowd. For example, will counter-dominance vary across groups within nations and across nations systematically by the power positions of those groups? How will counter-dominance affect attitudes towards different groups and po
licies? What are the antecedents of counter-dominance, should it indeed be distinct from social dominance orientation?

Political Correctness and Language Activism

What language to describe groups is acceptable to use is constantly in flux. Some people pay attention and inform others when politically incorrect
language is used thereby pushing language towards the current standard of political correctness. We are interested in studying how
they became language activists, how their identification with the groups under threat influences their activism, and their experience of the everyday activism of confronting others.

Strauts, E, Blanton, H. Political Correctness and Language Activism Survey Instrument. Poster presented at the 2012 International Society for Political Psychology Conference, Chicago, IL.

Physiological Stress and Dominance Responses to Political News Television

Engagement in a political argument involves the mind and body: it is a psychological and physiological experience. We examined the hypothesis that watching ideological television is not a passive act; the viewer is brought into a political competition that is controlled by the program host. This competition is hierarchical; the host places their allies on top and denigrates the other side. We compare this situation to the literature on social defeat stress and dominance responses. This study uses the hormones cortisol and testosterone to assess stress and dominance, but other measures are being developed.

Strauts, Erin, "Physiological Politics: Stress and Dominance Responses to Political News" (2012). Master's Theses. Paper 294. /gs_theses/294

Download example of two matched video clips used in the study