Denying the Value of Goals to the Disadvantaged

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2022

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Abstract

Pursuing valued goals is a fundamental aspect of human behavior. In this dissertation, I explore the tendency of observers to underestimate the extent to which members of disadvantaged groups value their goals. Nine studies (N = 3,851) find evidence of a goal-value bias, such that people perceive goals across a variety of domains as more valuable to high-socioeconomic status (SES) individuals than to low-SES individuals (Studies 1 – 7), that these perceptions do not accurately reflect reality (Pilot and Study 3), and that those who are strongly motivated to justify inequality show the bias to a greater extent (Studies 1, 2a, 2b, and 7). In addition to motivated processes, I also test the extent to which these effects result from an inference error, such that people rely too heavily on an outcome-value association when judging value. Weakening the association between outcomes and goal value by considering additional factors that affect outcomes (e.g., time/effort, obstacles) reduces the bias (Studies 4, 6, and 7). Finally, I explore downstream implications of the bias, finding that people give greater support to high-SES individuals than to low-SES individuals, a discriminatory outcome that is partially driven by perceived goal value (Studies 5, 6, and 7). Across nine studies, I show that people expect higher-SES individuals to value achieving goals more than their lower-SES counterparts, and that this bias can lead people to support those who are already ahead.

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Wingrove, Sara Clark (2022). Denying the Value of Goals to the Disadvantaged. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25283.

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