Reactions to ethnic deviance: The role of backlash in racial stereotype maintenance

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Aug;99(2):265-81. doi: 10.1037/a0018304.


Backlash effects are social and economic penalties for counterstereotypical behavior (Rudman & Phelan, 2008). Five experiments support a model of the role of backlash in racial stereotype maintenance from the standpoint of perceivers and actors (Rudman & Fairchild, 2004). In Experiment 1, perceivers sabotaged Asians and Whites for succeeding in counterstereotypical domains, thereby preventing their future success. In Experiment 2, a White rapper suffered prejudice and economic discrimination, relative to a Black rapper, and prejudice mediated discrimination. Further, actors threatened by backlash for achievement in cross-racial domains responded to success in ways that bolster ethnic stereotypes. For example, Black men and women who feared backlash for academic skill (Experiment 3), and non-Black (Experiment 4) and non-White (Experiment 5) men who experienced backlash for cross-racial achievement, resorted to defensive strategies that preserve racial stereotypes (e.g., refusing to publicize and pursue counterstereotypical talents). Implications for cultural stereotype maintenance are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Culture
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Perception*
  • Stereotyped Behavior / physiology*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Task Performance and Analysis