The Politics of Affirmation Theory: The Effects of Group-Affirmation on Biased Political Attitudes

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Richard H. Gramzow


group-affirmation, group identification, in-group bias, political party, self-aspect

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology


Although it has been well-established in the literature that affirming the individual self reduces the tendency to exhibit in-group biases, the limited amount of research exploring the relationship between group-affirmation and bias is inconsistent and somewhat contradictory. In some cases affirming one's identity as a group member seems to reduce biased thinking and hostility towards out-groups, but in other cases it seems to strengthen it. Perhaps the effects of group-affirmation depend on the nature of the group that is being affirmed. According to the multiple self-aspects framework (McConnell, 2011), one's overall self-concept can be seen as a collection of various context-dependent selves. Affirming one's identity as a particular group member (one of these "selves") may, therefore, make the attitudes and biases associated with that particular group more salient resulting in a greater tendency to exhibit them. In the current study, I explore this idea and attempt to clarify some of the ambiguity surrounding the concept of group-affirmation. Specifically, I tested whether affirming participants' membership in a group relevant to politics (political party affiliation) and their membership in a group unrelated to politics (university affiliation) had contrasting effects on their political biases. I found that while political party-affirmation increased negative attitudes towards members of the opposite party and led to more overlap between personal and perceived in-group support for controversial political policies (self-party overlap), university-affirmation produced no increase in negative out-group attitudes and only a modest increase in self-party overlap relative to a control condition. These effects held only for people highly identified with a given political party.

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