Channeling others’ biases to meet role demands

Andrea C. Vial, John F. Dovidio, Victoria L. Brescoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Five studies illuminate how the demands of the roles that people occupy can sometimes contribute to the maintenance of group inequality by promoting the accommodation of others’ biases, even when those biases disadvantage an in-group or clash with personal views. When role demands to maximize candidate fit in hiring selections were strong, preference for job candidates of a given group tended to be lower when there were cues to third-party prejudice against that group (vs. no cues), irrespective of in-group favoritism effects (Studies 1–5) or participant attitudes (Studies 4 and 5). We found supporting evidence for the underlying processes in the context of hiring selections involving fictional groups (Study 1) as well as female job candidates (Studies 2–5). A concern with meeting the demands of the gatekeeper role was at the root of prejudice accommodation: When role-demands to prioritize candidate fit were strong, role-relevant considerations (interpersonal and task-focused) mediated the accommodation effect (Studies 1 and 4). The more gatekeepers in charge of hiring sought to meet role demands by considering the preferences of relevant third parties, the more they accommodated third-party prejudice (Study 2). Moreover, role-based concerns mediated the accommodation of prejudice—but not other potential considerations that were unrelated to role demands (Study 3). Finally, the accommodation effect was eliminated when the role definition did not prioritize candidate fit (Study 4) and when we experimentally reduced the strength of role-related concerns (Study 5). These findings illustrate the relevance of the role concept for understanding the social transmission of bias.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-63
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Discrimination
  • In-group favoritism
  • Novel groups
  • Role theory
  • Sexism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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