Collective self-esteem predicts the extent to which low-status group members favor a high-status outgroup

  • Zhiai LiEmail author
  • Mengsi Xu
  • Lingxia Fan
  • Li Zhang
  • Dong Yang


It remains unclear whether low-status group members show favoritism toward a high-status outgroup. To answer this question, the present study divided 180 senior high school students into different three-person groups using the minimal intergroup paradigm. Each group was required to solve a problem together and then was informed that they had performed either well (high-status) or poorly (low-status). Next, the psychological distance to the ingroups and outgroups and collective self-esteem of each participant were measured. Members from high-status groups consistently reported a closer psychological distance to the ingroup than the outgroup (ingroup bias), whereas members from the low-status groups exhibited a reverse pattern; i.e., they reported a closer psychological distance to the high-status outgroup than the ingroup (outgroup bias). Moreover, collective self-esteem positively predicted the extent of outgroup bias such that ingroup members with higher collective self-esteem were less tolerable to the low status of their ingroup. In conclusion, the preference for high status triumphed the preference for ingroup in low-status group members, and collective self-esteem may be an important individual difference that predicted the extent of favoring high-status outgroups.


Low-status groups Outgroup bias Ingroup bias Collective self-esteem 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71472156). On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Authors’ Contribution

Conceived and designed the study: Z. Li, M. Xu.

Collected the data: L. Fan and L. Zhang.

Wrote the first draft of the paper: Z. Li.

Revised the paper: Z. Li and D. Yang.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

The study was not preregistered. Data cannot be made publicly available because this would violate the confidentiality agreement in the informed consent. The dataset contains sensitive personal information (i.e., full name, parents information and home address), which was not allowed to be made publicly to protect the privacy and the security of the students.


  1. Aberson, C. L., Healy, M., & Romero, V. (2000). Ingroup bias and self-esteem: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4(2), 157–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aboud, F. E. (1980). A test of ethnocentrism with young children. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, 12(3), 195–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Abrams, D., & Hogg, M. A. (1988). Comments on the motivational status of self-esteem in social identity and intergroup discrimination. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18(4), 317–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Abrams, D. E., & Hogg, M. A. (1990a). Social identity theory: Constructive and critical advances. New York: Springer-Verlag Publishing.Google Scholar
  5. Abrams, D., & Hogg, M. A. (1990b). Social identification, self-categorization and social influence. European Review of Social Psychology, 1(1), 195–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aron, A., & Aron, E. N. (1986). Love and the expansion of self: Understanding attraction and satisfaction. New York: Hemisphere Publishing Corp/Harper & Row Publishers.Google Scholar
  7. Aron, A., Aron, E. N., Tudor, M., & Nelson, G. (1991). Close relationships as including other in the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(2), 241–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of other in the self scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(4), 596–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bettencourt, B., Charlton, K., Dorr, N., & Hume, D. L. (2001). Status differences and in-group bias: A meta-analytic examination of the effects of status stability, status legitimacy, and group permeability. Psychological Bulletin, 127(4), 520–542.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Branscombe, N. R., & Wann, D. L. (1994). Collective self-esteem consequences of outgroup derogation when a valued social identity is on trial. European Journal of Social Psychology, 24(6), 641–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crocker, J., & Luhtanen, R. (1990). Collective self-esteem and ingroup bias. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(1), 60–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cuddy, A. J., Fiske, S. T., Kwan, V. S., Glick, P., Demoulin, S., Leyens, J. P., ... & Htun, T. T. (2009). Stereotype content model across cultures: Towards universal similarities and some differences. British Journal of Social Psychology, 48(1), 1–33.Google Scholar
  13. Dovidio, J. F., Gaertner, S. L., & Validzic, A. (1998). Intergroup bias: Status, differentiation, and a common in-group identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 109–120.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dunham, Y., Baron, A. S., & Banaji, M. R. (2007). Children and social groups: A developmental analysis of implicit consistency in Hispanic Americans. Self and Identity, 6(2–3), 238–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dunham, Y., Baron, A. S., & Banaji, M. R. (2008). The development of implicit intergroup cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(7), 248–253.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ellemers, N. (1993). The influence of socio-structural variables on identity management strategies. European Review of Social Psychology, 4(1), 27–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ellemers, N., Van Knippenberg, A., De Vries, N., & Wilke, H. (1988). Social identification and permeability of group boundaries. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18(6), 497–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ellemers, N., Van Rijswijk, W., Roefs, M., & Simons, C. (1997). Bias in intergroup perceptions: Balancing group identity with social reality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(2), 186–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Falk, C. F., Heine, S. J., & Takemura, K. (2014). Cultural variation in the minimal group effect. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(2), 265–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fiske, S. T., Xu, J., Cuddy, A. C., & Glick, P. (1999). (Dis) respecting versus (dis) liking: Status and interdependence predict ambivalent stereotypes of competence and warmth. Journal of Social Issues, 55(3), 473–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fiske, S. T., Cuddy, A. J., Glick, P., & Xu, J. (2002). A model of (often mixed) stereotype content: Competence and warmth respectively follow from perceived status and competition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 878–902.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gaertner, S. L., Mann, J., Murrell, A., & Dovidio, J. F. (1989). Reducing intergroup bias: The benefits of recategorization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(2), 239–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greenwald, H. J., & Oppenheim, D. B. (1968). Reported magnitude of self-misidentification among negro children: Artifact? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8(1), 49–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hailey, S. E., & Olson, K. R. (2013). A social psychologist's guide to the development of racial attitudes. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(7), 457–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jetten, J., Spears, R., & Manstead, A. S. (1996). Intergroup norms and intergroup discrimination: Distinctive self-categorization and social identity effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(6), 1222–1233.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. P. (1991). Joining together: Group theory and group skills. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, Inc..Google Scholar
  27. Kenny, D. A., Mannetti, L., Pierro, A., Livi, S., & Kashy, D. A. (2002). The statistical analysis of data from small groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(1), 126–137.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kurtz-Costes, B., DeFreitas, S. C., Halle, T. G., & Kinlaw, C. R. (2011). Gender and racial favouritism in black and white preschool girls. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29(2), 270–287.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Levin, S., Federico, C. M., Sidanius, J., & Rabinowitz, J. L. (2002). Social dominance orientation and intergroup bias: The legitimation of favoritism for high-status groups. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(2), 144–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levy, S. R., & Killen, M. (Eds.). (2008). Intergroup attitudes and relations in childhood through adulthood. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Luhtanen, R., & Crocker, J. (1991). Self-esteem and intergroup comparisons: Toward a theory of collective self-esteem. In J. Suls & T. A. Wills (Eds.), Social comparison: Contemporary theory and research (pp. 211–236). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  32. Luhtanen, R., & Crocker, J. (1992). A collective self-esteem scale: Self-evaluation of one's social identity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18(3), 302–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mullen, B., Brown, R., & Smith, C. (1992). Ingroup bias as a function of salience, relevance, and status: An integration. European Journal of Social Psychology, 22(2), 103–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Newheiser, A. K., & Olson, K. R. (2012). White and black American children's implicit intergroup bias. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48(1), 264–270.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Newheiser, A. K., Dunham, Y., Merrill, A., Hoosain, L., & Olson, K. R. (2014). Preference for high status predicts implicit outgroup bias among children from low-status groups. Developmental Psychology, 50(4), 1081–1090.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nosek, B. A., Banaji, M. R., & Greenwald, A. G. (2002). Harvesting implicit group attitudes and beliefs from a demonstration web site. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 6(1), 101–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nosek, B. A., Smyth, F. L., Hansen, J. J., Devos, T., Lindner, N. M., Ranganath, K. A., Smith, C. T., Olson, K. R., Chugh, D., Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (2007). Pervasiveness and correlates of implicit attitudes and stereotypes. European Review of Social Psychology, 18(1), 36–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Petersen, L. E., & Blank, H. (2003). Ingroup bias in the minimal group paradigm shown by three-person groups with high or low state self-esteem. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33(2), 149–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Raabe, T., & Beelmann, A. (2011). Development of ethnic, racial, and national prejudice in childhood and adolescence: A multinational meta-analysis of age differences. Child Development, 82(6), 1715–1737.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reichl, A. J. (1997). Ingroup favouritism and outgroup favouritism in low status minimal groups: Differential responses to status-related and status-unrelated measures. European Journal of Social Psychology, 27(6), 617–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSE). In J. Ciarrochi & L. Bilich (Eds.), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Measures Package (p. 61). Woolongong: University of Wollongong.Google Scholar
  42. Sachdev, I., & Bourhis, R. Y. (1987). Status differenttals and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 17(3), 277–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shutts, K., Kinzler, K. D., Katz, R. C., Tredoux, C., & Spelke, E. S. (2011). Race preferences in children: Insights from South Africa. Developmental Science, 14(6), 1283–1291.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Spears, R., Doosje, B., & Ellemers, N. (1997). Self-stereotyping in the face of threats to group status and distinctiveness: The role of group identification. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(5), 538–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tajfel, H. (1982). Social psychology of intergroup relations. Annual Review of Psychology, 33(1), 1–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 33–47). Monterey: Brooks-Cole.Google Scholar
  47. Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P., & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1(2), 149–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Terry, D. J., Carey, C. J., & Callan, V. J. (2001). Employee adjustment to an organizational merger: An intergroup perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(3), 267–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Turner, J. C., & Brown, R. (1978). Social status, cognitive alternatives and intergroup relations. In H. Tajfel (Ed.), Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 201–234). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  50. Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. S. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhiai Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mengsi Xu
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lingxia Fan
    • 4
  • Li Zhang
    • 5
    • 6
  • Dong Yang
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Psychology and Cognitive ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.School of PsychologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality, Ministry of EducationSouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  4. 4.Faculty of PsychologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  5. 5.Center for Brain and Cognitive SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  6. 6.School of Psychological and Cognitive SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations