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Evolutionary Origins of Stigmatization: The Functions of Social Exclusion

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A reconceptualization of stigma is presented that changes the emphasis from the devaluation of an individual's identity to the process by which individuals who satisfy certain criteria come to be excluded from various kinds of social interactions. The authors propose that phenomena currently placed under the general rubric of stigma involve a set of distinct psychological systems designed by natural selection to solve specific problems associated with sociality. In particular, the authors suggest that human beings possess cognitive adaptations designed to cause them to avoid poor social exchange partners, join cooperative groups (for purposes of between-group competition and exploitation), and avoid contact with those who are differentially likely to carry communicable pathogens. The evolutionary view contributes to the current conceptualization of stigma by providing an account of the ultimate function of stigmatization and helping to explain its consensual nature.
... The disability associated with stigma obstructs social relationships, access to quality healthcare, housing possibilities and employment [3][4][5]. Stigma towards SMI has been reported cross-culturally [6], but studies testing explicative models and the effectiveness of anti-stigma strategies have mostly used samples from industrialised societies, leaving population from the global south heavily underrepresented [7]. ...
... Emotions like disgust have recently been explored in relation to different forms of stigma and prejudice [6]. Disgust is a core emotion that helps humans solve selection problems associated with avoidance of pathogen contamination in a literal sense (e.g., contact body fluids), but it is also evoked in response to social cues, such as peers with stigmatising attributes, including those with mental illnesses [12]. ...
... Participants completed the Spanish version of the TDDS, validated by [35]. The scale contains 21 statements that participants rate in a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from not disgusting at all (0), to extremely disgusting (6). The internal reliability of the TDDS in this study was good to excellent for the overall scale (α = 0.80) and the constructs of sexual (α = 0.80), moral (α = 0.86) pathogen disgust sensitivity (α = 0.77). ...
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Background: Stereotypes of dangerousness are common predictors of stigmatising attitudes towards Severe Mental Illness (SMI). However less is known about pathogen avoidance mechanisms underlying stigma towards SMI, specially in samples of non-industrialised societies of Latin America and the Caribbean. The primary aim of this study was to examine pathogen-disgust sensitivity and danger appraisal mechanisms in responses of stigma towards SMI. Methods: Cross-sectional design with convenience sampling. Using an online survey, volunteers at the Universidad del Norte in Colombia (N = 271) provided their sociodemographic data and completed the Three-Domain Disgust Scale (TDDS). Participants were randomised to different descriptions of someone with SMI that varied in terms of aggressiveness (with and without danger) and causes of the SMI. Then, following the attribution questionnaire (AQ-27), respondents reported affective and discriminatory responses to the person in the description. Results: Increased disgust sensitivity to pathogen stimuli resulted in stronger reports of anger (β = .14; p = .03), and fear (β = 0.27; p < 0.001). The relationship between disgust sensitivity and discriminatory responses was indirectly mediated by fear towards SMI (Bootstrapped CI =-.04,-.009). Dangerousness attributions in the description of SMI predicted stronger feelings of anger (β = .23; p = 0.001) and fear (β = .40; p < .001), as well increased support for coercion-segregation of SMI (β = .34; p = 0.04), but less intentions to help (β = -.26; p = 0.003). The relationship between dangerousness and support for coercion was mediated by fear (Bootstrapped CI = .72, 1.37) and anger (Bootstrapped CI = .06, .44), whereas pity (Bootstrapped CI = .03, .38) and fear (Bootstrapped CI = -1.39, -.69) mediated responses of support for coercion-segregation of SMI. Attributions about causes and personal responsibility were not significantly linked to stigma towards SMI (p > 0.05). Conclusions: Findings suggested that pathogen avoidance and danger appraisal systems interplay in the generation of discriminatory behaviour towards SMI. Anti-stigma programs and policy makers would benefit from introducing strategies that challenge stereotypes of dangerousness and unpredictability by promoting positive contact with people with SMI.
... Accumulating evidence has demonstrated that perceivers, or called stigmatizers, may activate both affective and cognitive processes when they meet and interact with people and groups that are socially stigmatized (Schmidt and Weiner, 1988;Weiner, 1995;Kurzban and Leary, 2001;Pryor et al., 2004;Krendl et al., 2006). For instance, Krendl et al. (2006) using fMRI found that increased activation in the brain areas related to aversive emotions (amygdala and insula) as well as the regions associated with cognitive control (anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortex) were observed when participants were evaluating people from well-established stigmatized groups (e.g., obesity, transsexuality) relative to the controls. ...
... The public's discrimination is viewed as a threat to deviants to conform to the mainstream norms. The stigmatization of deviants protected against infectious diseases, which in turn facilitates survival under pandemic threats (Kurzban and Leary, 2001;Phelan et al., 2008). Considering the public's intention of norm enforcement during the pandemic, we expected that the public would endorse more deviating from social norms for people and groups related to COVID-19 (i.e., the COVID-19 patients) relative to other mild infectious and common diseases like flu. ...
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Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the public stigma associated with COVID-19 has emerged. To better understand the COVID-19 stigma, the present research conducted three studies on 1,493 Chinese participants from the outbreak to the recovery period of the COVID-19 pandemic to examine the psychological mechanisms of COVID-19 stigma by comparing it with other disease-related stigmas in terms of their explicit and implicit processes. Study 1 and Study 2 jointly demonstrated that the public endorsed more stigma toward the COVID-19 related people (i.e., the COVID-19 patients) relative to the other disease-related people (i.e., the SARS patients, people with flu) in multiple explicit aspects, including emotional, motivational, cognitive, and social processing. Using the implicit association test (IAT), Study 3 found no significant difference in the implicit measures of the COVID-19 vs. the SARS groups, which further revealed that the pandemic stigmas (i.e., COVID-19 and SARS) were similar at the implicit level. These findings suggest common (implicit level) but distinct (explicit level) psychological processes of the pandemic-related stigmas, which provide reference to policymakers in formulating suitable interventions to deal with COVID-19 stigma and a newly generated potential stigma and provide psychological support for the public in the future.
... Potential origins of stigma have been identified by scholars (e.g., Cottrell and Neuberg 2005;Kurzban and Leary 2001;Neuberg et al. 2000), taking a social evolutionary approach and following three fundamental propositions formulated by Cottrell and Neuberg (2005: 771): ...
... As a stigmatizing attribute/condition exists in social interactions or relationships (Goffman 1963(Goffman /1990Jones et al. 1984) and because stigmatization is intended to ensure effective group functioning and collective survival (Cottrell and Neuberg 2005;Kurzban and Leary 2001;Neuberg et al. 2000), retraction stigma involves a variety of stakeholders that can be categorised into three concentric circles according to their stakes in the retracted research (Fig. 2). The inner circle consists of authors of retracted publications, their home institutions, journal authorities, third-party governing bodies of academic integrity, and research funding agencies, given their greater likelihood of being held responsible for the cause and handling of retractionengendering acts. ...
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Retraction of published research is laudable as a post-publication self-correction of science but undesirable as an indicator of grave violations of research and publication ethics. Given its various adverse consequences, retraction has a stigmatizing effect both in and beyond the academic community. However, little theoretical attention has been paid to the stigmatizing nature of retraction. Drawing on stigma theories and informed by research on retraction, we advance a conceptualization of retraction as stigma. We define retraction stigma as a discrediting evaluation of the professional competence and academic ethics of the entities held accountable for retraction. Accordingly, we identify seven core dimensions of retraction stigma, consider its functional justifications at both social and psychological levels, and distinguish its various targets and stakeholders. In view of the central role of retraction notices, we also discuss how retraction stigma is communicated via retraction notices and how authors of retraction notices may exercise their retraction stigma power and manipulate the stigmatizing force of retraction notices. We conclude by recommending retraction stigma as a theoretical framework for future research on retraction and pointing out several directions that this research can take.
... Humans evolved to detect, exclude, and punish costly members of the social group, those who free ride and take advantage of others (Axelrod & Hamilton, 1981;Cosmides & Tooby, 1992;Fehr et al., 2002;Kurzban & Leary, 2001;Nowak & Sigmund, 1998;Trivers, 1971) because this benefits individuals and social groups by sustaining high levels of cooperation (Fehr & Fischbacher, 2004;Milinski et al., 2001). Consequently, being detected as a free rider oneself can be costly, and so people are deeply concerned with maintaining positive social reputations (e.g., Vonasch et al., 2018;Wu et al., 2016aWu et al., , 2016b, even among children as young as age five (Engelmann et al., 2012). ...
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Two studies (total n = 1,245) explored the influence of (1) receiving public vs. private performance feedback, (2) competing on a team vs. solo, and (3) individual differences in team competition participation on cheating behavior. Participants were given opportunities to cheat in an online trivia competition and self-reported their cheating behavior. Meta-analyses of Studies 1 and 2 revealed that participants who believed their performance feedback would be public cheated more than those who believed their performance feedback would be private, and individuals who regularly participate in team competition cheated more than those who do not. We found no evidence that experimentally manipulating team competition (vs. solo competition) influenced cheating. Our findings suggest that people will put their moral reputations at risk in order to protect their competence reputations by engaging in unethical behavior that signals (false) competence to others.
... For cooperation to be beneficial for humans, there need to be mechanisms in place to ensure that one is not cheated in social exchange. Ingroup bias and stigmatization function as such mechanisms of control (Kurzban & Leary, 2001). Social groups with clear boundaries and normative prescriptions that guide group members' behavior ensure the maintenance of intragroup cooperation (Brewer & Caporael, 2006). ...
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The discrepancy between ingroup favoritism and outgroup hostility is well established in social psychology. Under which conditions does “ingroup love” turn into “outgroup hate”? Studies with natural groups suggest that when group membership is based on (dis)similarity of moral beliefs, people are willing to not only help the ingroup, but also harm the outgroup. The key limitation of these studies is that the use of natural groups confounds the effects of shared morality with the history of intergroup relations. In two preregistered experiments, we test the effect of morality-based group membership on intergroup behavior using artificial groups that help disentangling these effects. We use the recently developed Intergroup Parochial and Universal Cooperation (IPUC) game which differentiates between behavioral options of weak parochialism (helping the ingroup), strong parochialism (harming the outgroup), universal cooperation (helping both groups), and egoism (profiting individually). The preliminary findings suggest that morality-based groups exhibit less egoism, more weak parochialism, more universal cooperation, and less strong parochialism. These findings contradict earlier evidence from natural groups and suggest that (dis)similarity of moral beliefs is not sufficient to cross the boundary between “ingroup love” and “outgroup hate”. The third and final preregistered study aims to replicate these findings in a different cultural setting and test the mediating role of trust in this process.
... Stigmatization is one of evil realities existing across and within societies all over the world, creating potential impediments in actualizing development of the above mentioned kind. Social constructivist perspective (Fine & Asch, 1988) helps explain 'stigmatization' as exhibition of negative psycho-social attitudinal reactions by relatively powerful sections of the society towards relatively powerless social groups (Pryor & Reeder, 2011) based on their possession of or, association with certain characteristic features rendered unfit for healthy and mutual social interactions (Kurzban & Leary, 2001). ...
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Empowerment of the stigmatized and the marginalized has ever been the biggest concern of Indian society. However, essentially no universal measure exists to tap it. The aim was to develop a measure of socio-political empowerment to understand its meaning and structure amongst the Indian caste margins. Based on the elicited themes from a qualitative pilot study, 22 items were generated. The responses on these items from 260 Indian historically caste marginalized respondents were subjected to Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) to study the basic psychometric properties. It resulted in 17 items across three factors: discrimination and equality, freedom to make choices in decision making and controllability over resources. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was conducted on 150 respondents to assess the three-factor composition of the construct of Socio-political empowerment. The final 11-items socio-political empowerment scale confirmed that the three factor model fits the data well with an internal consistency reliability of 0.73. Education and income (monthly and/or family) were negatively correlated with discrimination and equality dimension and positively correlated with the other two. Urban respondents reported significantly higher socio-political empowerment. Higher perceived levels of socio-political empowerment were found to be significant indicator of an enhanced sense of self-esteem, thereby establishing the concurrent criterion validity of the scale.
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We aimed to determine (1) the attributes of multiple stigmatized populations, (2) whether Kurzban and Leary’s (2001) functional typology of stigma emerges and identifies the dimensions upon which each stigma type differs, and (3) the emotional responses toward emergent stigma types. Participants ( N = 2,674) were assigned to 1/52 stigma target conditions and their attitudes surveyed. Data were analyzed by multilevel factor analysis with stigma targets at Level 2. There were five within-factors at Level 1 (social competence, interpersonal access, social inclusion, immorality, perceived permanence) and three between-factors at Level 2 (interpersonal stigmatization, morality-based stigmatization, chronic stigmatization). Interpersonal stigmatization was predicted by disgust and pity, and morality-based stigmatization was predicted by disgust and [-]happiness, with no predictors for chronic stigmatization. These results support a functional typology of stigma.
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Chapter
In a discipline with few universally accepted principles, the proposition that people are motivated to maintain and enhance their self-esteem has achieved the rare status of an axiom. The notion that people want to think highly of themselves, behave in ways that promote self-esteem, and become distressed when their needs for self-esteem are unmet can be found in the writings of classic personality theorists (Adler, 1930; Allport, 1937; Horney, 1937; Rogers, 1959), contemporary social psychologists (Green-berg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986; Greenwald, 1980; Greenwald & Breckler, 1985; Steele, 1988; Taylor & Brown, 1988; Tesser, 1988), and clinicians (Bednar, Wells, & Peterson, 1989). The self-esteem motive has been invoked as an explanation for a wide variety of behaviors, including prejudice (Katz, 1960), self-serving attributions (Blaine & Crocker, 1993; Snyder, Stephan, & Rosenfield, 1978), reactions to evaluations (S. C. Jones, 1973), self-handicapping (E. E. Jones & Berglas, 1978), responses to counterattitudinal behavior (Steele, 1988), and self-presentation (Schlenker, 1980). Furthermore, low self-esteem has been linked to problems such as depression, alcohol abuse, suicide, and eating disorders, and high self-esteem has been implicated in good mental health (e.g., Baumeister, 1991; Bednar et al., 1989; Taylor & Brown, 1988). If previous theorists and researchers are correct in their claims, the need to protect and enhance one’s self-esteem constitutes an exceptionally pervasive and important motive.
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