Dimensions of Perceived Discrimination: The Personal/Group Discrimination Discrepancy
Donald M. Taylor McGill University
Stephen C. Wright University of California, Santa Cruz
Lana E. Porter McGill University
Acts of discrimination necessarily involve two participants, the perpetrator and the victim. With a few important exceptions (e.g., Birt & Dion, 1987; Crocker & Major, 1989; Crosby, 1982, 1984a, 1984b; Crosby Muehrer, & Loewenstein, 1986; Dibble, 1981; Dion, 1986; Dion & Earn, 1975; Lalonde & Cameron, in press; Major, Carrington, & Carnevale, 1984) the focus of most theory and research is on the persons or groups who hold prejudices and practice the discrimination. In this chapter, the emphasis is exclusively on persons who belong to groups that are potential targets for discrimination. Specifically, the question addressed here is to what extent such persons perceive or judge behavior directed at them personally or at their group to be discrimination, regardless of whether this perception reflects objective reality or not.
Our specific interest in this question arises because of a robust finding that has surfaced in a number of studies on discrimination. The phenomenon involves members of minority groups perceiving more discrimination directed at their group in general compared to themselves personally as a member of that group; a phenomenon that Taylor, Wright, Moghaddam, and Lalonde ( 1990) labeled the personal/group discrimination discrepancy. This pattern of perceptions is, on the surface, irrational. If all minority group members perceive relatively little discrimination directed at them personally, where are the group members who are discriminated against at such a high level that it would warrant the high ratings of group discrimination that emerge so consistently? Implied in this rhetorical question is the paradox contained in the personal/group discrimination discrepancy. Being a target of discrimination is a profound emotional experience that requires effective coping mechanisms. Insights into such a traumatic experience may well