Reactions to Stigma: The Moderating Role of Justifications
Jennifer Crocker Brenda Major State University of New York at Buffalo
Social stigma is a pervasive aspect of social existence. Goffman ( 1963) suggested that there are three major types of stigmatizing conditions: (a) tribal stigmas, such as membership in disadvantaged or despised racial, ethnic, or religious groups, (b) abominations of the body, including physical handicaps and disfiguring conditions, and (c) blemishes of individual character, such as substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, and homosexuality. As Goffman's analysis suggests, a wide variety of conditions are considered stigmatizing; people with those stigmas are the targets of negative stereotypes, are generally devalued in the larger society, and receive disproportionately negative interpersonal and economic outcomes ( Crocker & Major, 1989). In Goffman ( 1963) terms, the stigmatized have a spoiled identity in the eyes of the nonstigmatized.
Empirical research on attitudes and behavior toward members of a wide variety of stigmatized groups supports the idea that the stigmatized are both regarded unfavorably by others and receive more negative outcomes in life than the nonstigmatized (see Crocker & Major, 1989, for a discussion). For example, a number of studies show that people hold generally negative stereotypes about African-Americans ( Brigham, 1974; Hartsough & Fontana, 1970; Karlins, Coffman , & Walters, 1969; Samuels, 1973). Although survey studies indicate that the level of expressed racism has declined in the United States over the past 30 years ( Crosby, Bromley, & Saxe, 1980; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986), the work of Gaertner and Dovidio ( 1986), Devine ( 1989), and others suggests that negative attitudes about Blacks may have become more subtle or disguised but are still pervasive, even among people who consider themselves nonprejudiced. Furthermore, it is well documented that African-Americans are relatively disadvan