Why do the privileged resort to oppression? A look at some intragroup factors

Tom Postmes, Laura G E Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (SciVal)


This article shows that (intergroup) oppression can be strategically motivated by (intragroup) processes. It is often assumed that high-status groups oppress when their social position is declining (relative deprivation). Counterintuitively, research shows that oppression also occurs when their position is improving (gratification): a curvilinear relationship referred to as “the v-curve effect.” We test the hypothesis that this relationship is due to intragroup processes within the high-status group: individuals respond strategically to elite norms. Two experiments manipulated participants’ future prospects: to join the nation's elite in future (relative gratification), social stasis, or status decline (relative deprivation, Study 2). Elite norms toward immigrants (positive, negative) were manipulated independently. The curvilinear relationship was only found when norms were negative. In other words, those who anticipate joining the elite tailor their actions to the norms of their prospective in-group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-790
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


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