Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Speaker Series
The Interactive Interface between Gender and Ethnic Discrimination: 
A Social Dominance and Evolutionary  Perspective
A Presentation by James H. Sidanius
Professor of Psychology, UCLA
Friday May 28, 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Anthropology, HSSB 2001A
Social dominance theories identifies three distinct, yet interrelated systems of group-based social  hierarchy. These systems are based upon the distinctions of: a) age, b) gender and c) what we call "arbitrary sets."  Arbitrary sets are highly flexible and situationally contingent social constructions of group membership.  Examples of such arbitrary sets are distinctions based on citizenship, social class, "race," ethnicity, clan, lineage, caste, region, etc.   Using survey, archival and experimental data dealing with both gender and ethnic discrimination across several cultures, and framing this data in terms of ideas taken from evolutionary psychology, this talk will argue that:

1. While gender and ethnic discrimination share a number of features in common, these social phenomenon are driven by qualitatively different motives and serve distinctly different social functions.

2. The psychology of gender is incomplete without the inclusion of the psychology of arbitrary-set hierarchy, specifically regarding invariant gender differences with respect to the predisposition to establish and maintain group-based social hierarchy.  Likewise, a complete understanding of the psychology of arbitrary-set discrimination is incomplete without an understanding of the "gendered" nature of ethnic and racial discrimination.

3. The very popular "double-jeopardy" hypothesis argues that women of color suffer from a double handicap and are discriminated against on the basis of both their gender and their ethnicity.  However, this presentation argues that this popular thesis is fundamentally flawed.  In its place, we substitute the "subordinate-male-target hypothesis" (SMTH).  SMTH argues that while women from both dominant and subordinate arbitrary groups (e.g., different "races") are discriminated against on the basis of gender, women from subordinate arbitrary-set  groups are generally not directly discriminated against on the basis of their arbitrary group membership (e.g., on the basis of  "race").  Rather, arbitrary-set discrimination (e.g., racial discrimination) is primarily directed against males from subordinate arbitrary-sets.  More broadly, social dominance theory suggests that arbitrary-set discrimination should be regarded as a form of intergroup conflict and a largely male-on-male project.  Such conflict is primarily executed by males and primarily targeted against "outgroup" males rather than "outgroup" females.


James H. Sidanius received his B.A. in Psychology from City College, City University of New York in 1968 and his Ph.D. in Political-Psychology at the University of Stockholm, Sweden in 1977 where he also taught for 10 years. Since returning to the United States in 1983, Professor Sidanius has taught at several universities in the United States, including Carnegie-Mellon University, the University of Texas at Austin, New York University and Princeton University.  He joined the Psychology Department at UCLA in 1988 and is currently a fellow at UCLA's Center for the Study of Society and Politics.  Professor Sidanius is author of some eighty scientific papers in the general field of political-psychology. This work includes study of the interface between political ideology and cognitive functioning, the political psychology of gender, group conflict, institutional discrimination and evolutionary psychology.  He was Vice-President of the International Society of Political Psychology  (1998-1999).  Professor Sidanius' latest book is entitled Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression and is scheduled for release in July of 1999.

Recommended reading

Sidanius, J. & Pratto, F. (In press). Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sidanius, J. (1993). The Psychology of Group Conflict and the Dynamics of Oppression: A Social Dominance Perspective.  In S. Iyengar W. McGuire (Eds.), Explorations in Political Psychology. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 183-219.

Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Stallworth, L.M., & Malle, B.F. (1994).  Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 741-763.

van Laar, C., Sidanius, J., Rabinowitz, J. & Sinclair, S. (1999).  The Three R's of Academic Achievement: Reading, 'Riting, and Racism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 25, 139-151.

Pratto, F., Stallworth, L., Sidanius, J. & Siers, B.  (1997).  The gender gap in occupational role attainment: A social dominance approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,72, 37-53.

Sidanius, J., Pratto, F. & Bobo, L. (1994).  Social Dominance Orientation and the Political Psychology of Gender: A Case Of Invariance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 998-1011


 Top of page
Speaker series
Evolution and the Social Mind
Speaker Series