Self-protective motivation and avoidance of heuristically threatening outgroups

Saul L. Miller*, Kate Zielaskowski, Jon K. Maner, E. Ashby Plant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Because hostile outgroup members have been a recurrent source of danger, self-protective motivation leads people to display psychological processes that reduce vulnerability to outgroup threats. The current research examines the consequences of self-protective motivation for intergroup behavior. The current research provides evidence that self-protective motivation causes individuals to automatically avoid heuristically threatening outgroup members. Across two studies, priming self-protective motivation led White participants to display faster avoidance behaviors when presented with images of Black individuals (members of an outgroup culturally stereotyped as violent) than White individuals (members of the ingroup) and Asian individuals (members of an outgroup not stereotyped as violent). This research sheds light on the way in which evolved mechanisms interact with cultural cognitions to shape intergroup behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-735
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Avoidance
  • Intergroup processes
  • Self-protection
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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