What is it about?

Our research shows that being forced by others to focus on their personal experiences during discussions of policies relevant to intergroup relations and social justice is disempowering for members of marginalized groups: Outside calls to draw on their personal experiences in contexts where prejudice and discrimination are salient lead these individuals to sense that they are seen more as targets of others’ actions and less as active and competent agents oriented toward achieving their own desired outcomes. We found that asking members of marginalized groups for their opinions in an open manner, or asking about their reasoning or personal firsthand knowledge, all constitute means of learning about their perspective on intergroup issues in a more empowering way. Benefits of these alternative approaches, relative to an imposed focus on personal experience, included greater momentary feelings of power and enhanced power-relevant behaviors such as exerting influence over White individuals’ opinions in discussions of intergroup issues. Notably, our findings are specific to externally imposed experience focus in discussions of intergroup policies. Our research does not address situations in which members of marginalized groups choose to share their personal experiences on their own terms and in service of their own goals.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Efforts to address the substantial inequities that continue to exist between social groups based on identities such as race, gender, and sexual orientation have taken many forms. On an interpersonal level, individuals may believe that they can help empower members of marginalized groups by asking about and emphasizing personal experiences when intergroup policies and issues are being discussed: Acknowledging a marginalized group member’s personal experiences relevant to the issues at hand may be presumed tantamount to acknowledging the person as a legitimate authority on those issues and as someone with special entitlement to speak their mind and be heard. However, there are theoretical grounds to expect that this intuition is incorrect and that imposing a focus on personal experience in such discussions can backfire and be disempowering instead. Our research confirms that this is the case: Well-intentioned or not, asking members of marginalized groups to approach discussions of intergroup issues and policies through the specific lens of their personal experiences is subtly undermining. Our research points to alternative approaches that are more likely to be beneficial.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The disempowering implications for members of marginalized groups of imposing a focus on personal experiences in discussions of intergroup issues., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, January 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000416.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page