The other side of affirmative action: Reactions of nonbeneficiaries to sex-based preferential selection

Madeline E. Heilman, Winston F. McCullough, David Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Researchers studied 162 male undergraduates in an experiment designed to investigate how the experience of unfair treatment affects the reactions of nonbeneficiaries of sex-based preferential selection in terms of responses to the work task, characterizations of the woman beneficiary, and prosocial orientation to the work setting. The basis of selection (merit or preference), the comparative ability of the participant and the selectee (superior, inferior, equal, or unknown) and the presence or absence of one type of explanatory justification for the selection decision (an ideological account) were systematically varied. Results indicated that preferential selection can produce negative reactions on the part of nonbeneficiaries. However, reactions to preferential selection were not always uniform, and procedural and distributive aspects of unfairness concerns were found to have consequences for different types of nonbeneficiary reactions. In addition, the mitigating effects of the ideological account were found to be limited to situations in which the beneficiary and nonbeneficiary were believed to be equally qualified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-357
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1996


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

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