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In or out? How the perceived morality (vs. competence) of prospective group members affects acceptance and rejection

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


When is an individual likely to be accepted or rejected by a group? This research investigates responses towards prospective group members depending on how they compare to the group in terms of their perceived morality or competence. Because morality is of particular importance to groups, we hypothesized that the perceived morality of prospective group members has more impact on the group's tendency to accept versus reject them than their competence. Across three experiments, employing self‐report, psychophysiological and behavioural measures, results supported this hypothesis: Immoral (vs. incompetent) individuals were perceived as more different from the group and were more likely to be rejected. Additionally, the rejection of prospective group members with perceived inferior morality (but not those with inferior competence) was mediated by the group threat they imply. Inclusion success thus seems to be mainly contingent upon how a group evaluates the individual's morality relative to the group's standards.