Evaluation s of Affirm ative Action Applican ts:
Perceived Fairness‚ Human Capital‚ or Social
Beth Dietz-Uh ler
Audrey J. Murrell
University of Pittsburgh
This study exam ined three explanations for evaluation s of an affirmative action
university applican t: type of policy‚ the human capital model‚ and social
identity. Seven ty-n in e (84% wh ite‚ 11% black‚ 3% Asian‚ and 2% other)
participants read a university
s adm issions policy that varied the type of policy
(quota or standard)‚ qualifications of the applican t (weak‚ strong)‚ an d group
affiliation (ingrou p‚ outgroup). Then they rated the applican t‚ policy‚ an d
university. Resu lts ind icated su pport for the social iden tity perspective. The
ingrou p applicant was evalu ated more favorably when the affirm ative action
policy was perceived to be fair. Bu t the ingroup mem ber was derogated when
the affirm ative action policy was perceived as unfair. The perceived fairness of
the affirm ative action policy seemed to have little effect on evalu ation s of the
ou tgrou p member. The im plication s of these findin gs are discussed.
Previous re se arch has shown that individuals tend to be resistant to the
imple mentation of affirmative action policie s (Klue ge l & Smith‚ 1986; Lip-
set & Schne ide r‚ 1978) . Several explanations have be en offered to account
for this resistance . Some of the explanations focus on characteristics of the
target of affirmative action (e.g.‚ the applicant is unde rqualifie d)‚ or on the
characte ristics of the affirmative action policy (e.g.‚ the policy is not pro-
1998 Plenum Pu blishing Corporation
The authors wish to thank Maure e n McKissick for her assistance with this study.
Order of authorship dete rmined alphabetically. Both authors con tribute d equ ally.
To whom co rr espondence sh ould be ad dress ed at De partme nt of Psych ology
O H 45056.