The Social Roots of Contemporary Prejudice

Ben Heylen, Lieven J.R. Pauwels


Background: Evolutionary theory suggests prejudice may be a result of the evolution of human sociality. In this study, we investigate this claim by integrating theoretical insights of evolutionary theory with the well-established social psychological research on prejudice centering on Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) as the main predictors of prejudice.

Method: First, we developed two different signaling scales, probing respondents’ propensity to signal group commitment in a genuine or deceptive way. We administered a questionnaire consisting of the two signaling measures, RWA, SDO and prejudice measures to 1380 students. Analysis of the data was done using structural equation modeling.

Results: Our results indicate that genuine signaling of one’s commitment to the in-group is positively associated with RWA, and that deceptively signaling one’s commitment to the in-group is positively associated with SDO. Both RWA and SDO are positively related to prejudice.

Conclusion: Our study is the first to empirically reveal the pro-social roots of prejudice using classical measurement instruments. The findings give rise to a new array of research questions.


Prejudice, right wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, evolutionary theory

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN: 1929-4409