When Black Sheep Make us Think: Information Processing and Devaluation of In- and Outgroup Norm Deviants

Gerhard Reese, Melanie C. Steffens, Kai J. Jonas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Since group membership is central for a person's identity, providing norms, values, and beliefs, people devalue ingroup deviants more than outgroup deviants. This so-called black-sheep effect (BSE) seems primarily driven by group-based motivational concerns. Given prior evidence that information about ingroup, in comparison to outgroup members, is processed more systematically, we propose that more systematic processing of ingroup information predicts more ingroup deviant devaluation. Thus differences in individual information processing underlie the BSE, too. Four experiments support this idea: Ingroup deviance is processed more systematically than outgroup deviance, mediating the BSE (Experiments 1 and 2). Consequently, responses to an ingroup deviant were more positive when systematic processing is hindered (Experiment 3). Conversely, outgroup, but not ingroup deviant devaluation, increased when systematic processing is triggered (Experiment 4). These findings reveal that responses to norm deviance depend on group members' information processing depth, suggesting a BSE explanation that goes beyond motivational strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-503
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

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