Reactions to ethnic deviance: The role of backlash in racial stereotype maintenance

Julie E. Phelan, Laurie A. Rudman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Backlash effects are social and economic penalties for counterstereotypical behavior (Rudman & Phelan, 2008). Five experiments support a model of the role of backlash in racial stereotype maintenance from the standpoint of perceivers and actors (Rudman & Fairchild, 2004). In Experiment 1, perceivers sabotaged Asians and Whites for succeeding in counterstereotypical domains, thereby preventing their future success. In Experiment 2, a White rapper suffered prejudice and economic discrimination, relative to a Black rapper, and prejudice mediated discrimination. Further, actors threatened by backlash for achievement in cross-racial domains responded to success in ways that bolster ethnic stereotypes. For example, Black men and women who feared backlash for academic skill (Experiment 3), and non-Black (Experiment 4) and non-White (Experiment 5) men who experienced backlash for cross-racial achievement, resorted to defensive strategies that preserve racial stereotypes (e.g., refusing to publicize and pursue counterstereotypical talents). Implications for cultural stereotype maintenance are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-281
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Backlash
  • Impression formation
  • Social cognition
  • Stereotype maintenance
  • Stereotypes


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