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An investigation of the underlying mechanism of discrimination: the prototype matching model




Vanhove, Adam, author
Gibbons, Alyssa M., advisor
Murphy, Kevin R., committee member
Clegg, Benjamin A., committee member
Mumford, Troy V., committee member

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Within this study a model explaining the underlying process that results in employment discrimination was proposed and tested. The prototype matching model represents a moderated mediational model that builds on the existing lack-of-fit model (Heilman, 1983) by considering evaluators' prototypes in determining "fit". Each of the propositions of the model was tested using the Goldberg paradigm design among a sample of Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) participants. Participants described their prototypical jobholders for two different positions (sales and customer service) using two factors: warmth and competence. Participants viewed a set of stimulus applicants to each position and indicated their warmth and competence stereotypes of each applicant, then rated each applicant on three evaluative outcomes (coworker desirability, coworker undesirability, and likelihood of success). The presence of discrimination was assessed with regard to two applicant characteristics: applicant sex (male/female) and weight (normal weight/overweight). Evidence of sex-based discrimination was found, as female applicants received more positive evaluations than males across all three outcomes. No differences in evaluations were found due to applicant weight. Females were stereotyped as both warmer and more competent than males. Normal weight applicants were stereotyped as more competent, while overweight applicants were stereotyped as warmer. Both warmth and competence were strong predictors of each of the three evaluative outcomes. Warmth stereotypes were more strongly associated with coworker desirability evaluations, competence stereotypes were more strongly associated with likelihood of success evaluations, and applicants stereotyped as both warm and competent generally received the most positive evaluations. In addition, stereotypes fully mediated the relationship between applicant sex and all three evaluative outcomes. Finally, evidence indicated that participants' evaluations of applicants were influenced by the (mis)match between evaluators' prototypical jobholder and the stereotypes they attributed to applicants, with stereotype-prototype competence match more strongly predicting evaluations for the sales position and stereotype-prototype warmth match more strongly predicting evaluations for the customer service position. Findings suggest that the prototype matching model may have utility in explaining evaluators' cognitive processes that lead to discrimination. Future directions are discussed.


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