Preference for Cliques: What this Study on Social Dominance Orientation Tells us about Hierarchy in the Workplace | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

April 18, 2021by Anupriya Kukreja

Summary of:

Wang, C., Huang, F., Stathi, S., & Vezzali, L. (2020). Positive and negative intergroup contact and willingness to engage in intergroup interactions among majority (Han) and minority (Uyghur) group members in China: The moderating role of social dominance orientation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 75, 132-140. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2018.09.002

Background & Theory

Intergroup contact theory has been widely studied in peace literature, however, not in non-western contexts. Further, social dominance orientation (SDO), which is an individual difference variable indicating a preference (or not) for unequal relationships between groups in the society is also an interesting factor to study vis-a-vis intergroup contact. The Han community represents the ethnic majority group in China and accounts for around 91.51% of the total population, while Uyghur community represents 0.76% of the population. They differ in three domains: language, religion, and customs. Behavioral intention refers to the intention to have contact with the outgroup in the future, which is another factor studied here.

Research Question(s)

The researchers sought to answer the following question:

    1. Are the associations of positive and negative contact with prejudice moderated by SDO?

They hypothesized that:

    1. Positive contact would be associated with more positive behavioral intentions only among high-SDOs.
    2. The association between negative contact and more negative behavioral intentions should be stronger among high-SDOs, compared to low-SDOs (H2).
    3. Positive contact should be associated with more positive (H3) behavioral intention and
    4. Negative contact with less positive (H4) behavioral intentions among individuals high (but not low) in SDO.


The sample consisted of 325 people, out of whom 191 were females. Participants were students from universities in inland cities in Northern China, Central China, Southern China, and Southeastern China, where Han people represent the majority group.

To assess prejudice, the authors used a measure of behavioral intentions to have contact with the outgroup in the future.

Positive contact was measured with items: “I cooperated with < outgroup > in some tasks,” “ <outgroup> greeted me actively,” “I participated in (or organized) activities with <outgroup>,” “I had delicious food or traveled with < outgroup > .”

Negative contact was assessed with items: “ < outgroup > responded indifferently to the conversation initiated by myself,” “ < outgroup > insulted or threatened me,” “I had trouble with <outgroup> in school activities or daily life,” “ <outgroup> and I had divergent opinions on ethnic issues.”

SDO was measured using a short, four-item version of the SDO scale. Behavioral intentions were assessed with an adapted version of Ratcliff et al. (1999) behavioral intentions measure. To test the hypotheses, the researchers conducted hierarchical regression analyses.


In line with H1, positive contact was positively related to behavioral intentions among high-SDOs, but not among low-SDOs (People who are high in SDO take advantage of hierarchy-enhancing ideologies, such as prejudice, to establish or maintain hierarchical rather than egalitarian relations between social groups).

As for H2, negative contact was negatively related to behavioral intentions among high-SDOs.

In contrast with H3, positive contact was positively associated with behavioral intentions both for high- and low-SDO individuals.

In contrast with H4, the negative association between negative contact and behavioral intentions was significant among low-SDOs.

How This Translates for the Workplace

  1. SDO at work: Check if some employees are more dominating than others, occupy more space and prefer for there to be some sort of hierarchical associations between departments. Leaders could also find out what kind of schools people attended, or based on age, seniority, or any other factor to monitor employee levels of SDO. Employees with high SDO might be unconsciously creating divisions and the foundation for future conflicts to build on. Contact us for tips on how to better recognize employees who are more likely to cause conflicts and how best to deal with them to create an inclusive environment.
  2. Behavioral intention: Check to see if given an option, whether employees would choose to hang out with other employees from different age groups, departments, university experiences, cultures or nationalities, etc. (i.e if there an intention for inter-group, inter-departmental contact). Working on building this desire for inclusion and interaction is a useful step. The management can also work on deliberately building positive intergroup contact between employees so as to increase future behavioral intention. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to make your employees more open to these ideas and make your workplace more inclusive!

Anupriya Kukreja

Anupriya Kukreja is a graduate in Political Science and Psychology from Ashoka University in India. She has interned at Hospitals in their psychology departments and worked at reputed policy organizations, as well as been an Albright Fellow at Wellesley College. At PPS, she examines the latest research in international conflict and writes about how such methods may apply to conflict in the workplace. She is also a part of APA Division 48’s official Newsletter "The Peace Psychologist’s" editorial team. Her long-term career goal is to apply the lens of Behaviour science to Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, and Organizational Transformation.

Visit us on social networks:

Visit us on social networks:

Copyright © 2021 Pollack Peacebuilding Systems