Groups are an important component of self-concepts and essential to survival. The demographic composition of a group provides important cues as to whether the group will accept an individual, and this implicit information can affect our identification with novel groups. Although prior research regarding ambient belonging and group-level ostracism have attempted to address the issue of gender exclusion, no research to date has investigated the effect of racial exclusion, or incorporated demographic group identity (e.g., racial identity, gender identity) and affiliation with the excluding group. Drawing on several psychological theories including social identity, ostracism, and discrimination, the current research uses media to systematically omit specific racial and gender groups and investigate the effects of racial and gender exclusion on viewer self-concepts, identity, and attitudes.
Results reveal that exclusion hurts identity for viewers who report that their race or gender is personally important, but enhances identity among viewers for whom their race or gender is NOT personally important. These findings indicate that identification with the targeted demographic group (e.g., race, gender) activates different mechanisms for coping demographic group exclusion from a group with which the participant belongs, and provides insight into the effects of excluding other demographic groups (e.g., religion, sexuality, body size). This research tackles the complicated question of media and intergroup relations, and has implications for group identity and intragroup conflict in an increasingly diverse American community. Furthermore, consistent findings provide insight into the experience of other groups including the elderly, overweight, and sexual minorities.