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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Experimental Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Czopp, Alex

Second Advisor

Lemm, Kristi M., 1971-

Third Advisor

Warren, Meg A.


Awareness of one’s privilege has been shown to evoke feelings of defensiveness or collective guilt, particularly when one’s privileged identity is highly central to their sense of self. Research on privilege indicates that people may psychologically distance themselves from the notion of privilege in order to protect themselves from its potentially threatening manner (Phillips & Lowery, 2015). Construal level theory states that concepts that are more psychologically close are construed in more concrete terms whereas concepts that are more psychologically distant are construed as more abstract (Trope & Liberman, 2010). In the present study, 246 male participants were assessed for the importance of their male identity and were then primed with either a close or distant construal mindset. They were then randomly assigned to read about privilege or to read neutral statements. Afterwards, participants’ reactions were assessed including levels of defensiveness and collective guilt. Results indicated that male identity did not interact with construal condition or privilege condition to predict reactions to male privilege. However, participants’ political orientation did interact with privilege condition and construal level, such that when primed with a close construal level, liberal participants were more likely to respond with collective guilt when made aware of their privilege in comparison to conservative participants. Implications and possible explanations for the lack of anticipated effects are discussed.




male privilege, inequality, construal level theory, collective guilt, prejudice


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Privilege (Social psychology); Male domination (Social structure); Entitlement attitudes; Guilt




masters theses




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