Are they like us or are we like them? Applying the principle of contrast modeling to social identity

Hannah Buala, Alyssa Croft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Are conservatives as competent as liberals? Are liberals as competent as conservatives? Logically, one might assume agreement with one implies agreement with the other. However, we found that people rely on contrast modeling when making these types of similarity judgements. Specifically, people use their own social identity as a metric for weighing evaluative statements asymmetrically based on how they are framed (i.e., which group comes first). Thus, conservatives agree more strongly with the first framing of the statement, while liberals agree more strongly with the second, despite similar semantic meanings underlying both statements. Four studies (N = 1,405) examined the cognitive processes leading to this similarity judgement. Further, we show that identity centrality moderates reliance on contrast modeling. Our findings suggest that cognitive mechanisms underlying social group comparisons are analogous to the mechanisms used to compare nonsocial categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • contrast model
  • intergroup relations
  • similarity judgements
  • social cognition
  • social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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