Do Findings from Laboratory Experiments on Preferential Selection Generalize to Cognitively-Oriented Tasks? A Test of Two Perspectives

Edgar E. Kausel, Jerel E. Slaughter, Joel M. Evans, Jordan H. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This investigation examined whether previous findings in preferential selection using laboratory simulations, which have used leadership tasks and perceived performance, generalize to cognitively oriented tasks and actual performance. We tested competing perspectives derived from two theoretical accounts of stereotype threat theory: regulatory focus and executive control interference. Non-stigmatized (Whites and Asians) and stigmatized (Hispanics and Blacks; total n = 513) individuals first took a cognitive ability test to be selected for a subsequent task and a chance to win a cash prize. They were then randomly assigned to an explanation concerning selection for a proofreading task based on merit, gender, or race. Results tended to support the regulatory focus view. The main study showed there were no significant differences in performance quantity or quality among participants who were selected based on merit or gender. Among those selected on race, stigmatized participants had lower performance quantity but higher performance quality (i.e., they were slower but more accurate) than non-stigmatized participants. A follow-up study (n = 252) found that stigmatized people selected based on race had more prevention concerns than non-stigmatized people. We discuss previous findings in preferential selection research utilizing experiments and conclude that the regulatory focus perspective can account for these results. Our research also shows that by using different outcomes, it is possible to qualify the allegedly harmful effects of preferential selection. This study is the first to experimentally examine the effects of preferential selection on actual task performance in cognitively oriented tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-601
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Affirmative action
  • Cognitive tasks
  • Generalizability
  • Laboratory experiments
  • Minorities
  • Preferential selection
  • Regulatory focus
  • Stereotype threat
  • Task performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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