Hidden Costs of Hiding Stigma: Ironic Interpersonal Consequences of Concealing a Stigmatized Identity in Social Interactions
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2014, Vol. 52, (12), pp. 58 – 70 DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2014.01.002
Reason for embargo
People who possess a concealable stigmatized identity (e.g., minority sexual orientation; history of mental illness) often choose to hide this identity from others in order to avoid stigmatization and bias. Despite the potential benefits of this identity management strategy, we propose that instead of increasing acceptance, hiding a stigmatized identity can result in a lowered sense of belonging and even actual social rejection. Across three experimental studies, we show that hiding (vs. revealing) a stigmatized identity during a social interaction reduces feelings of belonging (Studies 1-3), an effect that is mediated by feelings of inauthenticity and reduced self-disclosure (Study 2). Furthermore, we demonstrate that the detrimental interpersonal effects of hiding (vs. revealing) a stigmatized identity are detected by external observers (Study 2) and non-stigmatized interaction partners (Study 3). Implications for understanding the predicament of people living with stigmatized social identities are discussed.
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Vol. 52, (12), pp. 58 - 70