Role Rigidity: A Problem of Identity Misclassification?

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When nonstigmatized individuals enact certain role-violating behaviors, they risk becoming "falsely accused deviants" (H. S. Becker, 1963, p. 20). For instance, when heterosexual men perform stereotypically feminine behaviors, they are liable to get misclassified as homosexual. Findings presented here reveal that expectations of identity misclassification fuel nonstigmatized individuals' negative reactions to role violations (Studies 1-2) and that using a disclaimer--that is, informing their audience of their nonstigmatized identity--assuages people's discomfort during a role-violating behavior (Studies 3-4). Moreover, when not concerned about being misclassified, nonstigmatized individuals benefit psychologically from the enactment of a challenging role violation (Study 4). Discussion considers the nature of the threat that misclassified role violators face and compares the plight of the falsely accused deviant to that of the truly stigmatized individual

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 89, v. 4, p. 552-565