Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Christian Jordan

Advisor Role



The topic of prejudice has been extensively studied by psychologists, but there has been no work directly examining whether agency (“getting ahead”) and communion (“getting along”) influence prejudiced attitudes. Across three studies we examined whether these dimensions differentially motivate prejudiced attitudes towards immigrants and Syrian refugees. We expected that agency would positively predict prejudice for those low in communion but not for those high in communion and that a self-threat would amplify this effect. Additionally, we examined unmitigated agency (focus on agency to the exclusion of communion, distinct from high agency and low communion as separate factors) as it has been linked to other problem behaviours (Helegson, 1999). In Study 1, inconsistent with our predictions, we found that high agency or low communion may motivate prejudice towards immigrants. In Study 2 and 3 we examined whether a co-operation focus (balance of agency and communion) or competition focus (strong agency, lack of communion) predicted prejudice towards Syrian refugees. We found some evidence that a focus on co-operation could reduce the positive relation between unmitigated agency and negative attitudes towards Syrian refugees. We did not find any consistent evidence supporting our main predictions with the addition of a self-threat in Study 3. Across all three studies, our most consistent finding was that unmitigated agency was positively associated with prejudice and predictors of prejudice established in past research. Overall, our findings did not yield consistent evidence that agency and communion motivate prejudice, and instead suggest that unmitigated agency may be a distinctly motivating factor for prejudice.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season