Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Charles M. Judd

Second Advisor

Irene V. Blair

Third Advisor

Geoffrey Cohen

Fourth Advisor

William T. Pizzi

Fifth Advisor

Mark Whisman


Diversity mandates framed in a legalistic manner that tend to take a preventative tone ("Do not discriminate or else risk a discrimination lawsuit") have been widely used to encourage decision-makers to uphold egalitarian values. A set of two studies expands on a series of preliminary results that suggest legalistic diversity messages tend to result in initial positive minority evaluations; however subsequent equally qualified minorities are perceived as less qualified and ultimately are less likely to be selected for admission or hire. The current work expands on this previous research by comparing legally worded diversity messages to value-oriented messages and utilizes both an undergraduate population and a sample of experienced human resource professionals. Both legal and value framed diversity messages appear to function similarly in encouraging decision-makers to be egalitarian in their evaluation and selection process initially. However, on subsequent decisions, legalistically worded diversity messages are particularly damaging to minority women. Two potential explanations for the underlying mechanism are explored: stereotype suppression and moral credentialing. Legalistic messages may be viewed as subtle stereotype suppression instructions that encourage a colorblind ideology. Value messages, on the other hand, may be viewed to encourage a multicultural ideology where differences are actively considered. Moral credentialing would predict that race and gender made salient by photos of applicants would be sufficient to elicit positive evaluations of minorities initially so as to "credential" the decision-maker and immunize them from accusations of bias in subsequent decisions regardless of message condition. The legalistic worded and value diversity messages did not result in the same outcomes for minority applicants. Minority women emerged as the most negatively impacted in the long term by legalistically worded diversity messages. Given the differences in observed effects between legalistic and value messages, the data suggest stereotype suppression and rebound is, at least in part, the most plausible underlying mechanism for the negative long-term effect of legalistically worded messages. In addition, potential explanations for why minority women are particularly susceptible to negative evaluations when decision-makers are presented with a legalistically worded diversity message are explored.