Are Leader-Prototypical African Americans Distrusted by Their Ingroup? The Role of Identity Denial

Thomas Cho, Purdue University


Black representation in American business leadership ranks is not proportionate to America’s demographics. Previous research into this issue has mostly focused on the relationship between majority racial group and minority racial groups. However, research in identity denial and backlash shows that ingroup members may also play a negative role in undermining leadership efforts. African Americans may react negatively to a Black business leader because of the mismatch between negative stereotypes of African Americans and the positive prototype of a leader. The current study hypothesizes that resembling a business leader as an African American leads to negative reaction from other African Americans in the form of lowered trust, lowered endorsement as leader, and lowered intention to engage in organizational citizenship behavior. The current study also hypothesizes that participant’s ingroup identification level will act as a moderator, and that perceived racial identification will act as a mediator. To test the hypotheses, participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk were randomly assigned to either the strong match to leader prototype condition, weak match condition, or control condition in which no information about leader prototype was provided. The results revealed a simple main effect in which strongly matching the leader prototype led to lower levels of the outcome variables. The current study brings attention to an area of research that should be further explored and suggests that organizations should create interventions to counteract this negative ingroup effect.




Ashburn-Nardo, Purdue University.

Subject Area

African American Studies|Business administration|Black studies|Social psychology

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