Sameer Srivastava, Haas School of Business at University of California Berkeley

Imagined Otherness: Perceived Construal Distance and Interparty Animosity in the United States
Sameer Srivastava


Winter 2021
Lecture Time: 
Friday, April 2, 2021 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 


What leads people to feel negatively about members of other social groups? While recent work has focused on the strength of group identity, we propose that perceptions of intergroup difference - and the animas they catalyze - are often rooted in beliefs that members of other groups interpret the world in inherently different ways. Drawing on work in the sociology of culture, we focus on the role of construal's - that is, cognitive associations people hold about meaningful concepts - in shaping intergroup sentiment. We develop a theory of multilevel perceived construal distance and propose that: (a) perceived intergroup construal distance relates to negative outgroup affect; whereas (b) perceived construal distance between an outgroup and the generalized other is associated with outgroup dehumanization. We introduce a new method, the Multilevel Construal Elicitation Task (MCET), to tap respondents' multilevel construal's and apply it to associations that politically affiliated Americans hold about the concept, "America." Our pre-registered study results suggest that antipathy towards members of the opposing political party is grounded in people's perceptions of construal distance, above and beyond their strength of party identity or ideology. These findings contribute to debates on the causes of increased political polarization in the U.S. and have implications for research on identity, social boundaries, and the measurement of cultural meaning.

Recording & Additional Notes

Sameer B. Srivastava is Associate Professor and Harold Furst Chair in Management Philosophy and Values at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business and is also affiliated with UC Berkeley Sociology. His research unpacks the complex interrelationships among the culture of social groups, the cognition of individuals within these groups, and the connections that people forge within and across groups. Much of his work is set in organizational contexts, where he uses computational methods to examine how culture, cognition, and networks relate to career outcomes. His work has been published in journals such as American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Management Science, and Organization Science. It has been covered in media outlets such as The New York Times, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Forbes. Sameer co-directs the Berkeley Culture Initiative and the Berkeley-Stanford Computational Culture Lab. In a prior career, Sameer was a partner at a global management consultancy (Monitor Group; now Monitor Deloitte). He holds AB, AM, MBA, and PhD degrees from Harvard University.