Discriminating ecologies: A life hist approach to stigma and health

Steven Neuberg, Andreana C. Kenrick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


How does being discriminated against affect one's health, and through what mechanisms? Most research has focused on two causal pathways, highlighting how discrimination increases psychological stress and exposure to neighborhood hazards. This chapter advances an alternative, complementary set of mechanisms through which stigma and discrimination may shape health. Grounded in evolutionary biology's life history theory, the framework holds that discrimination alters aspects of the physical and social ecologies in which people live (e.g., sex ratio, unpredictable extrinsic causes of mortality). These discriminating ecologies pull for specific behaviors and physiological responses (e.g., risk-taking, sexual activity, offspring care, fat storage) that are active, strategic, and rational given the threats and opportunities afforded by these ecologies but that also have downstream implications for health. This framework generates a wide range of nuanced insights and unique hypotheses about the discrimination-health relationship, and suggests specific approaches to intervention while pointing to complex ethical issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Stigma, Discrimination, and Health
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780190243470
ISBN (Print)9780190243470
StatePublished - Dec 6 2017


  • Discrimination
  • Ethnic minorities
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Health
  • Life history theory
  • Mental illness
  • Prejudices
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social policies
  • Structural stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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