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date: 25 July 2021

Frustration and Relative Deprivationlocked

Frustration and Relative Deprivationlocked

  • Kimberly RiosKimberly RiosOhio University, Department of Psychology
  •  and Cameron D. MackeyCameron D. MackeyOhio University, Department of Psychology


With its origin in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville and Karl Marx, relative deprivation has been investigated by researchers in psychology, sociology, anthropology, criminology, and political science. Relative deprivation is a judgment of oneself or one’s ingroup as being disadvantaged compared to another person or group, which leads to feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, and/or entitlement. Individuals can feel relatively deprived when comparing themselves to other ingroup members or relevant outgroup members, or when comparing their ingroup as a whole to a relevant outgroup. Individuals can also make temporal comparisons—comparing their current status with their own past or future status or comparing their ingroup’s current status with the past or future status of the ingroup. If these comparisons lead to an appraisal of disadvantage and to affective reactions such as angry resentment, a variety of interpersonal or intergroup outcomes can ensue, including individual psychological states (e.g., lower self-esteem), individual behavior (e.g., increased engagement in risky behaviors such as gambling), intergroup attitudes (e.g., more prejudice toward the outgroup), and collective action (e.g., higher likelihood of protesting).

Relative deprivation can be influenced by several factors. People from individualistic cultures have been shown to exhibit more relative deprivation from collectivistic cultures. Temporality also has affected feelings of relative deprivation; these feelings are dependent upon type of temporal comparison (past vs. future) and number of temporal comparisons. Moreover, temporal comparisons have been treated as both an influencer of relative deprivation as well as a source of relative deprivation; future research should address these competing notions. Additional influencing factors include system-justifying beliefs (potentially limiting comparisons and subsequent feelings of relative deprivation) and feelings of empowerment (leading to more deprivation). Future directions pertaining to relative deprivation should focus on comparing feelings of relative deprivation over a period of time (i.e., longitudinally) and experimentally manipulating the construct to flesh out how relative deprivation works. Another recommendation for future research involves creating and validating measures of relative deprivation at both the individual and group level. Finally, a newer line of research examines relative gratification (where cognitive comparisons of being better-off than others leads to prejudice against outgroups). Future research should determine when and how relative gratification occurs and what the differences between the feelings and outcomes of relative gratification and relative deprivation may be.


  • Social Psychology

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