A social dominance theory perspective on multicultural competence

Melanie M. Lantz, Alex L. Pieterse, Terrill O. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We describe and test a new perspective on understanding multicultural competencies (MCCs), namely the application of Social Dominance Theory (SDT). We argue that the process of developing MCCs is not only about learning but also unlearning; that is, unlearning beliefs developed through socialization by the dominant culture, such as the meritocracy myth, and coming to understand the role of privilege in systemic oppression. The present study examined the relationship between self-reported MCCs and three SDT-derived factors: social dominance orientation, awareness of privilege, and multicultural training environment. In a sample of counselor and mental health trainees (N = 362), awareness of privilege was significantly related to multicultural knowledge and awareness; multicultural training environment was related only to multicultural knowledge, and social dominance orientation only to multicultural awareness. Importantly, the ceiling effect observed highlights concerns about what self-report MCCs measures are measuring. Implications, and recommendations for training, research methodology, and research instrumentation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-162
Number of pages21
JournalCounselling Psychology Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Multicultural competence
  • multicultural counseling
  • multicultural training
  • privilege
  • social dominance
  • training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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