Prejudice, Racism, and Discrimination Research Paper

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Prejudice (i.e., biased and usually negative attitudes toward social groups and their members), racism (a negatively oriented prejudice toward certain groups seen as biologically different and inferior to one’s own), and discrimination (unfair behavior or unequal treatment accorded others on the basis of their group membership or possession of an arbitrary trait, such as skin color) have been favored topics of research and theorizing for many years by psychologists—especially social and personality psychologists—around the world. Of these three concepts, prejudice is perhaps the most central and important. Prejudice underlies racism and is also believed to motivate acts of discrimination. Between 1887 and 2000, nearly 4,000 papers were published on prejudice in journals covered by the American Psychological Association’s electronic database of published psychological literature. Since the 1950s, in particular, the pace of psychological research on prejudice has steadily increased.

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Much like prejudice as a topic in international prose and poetry (Larson, 1971), the psychology of prejudice reflects two main themes: (a) the psychology of the bigot, which seeks to understand why some people are prejudiced toward certain groups and their members, and (b) the psychology of the victim of prejudice and discrimination, which focuses on the psychological correlates and consequences of experiencing or perceiving oneself to be an object or target of prejudice or discrimination. These two principal themes likewise provide the basic organization for this research paper.

Research on the psychology of the bigot far exceeds that on the psychology of the victim of prejudice and discrimination. One reason for this differential emphasis undoubtedly stems from the optimistic view that if the psychology of bigotry could be truly understood, scientifically based remedial efforts could then be devised and deployed to reduce, if not eliminate, prejudice at its source within the bigot. Yet, even if we suddenly possessed a magic bullet that instantly turned bigots into tolerant people, a strong case could be made for a psychology of the victim. Among other reasons, some of the prejudice and discrimination confronting members of oppressed groups comes from structural and institutional forms of racism, sexism, and all other “isms” rather than being solely due to intolerant and bigoted individuals. The task of addressing the social structural bases of prejudice within society and its institutions is apt to be far more daunting and difficult than reducing prejudices in individuals with psychological or other means—a formidable enough challenge in its own right.

The extant literature on prejudice is also so vast and diverse that one paper cannot realistically suffice to capture it all. Accordingly, this research paper’s goal is to survey major perspectives and research foci on the aforementioned two themes underlying the psychology of prejudice at the turn of the twenty-first century. The amount of psychological research on prejudice has, to some extent, waxed and waned over the last five decades of the twentieth century. The prejudice literature has also been characterized by different emphases or waves, such as whether prejudice is conceptualized as a form of psychopathology or is instead viewed as being the product of normal cognitive processes (Duckitt, 1994). This research paper focuses on the historical continuity of key ideas and psychological explanations about prejudice over the past several decades and emphasizes links between classic and contemporary research on prejudice.

We begin, then, with the psychology of bigotry. Under this principal theme, the classic perspectives of authoritarian personality, just world, and belief congruence theories are considered first. Though proposed in the 1950s and 1960s, these perspectives are still with us and remain important to our contemporary understanding of prejudice. For example, by focusing on beliefs and values, belief congruence theory presaged and anticipated more recent theories of racism (considered later under the rubric of ambivalence approaches to prejudice) and also has links to more recent perspectives on prejudice and impression formation. After considering ambivalence approaches, our focus shifts to automatic and controlled processing approaches to prejudice, especially the dissociation model and recent innovations in measuring prejudice with automatic activation procedures. The final section under the psychology of bigotry highlights integrative approaches (viz., social dominance theory, integrated threat theory, and the multicomponent approach to intergroup attitudes), each of which incorporates insights from multiple perspectives in seeking to understand prejudice better.

The psychology of the victim of prejudice and discrimination—the second principal theme of this research paper— begins with a consideration of attributional ambiguity perspectives, focusing on the complex but important issue of whether and when attributing a rejection or failure to prejudice can buffer one’s sense of well-being and self-esteem. Following that, the stressfulness of perceiving oneself to be a target of prejudice or discrimination and the consequences of stereotype threat for task performance, respectively, are considered. Finally, the relationship of relative deprivation and perceived discrimination to protest and desires to take corrective action is considered. I begin, though, with the psychology of bigotry.

The Psychology of Bigotry

Authoritarian Personality Theories

The Original Theory of the Authoritarian Personality

The original theory of the authoritarian personality (OTAP), proposed by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford (1950), was the first comprehensive and systematic attempt by psychologists to understand theoretically the roots of prejudice and to link ethnic, racial, religious, and ethnocentric prejudices to personality. Adopting the research methodologies of mid-twentieth-century social and clinical psychology along with a guiding psychoanalytic theoretical perspective, Adorno et al. (1950) postulated that the origins of the prejudice-prone authoritarian personality stemmed from a particular pattern of childhood influences and parental practices (see Brown, 1967, for an excellent in-depth analysis of the OTAP). Specifically, the authoritarian personality was the presumed result of an upbringing by parents who, among other things, (a) disciplined their child harshly, (b) emphasized duties and obligations instead of affection in childparent relations, (c) made their love dependent on the child’s unquestioning obedience, and (d) were status-oriented by being ingratiating toward those of higher social status but contemptuous toward those of lesser social status.

According to the OTAP, the child in such a family develops hostility but cannot express it toward the harsh, frustrating, but feared parents. This submission leads the child to develop a sense of itself as dependent upon its parents and unable to defy their authority. Moreover, the child in an authoritarian family presumably deploys an array of defense mechanisms to deal with the repressed hostility felt toward its parents. By identifying with the aggressor and following a strategy of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” the child comes to idealize its parents and to identify with established authority in general. Repressed hostility and other impulses unacceptable to its parents, such as aggression and sex, are displaced and projected by the child onto minority and subordinate groups as safe, alternative outlets. As a result, the child in an authoritarian family presumably develops a rigid personality organization characterized by a moralistic attitude toward unconventional people and practices, prejudice toward minority and other out-groups, and a tendency to idealize power, status, strength, and toughness but to disdain tenderness, weakness, and self-introspection.

The OTAP has several implications flowing from the central idea that prejudice toward ethnic and racial minorities and other target groups reflects an underlying, deep-seated personality structure in the bigot. First, prejudice should relate to attitudes toward a variety of issues and objects (e.g., attitudes toward sex, power, and political-economic issues) that would otherwise appear unrelated to prejudice and to one another because their interrelations reflect deeper, unconscious processes and connections. (OTAP’s tenet that prejudice is rooted in unconscious processes is clearly echoed in contemporary theories of prejudice emphasizing automatic cognitive processing, described later, as an important feature of individuals’ prejudicial beliefs and their expression.) Second, the authoritarian personality would be prejudiced toward a wide variety of target groups. If an authoritarian person’s prejudice toward one group were somehow blocked, it would presumably be expressed, in a process of symptom substitution, toward other groups. Third, if prejudice is indeed deeply rooted in a personality structure, it should be difficult to change and would require depth-oriented techniques, such as psychotherapy and insight, that promote and produce profound personality change in the bigoted individual.

Adorno et al. (1950) attempted to validate the OTAP, in good part, by developing a personality scale, the California F (for fascism) scale, whose items were constructed to tap the right-wing political ideology and belief syndrome that they theorized as comprising the authoritarian personality. U.S. respondents’ F scale scores correlated positively, as hypothesized, with their scores on other attitude scales designed to assess anti-Semitism, negative attitudes toward Blacks and other U.S. minority groups, and U.S. ethnocentrism. The F scale was subsequently incorporated into numerous studies in the 1950s and 1960s. Though criticized at the time of its initial appearance and later for keying all its items in one direction and not correcting for acquiescence response set, the F scale was still sporadically used by psychological and survey researchers well up to the 1980s. It remained for Altemeyer (1981, 1988, 1996), in a trilogy of books reflecting often painstaking psychometric research, to demonstrate conclusively the California F scale’s serious inadequacies as a measure of proneness to prejudice and to refocus the conceptualization of the authoritarian personality into a more rigorously defined construct and scale of rightwing authoritarianism.

The Theory of Right-Wing Authoritarianism

Altemeyer (1981) persuasively detailed the inadequacies of the California F scale, most notably its lack of scale homogeneity and its saturation with response sets, especially acquiescence. Even more important, however, he created a psychometrically and conceptually appropriate scale of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) that he has continued to refine (see Altemeyer, 1996). Altemeyer defined RWA as the covariation of three attitudes: (a) authoritarian submission (i.e., ready submission to societally established authorities), (b) authoritarian aggression (i.e., aggression sanctioned by established authorities toward defined targets or social groups), and (c) conventionalism (i.e., adherence to conventions endorsed by societally established authorities). Altemeyer (1981, 1988, 1996) has extensively documented RWA’s correlates, often with numerous replications. For example, RWA is concentrated more among politicians of the right, fundamentalist Protestants, and the poorly educated. Also, parents outscore their university-age offspring in RWA.

Altemeyer’s approach to RWA differs from the OTAP in several important regards (Dion, 1990). By contrast to the OTAP’s psychoanalytic perspective, Altemeyer has favored social learning theory as an explanation for the development of RWA in individuals, especially Bandura’s versions with their emphases on vicarious learning and self-regulation by cognitive processes. Social learning theory has provided Altemeyer with a heuristic framework for explaining the contribution to RWA of personal experiences in one’s adolescence, of parents and peers, of university education and parenthood, and the paradoxical role of religion in fostering RWA by creating a sense of self-righteousness. Second, whereas the OTAP portrayed authoritarianism as a personality dimension with its developmental roots in infancy and early childhood, Altemeyer has viewed RWAas an attitudinal orientation that emerges and crystallizes in early adolescence, suggesting that it may be more readily amenable to change within the individual.

Finally, in addition to documenting its empirical links to prejudice, Altemeyer (1988, 1996) has particularly focused on the political correlates of RWA. He has shown repeatedly that individuals (usually university students) scoring high on the RWA scale are reportedly more than willing and ready to punish others and to infringe upon and curtail their civil rights, especially those who threaten the social order. RWA scale scores have also been found to discriminate well between provincial and state legislators in Canada and the United States belonging to right- and left-wing political parties. Knowing politicians’ RWA scale scores appears to be a useful piece of information for predicting their attitudes and behaviors.

Research by Altemeyer and others indicates that the RWA scale correlates between .30 and .50 with measures of prejudice toward racial and ethnic minorities and ethnocentrism scales. RWA correlates negatively with internal motivation (e.g., personal standards) and positively with external motivation (e.g., social or peer pressure) by White people to respond without prejudice toward Black people (Plant & Devine, 1998). RWA consistently correlates more highly, between .5 and .6, with homophobia and negative attitudes toward homosexuals. Indeed, Altemeyer (1996) contended that RWA is the single individual difference variable most relevant for predicting attitudes toward homosexuals, especially negative ones.

Studies by other investigators have likewise documented a consistently negative relationship between RWA and attitudes toward homosexuals and homosexuality (e.g., Haddock, Zanna, & Esses, 1993; Lippa & Arad, 1999; Whitley, 1999), strongly reinforcingAltemeyer’s conclusion in this regard. The negative attitudes toward homosexuals by those scoring high in RWA are due to perceived impediments of homosexuals and homosexuality to one’s values (Haddock et al., 1993) or to religiousness. Finally, a recent lexical approach to mapping the structure of social attitudes by Saucier (2000) showed that authoritarianism and RWA (along with conservatism and religiousness) defined the first and largest of three factors in the domain of social attitudes and beliefs. Clearly, the authoritarianism construct, especially RWA, remains important in psychological research on prejudice and in linking prejudice to individuals’personality and attitudes.

Just World Theory

An individual’s belief in a just world (BJW) is another psychological dimension relevant for understanding individuals’ reactions to ethnic and racial minorities and victims of ill fortune. According to Lerner’s (1980) just world theory, we all believe, to a varying extent, in a just world where people get what they deserve and also deserve what they get. The BJW presumably enables us to view our world as a safe, predictable place where we can expect to obtain desired rewards and to avoid unpleasant outcomes. Becoming aware of an innocent victim who does not deserve to suffer, however, threatens one’s BJW. Individuals go to considerable lengths to maintain and protect their BJW in the face of contrary information. For example, classic experiments by Lerner and his colleagues have demonstrated that when unable to prevent or compensate for an innocent victim’s suffering, observers preserved their BJW by derogating the victim and seeing the suffering as deserved (see Lerner, 1980).

Questionnaire measures of the BJW consistently correlate with the tendency to blame visible victims (e.g., ethnic and racial minorities, the unemployed, and immigrants and asylum seekers) with samples of university and community respondents in the United States, Canada, and Europe (see Montada & Lerner, 1998). However, the BJW construct is conceptually and empirically distinguishable from authoritarianism. Using factor analyses of questionnaire measures from a sample of Canadian university students in Ontario, Lerner (1978) showed that authoritarianism (as measured by Rokeach’s 1960 F scale) and BJW loaded on separate, independent factors. Authoritarianism loaded on a xenophobia factor characterized by high loading for authoritarianism, adherence to the Protestant ethic (a belief in the virtues of hard work and effort), attitudes toward social changes, and negative attitudes toward both minority groups and out-groups (e.g., Americans). By contrast, the BJW loaded on a win-lose view of the world, in which winners (e.g., Americans) were viewed positively, while losers (e.g., Native Indians and Métis) were negatively appraised. The BJW also correlates positively, but only modestly (i.e., between .1 and .3) with RWA (Lambert, Burroughs, & Chasteen, 1998).

It is interesting that blaming victims for their ill fate strengthens the observer’s BJW (see Lerner & Montada,1998). In turn, believing oneself to have been victimized as a target of prejudice or discrimination also appears to affect the BJW adversely. Birt and Dion (1987) found that in Toronto, the greater the perceived discrimination against homosexuals as a group, the weaker was the BJW among gay and lesbian respondents. Thus, jus tworld theory and the BJW have relevance for the psychology of being a victim of prejudice and discrimination as well as the psychology of bigotry.

Belief Congruence Theory

Rokeach (1960) criticized the OTAP for focusing on rightwing authoritarianism, contending that authoritarianism need not be tied inextricably to either right- or left-wing political views. As an alternative, he proposed the construct of closedmindedness or dogmatism and developed several Dogmatism Scales in an attempt to measure authoritarianism and to assess general authoritarianism of the political left as well as the political right. Unfortunately, his Dogmatism Scales possess serious psychometric limitations and are relatively little used today. Moreover, if it exists, left-wing authoritarianism would involve resisting and opposing conventional and established authorities (see Altemeyer, 1996, for an interesting discussion of dogmatism and left-wing authoritarianism and some new prospective scales for measuring these dimensions).

In the same book on the open and closed mind, however, Rokeach, Smith, and Evans (1960) also proposed an important perspective on prejudice: belief congruence theory (BCT). According to BCT, individuals cognitively organize their psychological world along the lines of belief congruence, liking those with similar beliefs and disliking those with dissimilar beliefs. Although the link between attitude similarity and interpersonal attraction had already been well demonstrated by that point, Rokeach et al.’s provocative contribution was to extent it to the domain of prejudice and to argue that all forms of prejudice were essentially different forms of belief prejudice. Thus, according to BCT, the racial conflict between Blacks and Whites in the United States is not due to race per se but rather to opposite or conflicting stands on key issues such as affirmative action in employment and education. Likewise, the antipathies between English and French in Canada are not due to ethnicity per se, but rather to conflict over the issue of Quebec’s role, and the place of the French language, within Canada. In other words, racial and ethnic prejudice, as two examples, presumably reflect belief prejudice.

BCT clearly suggests research in which belief is pitted against group membership characteristics such as race or ethnicity. Rokeach et al. (1960), for example, had samples of White university students from northern and southern parts of the United States rate their desires to be friends with members of pairs of stimulus persons whose races and beliefs, both race-relevant and -irrelevant, were specified. For example, Type R pairs varied in race but kept belief constant (e.g., a White person who believes in God vs. a Black person who believes in God). Type B pairs kept race constant but varied belief (a Black person who believes in God vs. a Black person who is an atheist). Type RB pairs varied both race and belief simultaneously. Differences in friendliness ratings for members of a stimulus person pair were taken as reflecting discrimination. A critical comparison suggested by BCT involved a choice between an in-group member with dissimilar beliefs versus an out-group member with beliefs similar to one’s own. For this pair comparison, individuals’ preference typically goes to the latter, consistent with BCT. Likewise, Rokeach and Mezei (1966) showed that belief similarity excels race in predicting pBibliography: for work partners among employment applicants following actual interpersonal interaction and discussion between Black and White participants with similar and dissimilar beliefs on an issue.

BCT remains as relevant a theory of prejudice in the twenty-first century as it was in the latter half of the twentieth century, largely due to the research over the past several decades of Insko and his colleagues (e.g., Cox, Smith, & Insko, 1996; Insko, Nacoste, & Moe, 1983) as well as recent contributions by Biernat and her colleagues (Biernat, Vescio, & Theno, 1996; Biernat, Vescio, Theno, & Crandall, 1996). For example, Insko et al. (1983) reviewed the literature and compared the strong version of BCT (when social pressure is absent, only belief determines racial-ethnic discrimination) to a weak version (when social pressure is absent, belief is more important than race in determining discrimination or prejudice). They concluded that the weak version of BCT was clearly supported by the evidence, whereas the strong version was more problematic (e.g., race effects in the form of ingroup favoritism occur even in the absence of social pressure).

Cox et al. (1996) reported results of three cross-sectional surveys conducted over several decades of Black and White teenagers sampled from a North Carolina school system who had responded to stimulus persons varying in race and belief, using a belief discrepancy manipulation in which dissimilar beliefs were ones that respondents themselves had previously attributed to the other race. For White respondents, race effects (i.e., preferring their own race to Blacks on social distance and other attitude measures) steadily declined across three points in time from 1966 to 1993, as did perceived disapproval of interracial contacts and relationships. The effects of belief similarity affected all of their dependent variables and were constant across decades for White respondents. For Black respondents, more complex findings were obtained: Specifically, race effects (i.e., in-group preference) did not decline between 1979 and 1993 (the only two time periods including Black respondents), and belief similarity primarily influenced same-race rather than interracial evaluations.

BCT has clear links to contemporary perspectives on impression formation and prejudice. For example, Cox et al. (1996) noted that BCT is very similar to Fiske and Neuberg’s (1990) temporal-continuum model of impression formation. In the latter model, a perceiver begins with categorical information (viz., race, ethnicity, sex, age, etc.) about a person but proceeds, if time permits and circumstances require, to process individuating information (e.g., beliefs of the stimulus person). Like Fiske and Neuberg’s model, BCT deals with the issue of when individuating information (viz., beliefs and values) about a stimulus person overcomes competing categorical information (viz., group membership) in the impressions we form of others. Likewise, the importance that BCT accords to perceived belief dissimilarity in eliciting prejudice is shared today by terror management theory, a perspective focusing on the psychological consequences of being aware of, or sensitized to, one’s mortality (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 2000).

BCT has also been extended to the value domain. Schwartz and Struch (1989) proposed that perceptions of value dissimilarities between groups underlie intergroup antagonisms and undercut feelings of shared humanity. Likewise, Biernat, Vescio, Theno, and Crandall (1996) reported studies in which group membership cues (race and sexual orientation, respectively, in separate studies) were crossed with value violation (e.g., a lazy vs. dependable worker in the race study or a good vs. bad parental example in the sexual orientation study).

Value similarity had a strong effect on stimulus person ratings in both studies and a stronger effect than group membership characteristics (i.e., whether the stimulus person being evaluated was an in-group or out-group member from the perspective of the respondent).

When only group membership cues are available, perceivers infer that an out-group member has dissimilar beliefs, triggering a discriminatory or prejudicial response toward her or him, whether the out-group is defined by race or sexual orientation (see Stein, Hardyck, & Smith, 1965; Pilkington & Lydon, 1997). When belief similarity or dissimilarity is crossed with group membership, belief effects (i.e., preferring the individual with similar beliefs to one with dissimilar beliefs) are stronger. Race effects, however, usually remain evident in interpersonally intimate domains such as eating together, dating, and marriage. Insko et al. (1983; Cox et al., 1996) have suggested that race effects in these particular domains reflect perceived disapproval of interracial contact by reference persons such as parents and peers rather than intimacy per se.

In sum, as a perspective on prejudice, BCT anticipated the subsequent focus on the importance of values in prejudice, an idea pivotal to ambivalence approaches to prejudice that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. I now turn to ambivalence approaches to prejudice.

Ambivalence Approaches

Myrdal (1994) was perhaps first to suggest that ambivalence underlies White Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward Blacks. This idea lay fallow in U.S. psychology until the late 1970s (see Crosby, Bromley, & Saxe, 1980; Pettigrew, 1979). By thatpoint, though, it had become increasingly apparent that White Americans were less prone to strident racism asserting White superiority, Black inferiority, and racial segregation but instead inclined toward subtler expressions of racism. Although attitude surveys suggested growing racial tolerance among White Americans from the 1960s onward, the evidence was much less clear on indirect indicators (e.g., nonverbal behavior and helping behavior) that feelings of White Americans toward Blacks had truly become more tolerant.

In the last few decades, several groups of researchers concerned with prejudice, racism, and discrimination in the United States have characterized White Americans’ attitudes toward Black Americans in the latter twentieth and early twenty-first centuries as being ambivalent in nature, that is, consisting of both positive and negative elements (see Jones, 1997). They differ, however, in the nature of the positive and negative elements comprising this ambivalence and other aspects of their models. These ambivalence approaches include theories of aversive racism, symbolic and modern racism, response amplification, ambivalent sexism, and blatant versus subtle prejudice.

Aversive Racism

Dovidio and Gaertner (1986), for example, proposed a theory of aversive racism, in which they characterized the racial attitudes of most liberal, White Americans today as a subtler and less obviously bigoted view of Black Americans than the dominative racism (i.e., old-fashioned, “redneck” views of White superiority and Black inferiority) of previous generations. According to the aversive racism perspective, prejudice in the United States of the later twentieth century became a subtler, less direct, and perhaps more pernicious form than before, although dominative racism has not disappeared altogether.

Aversive racism theory suggests that on one hand, most White Americans subscribe strongly to an egalitarian value system, inclining them to sympathize with victims of injustice, such as Black Americans and other racial minorities, and to support policies promoting racial equality. This strong adherence to egalitarianism enables White Americans to regard themselves as being unprejudiced and nondiscriminatory. This positive component of the ambivalence comprising aversive racism is not assumed, however, to include genuinely pro-Black attitudes or sentiments of true friendship between Whites and Blacks in the United States.

On the other hand, owing to a historically racist culture in the United States and certain feelings of negative affect (e.g., uneasiness, disgust, fear, and discomfort, though not necessarily hostility or hate) toward Black Americans, most White Americans are assumed to avoid Black-White interracial interactions and to be biased and discriminatory toward Black Americans in situations in which they can do so without appearing to be prejudiced or in which it may be justified under a rationale preserving their erstwhile egalitarian values. Aversive racism is not assumed to be a psychopathological phenomenon but rather to reflect normal cognitive processes and the influence of sociocultural and historical processes on White Americans.

Several implications flow from aversive racism theory and the idea that aversive racists are strongly motivated and vigilant to avoid appearing racially bigoted. First, traditional prejudice measures in the form of standard attitude scales would presumably be difficult and perhaps of limited use for assessing aversive racism, according to Dovidio and Gaertner (1986). Nevertheless, based on survey research up to the 1990s, Dovidio and Gaertner (1991) estimated that perhaps a fifth of White U.S. citizens were overtly racist. The other 80% of White Americans would presumably be, to varying extent, ambivalent toward Black Americans. White Americans who espouse a political philosophy of liberalism should be especially prone to aversive racism (Biernat, Vescio, Theno, & Crandall, 1996).

As noted earlier, a second implication of aversive racism theory is that in situations where discrimination would be blatant and where the appropriate behavior is normative and well-defined, White Americans would be unlikely to discriminate against Black Americans because doing so would contradict their allegedly nonprejudiced, egalitarian ideals and self-images. However, in ambiguous situations where the discrimination is less blatant or obvious, White Americans should be more likely to be biased against Black Americans because in that case they can do so without necessarily threatening their self-images. This feature of aversive racism theory—emphasizing the normative structure of situations as a moderator variable for predicting when racially ambivalent White Americans will or will not discriminate against Black Americans—is perhaps its most unique and distinctive feature among ambivalence approaches (Biernat, Vescio, Theno, & Crandall, 1996). These predictions have been amply supported in studies of White Americans, mostly college students, by Dovidio, Gaertner, and their colleagues.

This supportive research has included studies of helping, social cognition studies measuring reaction times linking the words “white” and “black” to positive and negative stereotype characteristics, studies where pictures of Black and White individuals’ faces are presented as primes (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986), research on juridic recommendations of the death penalty in a capital case (Dovidio, Smith, Gershenfeld Donnella, & Gaertner, 1997), and personnel selection recommendations in 1989 and 1999 (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000), among others. In all of these studies, findings supported aversive racism theory and were unaffected by whether the participants had scored low or high on standard prejudice measures, though high scorers on such scales often showed greater bias toward Blacks than did low scorers.

What remains to be demonstrated by aversive racism theorists is that it is actually the conflict or tension between the positive element of egalitarianism, or one hand, and negative feelings toward Blacks, on the other, that constitutes the underlying basis of ambivalence for White Americans’attitudes and behaviors toward Blacks and is the driving force behind their discrimination of Blacks in ambiguous situations. Indeed, egalitarianism is the value that perhaps most strongly promotes tolerance and mitigates negative feelings toward Blacks by White Americans. Presenting liberal-oriented U.S. university students with an egalitarian message has been shown by Biernat, Vescio, and Theno (1996) to elicit more positive ratings of a Black stimulus person than a White one. Whether egalitarianism promotes tolerance among individuals in countries other than the United States, however, remains to be seen. With White participants from Portugal and Brazil, Vala and Lima (2001) found that activating an egalitarian norm affected perceptions and evaluations of a White but not a Black stimulus person.

Although aversive racism theory has an excellent track record in predicting a variety of cognitions and behaviors in the social psychological laboratory, documenting the precise nature of White Americans’ ambivalence toward Blacks remains a task to be completed. Using recently developed automatic processing techniques (described later) to assess nonconscious feelings of antipathy toward Blacks (or other oppressed group members) in conjunction with standard value measures to assess egalitarianism and other potentially race-relevant values may provide some useful leverage for assessing aversive racism in White participants and for testing the theory directly.

Symbolic and Modern Racism

Closely related to aversive racism theory are the constructs of symbolic and modern racism that have been suggested by several researchers, such as McConahay (1986) and Sears (1988; Sears & Funk, 1991). The symbolic and modern racism constructs originated because standard prejudice scales of the 1950s and 1960s became increasingly problematic for U.S. survey researchers in the 1960s and 1970s, owing to social desirability issues (i.e., the transparency of what they were measuring) and because they failed to predict racially relevant political behavior, such as voting intentions for capable Black candidates in elections where candidates of both races were running and racism likely played a role in the outcome (see Kinder & Sears, 1981).

What did predict voting and support for progressive racial policies were attitude items reflecting an abstract, moral tone that Black Americans were violating cherished White American values such as individualism and the Protestant ethic extolling the virtues of individual effort and hard work—qualities White Americans often felt were lacking among Black Americans. Ambivalence, then, arises because many White Americans want to maintain a nonprejudiced image even though they privately resent and dislike Blacks and feel the racial discrimination toward Blacks in the United States no longer exists. In protecting themselves from the appearance of being prejudiced, symbolic or modern racists justify their negative attitudes and behaviors toward Blacks by invoking nonprejudiced explanations in the form of American values or ideals. A symbolic or modern racist, for example, might justify opposition to affirmative action programs benefiting Blacks by saying that they violate the value of equality by favoring one group over others.

The constructs of symbolic and modern racism are similar to aversive racism. In both cases, the ambivalence arises from negative feelings toward Black people versus core American values. In both cases, White Americans dislike and avoid racial prejudice but seek indirect ways to manifest their negative feelings toward Black Americans. All three racism constructs are interested in predicting interpersonal behavior, with symbolic and modern racism being used mainly to predict political attitudes and behavior, typically in surveys. Symbolic and modern racism are assumed to emerge from early political socialization and not to be based on personal experience, personal competition, or direct, personal, economic threats to Whites from Blacks. Unlike aversive racism, however, items and scales to assess symbolic and modern racism have been constructed by their adherents and have proven very popular in survey and experimental research on prejudice by psychologists in the late twentieth century.

McConahay (1986), for example, presented a Modern Racism Scale (MRS) and an Old-Fashioned Racism Scale (OFRS), with moderate, positive correlations between the two, and items loading on one or the other factor in exploratory factor analyses. Whereas the OFRS was reactive (i.e., White U.S. respondents’ scores were lower when it was administered by a Black experimenter than by a White one), the MRS was nonreactive (at least in the 1980s). Items from symbolic or modern racism scales became the standard measure of prejudice toward Blacks in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s and are still frequently used in this regard. In the twenty-first century, newer scales such as the Blatant and Subtle Prejudice Scales (Pettigrew & Meertens, 1995) or the Social Dominance Orientation Scale (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994), both of which are discussed later, are perhaps more apt to become the preferred, “paper-andpencil” measures of prejudice.

Sniderman and Tetlock (1986), themselves prominent political psychologists, have strongly criticized the constructs and measurement of symbolic and modern racism. Among other things, they criticized symbolic and modern racism for being unclear as to the causal relation between anti-Black affect and core American values, for equating political policy pBibliography: (e.g., opposition to busing school children or affirmative action) with racism itself, and for suggesting that old-fashioned racism no longer existed in the United States. Sniderman and Tetlock even contended that symbolic racism theory was unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific. The MRS, they also charged, was confounded with political conservatism. Sniderman and his colleagues showed that political conservatism related not to rejection and prejudice toward out-group members but rather to greater support for those, whether from the in-group or out-group, who behaved in a manner consistent with politically conservative principles (e.g., Sniderman, Piazza, Tetlock, & Kendrick, 1991).

Although proponents of symbolic and modern racism have not thoroughly explored the presumed link to values, Biernat, Vescio, and Theno (1996) did so in a series of studies. For example, after completing Rokeach’s Value Survey, White U.S. undergraduates were asked to rate the extent to which four target groups, including BlackAmericans, supported or violated their values. Whether considering their top value or their hierarchy of values, Black Americans were perceived as less supportive of their values than were White Americans; however,therewasnodifferenceinperceivedviolationofvalues for these two target groups. Likewise, differences in ratings of White versus Black support and violation of values correlated with measures of modern racism as well as pro- and anti-Black attitudes, although these correlations were consistently modest in magnitude. Consistent with theories of symbolic and modern racism, Biernat et al. showed that White individuals who scored high on the Protestant work ethic and had their values made salient rated a Black employee less positively than a White employee when they violated the work ethic.

Thus, Biernat, Vescio, and Theno’s (1996) research partially supported models of symbolic and modern racism. However, if violating core American values is indeed one of the two key components of symbolic and modern racism, one would expect to find much stronger relationships than they did. Biernat et al. also questioned the assumption that modernsymbolic racism is a blending of negative affect toward Blacks and core American values, such as individualism. Their analyses suggested that egalitarianism is a stronger predictor than individualism of intergroup attitudes and that combining negative affect with value measures added little beyond the separate components in predicting responses to an out-group member in their studies of race and sexual orientation.

In the ambivalence approach presented next the focus shifts to conflict between pro- and anti-Black attitudes linked to values as the determinant of positive and negative reactions to Blacks by White Americans.

Ambivalence Amplification

Katz and Hass (1988) contended that most White Americans hold both positive and negative attitudes about Black Americans that are relatively independent of one another. A White American who endorses positive statements about Blacks on a “Pro-Black scale” is neither more nor less likely to agree with anti-Black statements from a separate “AntiBlack scale.” Moreover, for White American respondents, these racial beliefs relate to different and conflicting value systems. Pro-Black attitudes (e.g., beliefs that Blacks have a disadvantaged position in society) are linked to humanitarian-egalitarian values. By contrast, anti-Black attitudes (e.g., beliefs that Black people lack the drive or skills necessary to improve their socioeconomic position) related to White respondents’ beliefs in individualism and the Protestant ethic.

Katz and his colleagues proposed that when these conflicting beliefs are salient to a White person holding them and who also becomes aware of the ambivalence, he or she experiences negative arousal and is motivated to reduce this tension. Indeed, Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, and Moore (1992) have demonstrated that White American participants experienced negative mood change when their racial ambivalence toward Black people was stimulated by reading a vivid description of an ugly racial incident in which gangs of young Whites in New York City viciously beat some Black Americans whose car had broken down in their neighborhood. This discomfort can be reduced, according to these theorists, by intensifying either the positive or negative component of the conflicted attitude toward Blacks—an idea defining response amplification theory.

Response amplification theory suggests that for ambivalent White Americans attitudes and behavior will be more polarized or amplified toward Black Americans than toward fellow White Americans. Experimental evidence for response amplification theory, as applied to Black Americans and other socially stigmatized groups such as the handicapped, was presented by Katz and Glass (1979). For example, White U.S. undergraduates who had been led to believe that they had delivered a series of strong shocks to a victim derogated a Black victim more than a White victim, and this derogation was a function of the extent of ambivalence as reflected by measures of prejudice and sympathy toward Blacks. Whether racial ambivalence potentiates positive or negative responses depends on the situational context and the ambivalent person’s behavioral options.

Ambivalent Sexism

Sexism, like racism, reflects ambivalence. Glick and Fiske (1996) viewed sexism as a multidimensional construct involving ambivalence. They proposed that ambivalent sexism comprises two positively correlated components: hostile sexism (HS) and benevolent sexism (BS). The former consists of hostility, negative attitudes, and negative stereotypes of women. By contrast, BS is a set of interrelated sexist attitudes that portray women stereotypically and in restricted roles but that are subjectively positive in affective tone from the perceiver’s viewpoint and elicit prosocial behaviors (e.g., helping) or intimacy seeking (e.g., self-disclosure). Benevolent sexism reflects a positive attitude toward women and positive stereotypes about women, although Glick and Fiske do not view it as a good thing. Although both HS and BS were originally postulated to include three underlying components, this conjecture was supported only for BS, while HS was found to be a unidimensional construct.

Both HS and BS relate, as one would expect, to other measures of modern sexism (Swim, Aikin, Hall, & Hunter, 1995) and neo-sexism (Tougas, Brown, Beaton, & Joly, 1995). Benevolent sexism, however, relates to subtler forms of sexism than HS, masked as it is in a veil of positive sentiment toward women. Glick and Fiske (1996) suggested that among women, BS reflects a tendency to adopt as one’s own the prevalent forms of sexist prejudice in U.S. society. They also suggested that while modern- and neo-sexism measures excel in predicting gender-related political attitudes, HS and BS scales together (comprising the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, or ASI) would be better at predicting attitudes and behavior in the realm of interpersonal and romantic relationships between women and men. As well, sexist ambivalence—the combination of scoring high on both BS and HS—is believed to polarize attitudes and behaviors toward women, in a process like that proposed by Katz, Haas, and their colleagues for amplified responses toward Black Americans and the physically handicapped as induced by ambivalence.

Blatant and Subtle Prejudice

The preceding ambivalence approaches differ in whether they assume that old-fashioned prejudice still exists or whether it is seen to be as potent as its modern or symbolic variants. For example, advocates of symbolic and modern racism suggest that it is the more dominant form of prejudice today. Other ambivalence approaches assume that both forms are prevalent and require assessment by researchers interested in prejudice. For example, Pettigrew and Meertens (1995) postulated the existence of both blatant and subtle prejudice toward out-groups today. They characterized blatant prejudice (the traditional form) as “hot, close, and direct” and suggested that it consisted of two components: (a) perceived threat and rejection of the out-group and (b) avoidance of intimacy (especially sex and marriage). By contrast, subtle prejudice (the modern variant) is “cool, distant, and indirect” and includes three components: (a) defense of traditional values, (b) exaggeration of cultural differences, and (c) denial of positive emotional responses toward out-groups.

Pettigrew and Meertens (1995) created separate multi-item scales for blatant and subtle prejudice toward immigrants and administered them to survey respondents from four European countries with regard to several different target groups. Across countries, confirmatory factor analyses suggested that two-factor models surpassed a one-factor model, butthatacorrelatedtwo-factormodelandahierarchicalmodel in which blatant and subtle prejudice were first-order factors subsumed under a general second-order factor were equally viable models to account for the pattern of scale scores.

An advantage of using both subtle and blatant prejudice scales is that a threefold typology emerged that yielded different patterns of responses to immigrants in Pettigrew and Meertens’s (1995) research. Respondents who scored low on both blatant and subtle prejudice scales were called “equalitarians,” a group who were most in favor of maintaining and enhancing immigrants’ rights in their countries and who presumably have internalized most strongly contemporary norms of tolerance in their societies. Respondents scoring high on both scales comprised “bigots,” who were most in favor of returning immigrants to their home countries and restricting immigrants’ rights and were assumed to have rejected current norms against blatant prejudice. “Subtles” were respondents scoring low on blatant prejudice but high on subtle prejudice and were assumed to have only partially and incompletely internalized norms against blatant prejudice. On immigration issues, “subtles” adopted a middling, nonprejudicial stance between bigots and equalitarians and required justification for restricting immigrants’ rights. The “subtles” category, of course, is the analogue to symbolic, modern, and aversive racism in that these people strive to appear nonprejudiced and are assumed to express their biases against immigrants in ways that do not violate current norms against blatant prejudice.

Automatic and Controlled Processing

The Dissociation Model

As noted earlier in discussing ambivalence approaches to prejudice, some prejudice researchers (e.g., Crosby et al., 1980; Dovidio & Gaertner, 1986) have suggested that most White Americans are prejudiced toward Black people and that subtle behaviors that individuals can less readily monitor and censor (e.g., helping, nonverbal behavior, reaction times to briefly presented stimuli) are better gauges of White Americans’true racial attitudes. In an influential contribution to the prejudice literature, Devine (1989) strongly challenged and countered this view. She claimed that it implied that prejudiced beliefs and attitudes were unamenable to change, as well as that prejudice is an inevitable, unavoidable product of normal cognitive processes.

As an alternative, Devine (1989) proposed a dissociation model that emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between automatic versus controlled cognitive processing and the differentiation of stereotype activation versus personal beliefs. The automatic versus controlled processing distinction emerged in cognitive psychology during the 1970s and subsequently has become an increasingly important construct in social and personality psychology (see Bargh, 1989). Automatic processing refers to unintentional, nonconscious cognitive processing that occurs without effort or intention and is unlimited by cognitive capacity. By contrast, controlled cognitive processing refers to intentional, effortful, and goal-directed processing of information that is assumed to be under the person’s awareness and control but subject to limitation by cognitive capacity (e.g., attentional limits). Applying this distinction to the relationship between stereotyping and prejudice, Devine (1989) suggested that stereotype activation was an automatic process that did not require intention, attention, or cognitive capacity on the part of a perceiver. Instead, whenever an appropriate cue is present, such as the appearance of a Black person or a symbolic representation of one, a White U.S. perceiver’s stereotype of Black people should be activated automatically.

Devine (1989) proposed that common socialization experiences in late-20th-century America have led White people in the U.S. to become equally knowledgeable about the prevalent and generally negative stereotype of Black people, regardless of their personal levels of prejudice. As a consequence of this common knowledge, her dissociation model predicted that automatic activation of the stereotype would be equally strong and unavoidable for White U.S. perceivers, regardless of the extent of their personal prejudice toward Blacks.

Prejudiced and nonprejudiced White persons, however, were expected in the dissociation model to differ in their personal beliefs concerning Black people, and this difference in personal beliefs regarding Blacks should be manifested on cognitive tasks involving deliberate, controlled cognitive processing. Specifically, on such a task, nonprejudiced White persons should inhibit and override their negative cultural stereotype of Blacks because it conflicts with their egalitarian values and their personal beliefs and to replace the pejorative, Black stereotype with more positive perceptions and attributions of Black persons. On this latter point, Devine’s (1989) analysis of nonprejudiced perceivers agrees with aversive racism and modern-symbolic racism theories in positing a conflict between core American values, on one hand, and a desire to avoid appearing prejudiced, on the other.

For prejudiced White persons, on the other hand, the cultural stereotype of Blacks and their personal beliefs about them are congruent with one another. Because they do not conflict, there would be little need for them to censor their negative personal beliefs concerning Black people. Thus, according to the dissociation model, White persons varying in prejudice toward Black people should differ on cognitive tasks involving controlled processing but not on tasks involving automatic processing.

Devine (1989) supported her dissociation model with three studies, in which the MRS served as the measure used to define high versus low levels of prejudice in White participants. One study demonstrated that on an open-ended measure, both high- and low-prejudice White participants listed very similar characteristics, and predominantly negative ones, when asked to describe the cultural stereotype of Black people—an effect since replicated by other investigators in the United States and the United Kingdom (e.g., Lepore & Brown, 1997). Another study deployed a controlled processing task by giving participants ample time to list alternative labels for “Black Americans” and then asking them to list all of their thoughts in response to this label. Thoughts on this listing task were categorized by judges as being positive beliefs, negative beliefs, or traits. Highly prejudiced White participants listed negative traits most often, while less prejudiced ones were more likely to list thoughts reflecting positive beliefs—uncontroverisal and unsurprising results.

In what has since become a more controversial study, however, Devine (1989) also compared reactions of White persons varying in prejudice on an automatic processing task in which participants were subliminally presented with word primes parafoveally (i.e., outside the central visual field) while performing a perceptual vigilance task. Word primes were related to the Black stereotype either 20% or 80% of the time and included reference both to the category Blacks and to stereotypic traits for Black Americans (e.g., lazy, poor, oppressed, etc.). Following this automatic processing task in which participants had been primed to varying extent with racially relevant stimuli, they read an ambiguous story about a male person of unspecified race performing various assertive behaviors and then rendered their impressions of him. As predicted by the dissociation model, impressions of the stimulus person were affected by the automatic processing task in that attributions of hostility were more likely when primes from the preceding automatic processing task had been proportionally more stereotypically oriented (i.e., in the 80% condition instead of the 20% one), with no difference as a function of the participants’ level of prejudice.

From the preceding research, Devine (1989) concluded that controlled processing rather than automatic processing differentiates the highly prejudiced from their less prejudiced White counterparts. Moreover, White people with egalitarian ideals employ controlled processing to try to behave and think in an unprejudiced manner toward Black people. Both high- and low-prejudiced White Americans have the same stereotypic knowledge of Black people and are presumably both susceptible to having this stereotypic knowledge that is presumably elicited automatically beneath their awareness. However, stereotypic and prejudicial responses can be overridden by intentional and flexible controlled processing.

Deciding to be unprejudiced is, according to the dissociation model, a conscious, intentional act of controlled processing. Inhibiting and overriding stereotypic and prejudicial responses elicited by automatic activation processes and replacing them with more appropriate and positive beliefs toward Blacks and other minorities held by individuals seeking to be unprejudiced is akin, Devine has argued, to their “breaking a bad habit.” That is, the White person trying to be unprejudiced toward Black people must consciously and deliberately decide to forego prejudicial beliefs and actions (the bad, old habit) and to replace them with new attitudes and behaviors consistent with an egalitarian outlook (the new, good habit). In essence, Devine’s (1989) dissociation model suggests that for those seeking to be (or actually being) unprejudiced, automatic and controlled processes must become dissociated from one another, with the good habit of tolerance strengthened at the expense of the bad habit of prejudice.

Monteith (1993; Monteith, Devine, & Zuwerink, 1993; Monteith & Walters, 1998) and her colleagues (Devine & Monteith, 1999; Devine, Monteith, Zuwerink, & Elliot, 1991) have explored in depth the self-regulatory processes by which low-prejudice White Americans (i.e., those who score low on prejudice measures, such as the MRS) inhibit prejudiced responses and maintain egalitarian standards. First, low-prejudice Whites do indeed have personal beliefs and standards against expressing prejudice toward oppressed groups, such as Black people and homosexuals, but many of the former also acknowledge responding from time to time in ways that are more prejudiced than their personal beliefs would warrant. Second, when they do find themselves exhibiting a biased response toward an oppressed group member (i.e., what Monteith and her colleagues term a prejudice-related discrepancy), low-prejudice White Americans experience emotional responses in the form of guilt and negative, self-directed affect as well as increased self-focus and self-attention, and they subsequently monitor their behavior more carefully to ensure that it conforms more closely to their personal beliefs.

Critique of the Dissociation Model

The dissociation model’s contention that prejudiced and unprejudiced perceivers would be equally responsive to priming by an automatic processing task has, however, been recently criticized and questioned by several investigators. Lepore and Brown (1997), for example, criticized Devine’s (1989) automatic processing study for including both categorical cues referring to Blacks as a social group and stereotypic traits of Black people among the subliminal primes. As an alternative to the dissociation model, Lepore and Brown argued that the link between the category and the stereotypic features relating to Blacks differentiates White perceivers varying in prejudice, with the link being much stronger and more chronically accessible for highly prejudiced White persons than for less prejudiced ones. If only categorical cues referring to Blacks as a group comprise the subliminal primes on an automatic processing task, one should observe highly prejudiced White persons subsequently forming more negative impressions than less prejudiced ones—a result that Lepore and Brown (1997, Study 2), in fact, have obtained.

By contrast, subliminal cues that include stereotypic attributes along with the categorical label also prime the stereotypic knowledge of both high- and low-prejudice White perceivers, which has been shown to be highly similar. Thus, subliminal cues containing both category Bibliography: and stereotypic attributes on an automatic processing task would not be expected to reveal differences between White persons varying in prejudice, a prediction that Lepore and Brown (1997, Study 3) also supported in a conceptual replication of Devine’s (1989) automatic processing study. Null hypothesis predictions have been rife on the issue of automatic processing effects on impression formation as a function of the White participants’ prejudice toward Blacks. Predicting the null hypothesis, however, is problematic because tests of such hypotheses often lack sufficient statistical power (see Cohen, 1992).

Kawakami, Dion, and Dovidio (1998) further reinforced Lepore and Brown’s conceptual analysis in two ways. They found that high-prejudice White persons were more responsive to primes on a single task where automatic and controlled processing could both be experimentally manipulated by varying stimulus onset asynchrony (i.e., the difference in time between presentation of the prime and a subsequent, tobe-responded-to stimulus). Second, individual differences in stereotype attribution as assessed by a separate measure correlated with stereotypic activation on the experimental task when it allowed automatic processing.

With regard to Devine’s automatic processing findings, Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, and Williams (1995) have suggested that the MRS has become a reactive and insensitive measure of racial prejudice. Consistent with this point, they showed that the levels of modern racism in White American participants failed to moderate priming effects on a procedure (described later) that was designed to elicit automatic activation of racial attitudes.

Taken together, the preceding critiques of the dissociation model have important implications for prejudice and its reduction. According to Lepore and Brown’s (1997) alternative perspective, low-prejudice White persons have never established the bad habit of prejudice toward Black people in the first place or established it much less firmly than their highly prejudiced White counterparts. For low-prejudice White persons, the link between the social category, Blacks, and the culturally stereotypic information about them is already weak and tenuous. Rather than unlearning a bad habit, those interested in reducing prejudice in White people presumably need to focus on the highly prejudiced Whites and on weakening the associative strength of the links between the category of Blacks as a social group and negative stereotypic information and content about them.

Automatic Activation as Prejudice Measures

Automatic activation techniques are a means of unobtrusively measuring racial and other intergroup attitudes and an alternative to traditional attitude scales, which are often compromised by social desirability and transparency regarding the goal of assessing prejudice. Even the MRS has recently been shown to be sensitive to social desirability, yielding lower scores from White participants when administered by a Black experimenter than by aWhite one (Fazio et al., 1995, Study 3). From their findings in several studies, Fazio et al. (1995) have styled the MRS as a measure of White Americans’ “willingness to express” negative feelings or opinions about Blacks, one that also confounds racism with political conservatism. Other researchers have noted that correlations between old-fashioned and modern and symbolic racism are higher than would be expected if these were truly two separate constructs rather than different aspects of a single construct (see Dovidio et al., 1997; Swim et al., 1995).

As an alternative, Fazio et al. (1995) proposed a priming paradigm using automatic activation of attitudes from memory as an unobtrusive measure of racial attitudes that is demonstrably superior to the MRS. The priming procedure consists of multiple trials on a computer in which the prime consists of a symbolic representation of the attitude object, such as digitized photos of stimulus persons from one or more racial groups. Immediately following the prime, a target in the form of a positive or negative evaluative adjective is displayed, and the participant is required to indicate its connotation as either good or bad by pressing different computer keys. When the prime and target are evaluatively congruent for the participant, responding should be facilitated as manifested in a faster, more efficient reaction time. By contrast, when prime and target are evaluatively incongruent with one another from the viewpoint of the participant, responding should be slowed, as reflected by a longer reaction time.

Using this priming procedure, Fazio et al. (1995) showed in several studies that White U.S. university students showed greater facilitation when negative adjectives were preceded by photos of Black people. By contrast, a small sample of Black participants showed response facilitation on the priming task when photos of Blacks preceded positive adjectives and when White photos were preceded by negative adjectives. Moreover, scores on this unobtrusive measure of racial attitudes had predictive validity for a Black experimenter’s ratings of the participant’s friendliness and interest when interacting with her, to which MRS scores were unrelated.

Along similar lines, Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwartz (1998) suggested the Implicit Association Test (IAT) as a related procedure for assessing implicit attitudes, defined as behaviors, feelings, or thoughts elicited outside the participant’s awareness by automatically activated evaluation procedures (see Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). The IAT consists of a series of five discrimination tasks, conducted on computer, in which the participants differentiate between two categories of stimuli by responding as quickly as possible on different computer keys.

If one were assessing White attitudes toward Black people with the IAT, the first task would be an initial target-concept discrimination in which they might be asked to differentiate between White and Black American first names by pressing different keys on the computer. The second task is an associated attribute discrimination in which the participant differentiates pleasant from unpleasant words. The third step is the initial combined task in which the two prior tasks are now superimposed or mapped onto one another, such as using one key for individual stimuli that are either White or pleasant and another key for stimuli that are either Black or unpleasant. In the fourth step, the response keys from the first task are reversed. The fifth and final step, the reverse combined task, reverses the response key contingencies from the third step (e.g., one key for stimuli that are either White or unpleasant or either Black or pleasant. The difference in speed of responding to the two combined tasks on the IAT provides the measure of implicit attitudes. Following the earlier example, a latency shorter for the first combined task than for the reverse combined task would suggest a less positive or more negative implicit attitude toward Blacks by a White participant.

Using the IAT, Greenwald and Banaji (1998) found evidence that it may reveal the existence of prejudice that is not evident on paper-and-pencil attitude measures such as the semantic differential scale. Whereas a majority of a sample of White American participants in one study indicated no Black-White difference or even a pro-Black preference on paper-and-pencil ratings, all but one had IAT scores indicating a White preference, presumably a nonconscious one. Greenwald and his colleagues have also found modest positive correlations between IAT scores and some “explicit” attitude measures such as the feeling thermometer (in which social groups are rated on a 100-point thermometer scale) and a diversity index but not others, especially semantic differential scales. IAT scores, they suggested, do not merely reflect greater familiarity with one’s in-group (e.g., naming practices, facial stimuli) compared to an out-group. The IAT procedure, they also proposed, yields stronger effect sizes and is therefore more sensitive than the priming procedure devised by Fazio et al. (1995) and by other investigators.

One would not necessarily expect implicit and explicit measures of racial attitudes to correlate highly with one another. Demonstrating this point, Dovidio, Kawakami, Johnson, Johnson, and Howard (1997) showed that the predictive validity of implicit (i.e., elicited by automatic processing techniques, such as priming or the IAT) and explicit measures of racial attitudes (i.e., elicited by self-report measures such as scales of modern and old-fashioned racism) of White participants toward Black people diverges in a predictable manner. Specifically, implicit prejudice measures predicted spontaneous cognitions and behaviors that are not easily monitored but reflect automatic processing, such as performance on a word-completion task in which answers may be racially tinged or nonverbal behavior such as eye blinking or direct gaze when interacting with a Black person. By contrast, explicit prejudice measures possessed predictive validity for deliberative thoughts and actions that reflect controlled processing, such as judgments of a Black defendant’s guilt in a juridic decision-making task and evaluations.

Fazio et al. (1995) had previously obtained a similar pattern of findings. Their unobtrusive priming measure of prejudice in Whites had predictive validity for rated quality of interaction with a Black experimenter, whereas explicit measures predicted deliberative acts such as attractiveness ratings of photos and evaluations of the fairness of the Rodney King verdict (in which White police officers in Los Angeles were exonerated from charges of using excessive force with a Black defendant). Both explicit and implicit measures predicted attributions of responsibility for the causes of rioting following the Rodney King verdict. Thus, implicit attitude measures add an important, new, and separate dimension to the conceptual and methodological toolbox that psychologists have to assess prejudice.

To summarize, both automatic and controlled cognitive processing play an important role in the social psychology of bigotry. Racial stimuli presented below or just above the threshold of awareness operate as primes that influence thinking and behavior by White persons toward members of a stereotyped group such as Blacks. If the racial prime includes only reference to the social category, automatic activation will activate stronger stereotypes among the more highly prejudiced Whites than among the less prejudiced. If the racial prime includes both categorical reference as well as stereotypic trait information, differences on dependent measures (e.g., impression formation) between participants differing in levels of prejudice by Whites will usually no longer be apparent.

An important development for automatic processing techniques has been their utilization for assessing prejudice, avoiding problems with standard attitude measures of prejudice such as social desirability, and deliberately masking one’s negative feelings toward specific groups. These techniques, such as the priming methodology as well as the IAT, will undoubtedly be increasingly utilized to assess individuals’ nonconscious prejudices, with the resulting measures being especially helpful in predicting behaviors and cognitions toward out-group members that an individual cannot easily monitor and censor.

Integrative Approaches

The rubric of integrative approaches includes perspectives on prejudice that include the insights of multiple theoretical viewpoints concerning the psychology of bigotry that their advocates have organized into a single, coherent, explanatory framework. By incorporating multiple perspectives, each integrative approach becomes a broad, comprehensive explanation of prejudice. Social dominance theory, integrated threat theory, and a multicomponent approach to intergroup attitudes exemplify integrative approaches to prejudice.

Social Dominance Theory

Social dominance theory (SDT) assumes that societies are structured as group-based social hierarchies, with one or a small number of dominant or hegemonic groups at the top of the social structure and at least one subordinate group below them (Sidanius, Levin, Rabinowitz, & Federico, 1999; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). In general, dominant group members disproportionately enjoy society’s goods and benefits (i.e., wealth, status, and power), whereas subordinate group members suffer a disproportionate share of society’s miseries and inequities (i.e., poverty, low prestige, and relative powerlessness).

In group-based social hierarchies, individual’s stations in life are determined largely by their membership in socially constructed groups defined by race, gender, age, religion, social class, and so on. Group-based hierarchies are assumed to be highly stable, often reflecting consensus as to which groups are dominant and subordinate, respectively. For example, perceived social standing of U.S. ethnic groups in 1964 and later in 1989 correlated almost perfectly across the quarter century (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). SDT defines three types of social stratification systems: an age system where adults and older individuals command more resources and power than the younger, a gender system in which men possess greater status and power than women, and an arbitrary set system in which socially constructed, arbitrarily defined categories (e.g., races, occupations, social classes, nationalities) enjoy disproportionately more status and power over other socially constructed categories. SDT concentrates especially on gender and arbitrary set systems of group-based hierarchy.

Whereas age and gender systems of group hierarchy are assumed by SDT to be universal across human societies, arbitrary set hierarchies differ in several regards. First, they display more definitional fluidity across time period and countries. Sidanius and Pratto (1999), the principal architects of SDT, claimed that arbitrary set hierarchies emerge only in societies that produce an economic surplus. Arbitrary set hierarchies tend to be dynastic with social status passing on to one’s children. Finally, arbitrary set hierarchies are presumably maintained more by terror, violence, and brutality than by age- and gender-based hierarchies.

Three basic assumptions of SDT are as follows: (a) Most intergroup conflict and oppression reflect a predisposition toward forming group-based social hierarchy; (b) social systems are prone to hierarchy-enhancing (HE) forces pushing toward greater inequality, and opposing effects of hierarchy-attenuating (HA) forces toward greater equality; and (c) conflict between HE and HA forces produces relatively stable social systems.

From these assumptions SDT concerns itself with the mechanisms that contribute to group-based social hierarchy and with how hierarchies affect these mechanisms. Behavioral asymmetry is one mechanism. The notion of behavioral asymmetry is that the behavioral repertoires of dominant and subordinate group members differ and that these differences contribute to the hierarchical relationships among these groups. Four types of behavioral asymmetries are asymmetrical in-group bias, systematic out-group favoritism or deference, self-debilitating behavior, and ideological asymmetry.

Regarding in-group bias (i.e., favoring one’s own group over other groups), dominants show more than do subordinates. This asymmetrical in-group bias reinforces the hegemonic group’s dominance over the subordinate group. By contrast, deference, or out-group favoritism, is more apt to be shown by members of the subordinate group, again reinforcing the dominant group’s hegemony. Self-debilitation occurs when subordinate group members engage in more selfdefeating and self-destructive behavior, such as criminal activity or drugs, than do dominant group members. Ideological asymmetry refers to the idea the antiegalitarian values lead one to endorse policies and ideologies promoting groupbased inequality, such as support for the death penalty in the United States, which dominant group members endorse more strongly than do subordinate group members.

The degree of group-based social inequality is also influenced by support for various legitimizing myths (LMs). These are ideologies that provide moral or intellectual justifications for group-based social hierarchies within all three hierarchical systems (age, gender, or arbitrary set). SDT defines two types of LMs based on whether they facilitate social inequality and are HE or facilitate social equality and are HA. Racism, sexism, and ageism exemplify HE-LMs, while feminism, socialism, and universalism are HA-LM examples.

The psychological aspect of SDT is the construct of social dominance orientation (SDO) as assessed by an eponymous scale. SDO is a personality dimension defined as an attitude toward intergroup relations reflecting antiegalitarianism and intolerance, at one end, to support for group-based hierarchy and the domination of inferior groups by superior groups, at the opposite end. A high score on the SDO scale reflects a willingness to accept inequalities between and among groups in society. Items in the SDO scale refer to groups in the abstract and thus tap the respondent’s acceptance of intergroup inequalities for whatever group distinctions are salient to the respondent in a given sociopolitical or national context.

SDO scale scores have been shown to relate to many political attitudes (e.g., political conservatism, nationalism, patriotism), legitimizing ideologies (e.g., racism, sexism, belief in fate), social attributions (e.g., internal vs. external attributions for the fate of the poor), HE/HA career choices (e.g., police officers vs. teachers), and group evaluations (see Sidanius et al., 1999; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). In Saucier’s (2000, p. 378) study of the structure of social attitudes, SDO loaded with Machiavellianism on a dimension defined as “favoring whatever is immediately beneficial to me and mine, disregarding wider concerns of fairness or morality,” which was separate from the factor on which authoritarianism loaded on.

Focusing on prejudice specifically, Whitley (1999) has shown that (a) SDO predicted most forms of prejudice toward BlackAmericans and homosexuals in a sample of White, heterosexual U.S. university students and (b) SDO also mediated gender differences in those prejudices in that sample.According to Sidanius, Pratto, and their colleagues, SDO also shows discriminant validity in being relatively independent of other constructs such as conservatism, interpersonal dominance, and right-wing authoritarianism, although Altemeyer (1996) reported a moderate, positive correlation between RWA and SDO. Consistent with the notion that attitudes toward group hierarchy reflected in the SDO scale are culturally universal, Pratto et al. (2000) showed that with proper translation and back translation, SDO can be reliably measured crossculturally, and its scores related in theoretically predicted ways to sexism, prejudice toward oppressed groups by majority group members, and related attitudes (e.g., support for the military) for samples of respondents in several countries outside North America, including Israel, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China (Shanghai), as well as Canada.

Advocates of SDT have suggested that the SDO construct can account for the relationships between conservatism and racism and between conservatism and antimiscegenation (i.e., a disdain for interracial marriages) in terms of their mutual dependence on SDO (see Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Advocates of SDT also believe that individual differences in SDO are determined by four factors: group status, gender, socialization, and temperament. First, the greater the social status of one’s in-group in a given society, the higher is one’s level of SDO. In the United States, for example, White Americans outscore Black Americans in SDO. In Israel, Ashkenazi (European ancestry) Jews have higher SDOs than Sephardic (NorthAfrican or Middle Eastern ancestry) Jews. Second, the single most reliable finding of SDT research is that with a few exceptions in cultures outside North America (see Pratto et al., 2000), males outscore females on SDO. Socialization experiences, such as education, are also assumed to affect SDO, with higher educational levels relating inversely to SDO. Finally, higher SDO scores correlate with lower empathy levels and greater aggressivity—temperamental features that are presumably heritable and that promote out-group prejudice.

Advocates of SDT view it as a theoretical perspective linking the individual and the social structure together in the explanation of prejudice, and one that provides a comprehensive explanation for the oppression of subordinate groups by dominant ones in human societies around the world. As such, its advocates claim that SDT complements and integrates theories of prejudice focusing on the individual, such as the right-wing authoritarianism theory (see Altemeyer, 1996; Whitley, 1999), and those focusing on the role of social structure and elites, such as Marxism, as well as providing a theoretical bridge between these micro and macro levels of analysis.

Proponents of SDT have also noted some differences between their perspective and other theories of prejudice and racism. Sidanius et al. (1999) suggested that symbolic racism is limited to focusing on racism toward Black Americans in one historical and cultural context (viz., the United States in the late 20th century), whereas SDT claims a much wider historical and cross-cultural focus as well as a broader sweep regarding oppressed groups around the world to which it presumably applies. In fact, however, some evidence suggests that U.S.-derived measures of prejudice, especially blatant and subtle prejudice, work as well in Europe as they do in the United States (Pettigrew et al., 1998). Similarly, while symbolic and modern racism theories focus on values such as individualism and the Protestant ethic, SDT instead emphasizes antiegalitarianism as crucial to prejudice.

Its proponents also suggest that SDT complements intergroup theories, such as social identity theory (SIT), by taking into account the attitudes and behaviors of subordinate group members as well as those from the dominant group, focusing on out-group derogation as well as in-group favoritism, and differentiating status and power in intergroup relations. Indeed, researchers have profitably used both SDT and SIT (e.g., Levin & Sidanius, 1999; Levin, Sidanius, Rabinowitz, & Federico, 1998) to yield insights into intergroup processes, such as the relationship between in-group identification and SDO in high-status versus low-status groups in a society. Clearly, SDT is presently one of the most prominent and promising contemporary theories of prejudice, and the SDO measure is apt to become a scale of choice among those who wish to use an explicit prejudice measure instead of, or along with, implicit prejudice measures.

Integrated Threat Theory

Without claiming to incorporate all possible causes of prejudice, Walter Stephan, Cookie Stephan, and their colleagues have nevertheless proposed that threat is certainly one major class of its causes and arguably its principal one. Their integrated threat theory (ITT) identifies and combines four major types of threat that they and other investigators have previously documented as relevant to understanding and predicting prejudice: (a) realistic threats, (b) symbolic threats, (c) intergroup anxiety, and (d) stereotyping (e.g., Stephan & Stephan, 1996; Stephan, Ybarra, & Bachman, 1999). Although other theories and investigators have emphasized one or another of these threats, the Stephans and their associates provide a distinctive twist or interpretation of each threat in the overall context of ITT.

Realistic threats include any perceived threats from another group to the welfare, well-being, or survival of one’s ingroup and its members. Symbolic threats are perceived group differences in beliefs, values, or norms that may threaten the in-group’s way of life. Unlike symbolic racism, ITT’s symbolic threats apply to a wider array of groups, both dominant and subordinate, and to value differences in general, rather than those typifying only U.S. society, such as the Protestant ethic. The intergroup anxiety construct derives from prior research by Stephan and Stephan (1985), referring to the negative emotions occurring when one interacts with members of another group, especially an antagonistic or competitive outgroup. Beliefs about the characteristics of groups and the traits of group members (i.e., stereotypes) constitute yet another threat by creating expectancies about the type of interactions thatcanbeanticipatedwithout-groupmembers,withnegative expectancies reflecting prejudice. Finally, in addition to the four types of threat, ITT also assumes that the history and nature of prior contact between groups (e.g., negative, positive, or mixed) and the status of groups relative to one another also needs to be taken into account for predicting prejudice.

Immigrants are assumed by ITT to elicit all four types of threat in members of immigrant-receiving societies, such as the United States, Spain, and Israel. For that reason, attitudes toward immigrant groups have figured prominently as a criterion of particular interest in ITT research. Using samples of university students at several locales throughout the United States, Stephan, Ybarra, and Bachman (1999) showed that all four threats were relevant for predicting prejudice toward Cubans (in Miami), Mexicans (in New Mexico), and Asians (in Hawaii), accounting for 50% or more of the variance in attitudes toward each of these different immigrant groups. Stephan, Ybarra, Martinez, Schwarzwald, and Tur-Kaspa (1998) likewise showed that each of the four threats was a reliable predictor of attitudes held by Spanish university students toward Moroccan immigrants and by Israeli students toward Ethiopian and Russian immigrants to Israel.

Structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses by Stephan et al. (1998) indicated that the four threats comprised a single, unitary dimension of threat. Schwarzwald and Tur-Kaspa (1997) showed that realistic, symbolic, and interpersonal threats were significant predictors of Israeli university students’ attitudes toward Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, whereas individual differences in SDO predicted prejudice toward Ethiopian immigrants only. By exploring women’s attitudes toward men, Stephan, Stephan, Demitrakis,Yamada, and Clason (2000) showed that ITT is useful for target groups other than immigrants and for attitudes of members of subordinate or oppressed groups as well as dominant ones. Stephan et al. found that for women, symbolic threat, intergroup anxiety, and negative contact were predictors of negative attitudes toward men; however, contrary to prediction, realistic threats failed to emerge as a reliable predictor.

Because the preceding research on ITT is correlational in nature, it does not and cannot conclusively document that the causal sequence goes only from perceived threat to prejudice and not the other way or in both directions. However, Maio, Esses, and Bell (1994) experimentally manipulated perceived realistic and symbolic threats and found increased prejudice toward immigrants, thus validating at least the proposed causal sequence of threats heightening prejudice that lies at the core of ITT, at least for that target group.

Assessment of different types of threat has potential utility for those interested in improving intergroup relations. In studies in which attitudes toward more than one target group are assessed from an ITTperspective, one may explore which target group may deserve more attention in ameliorative efforts (for an example, see Schwarzwald &Tur-Kaspa, 1997). Similarly, in the aforementioned studies of ITT, some but usually not all types of threat emerged as significant predictors, suggesting where change attempts might profitably focus. For example, in attitudes of U.S. university students toward Mexican immigrants, intergroup anxiety has emerged as the most reliable predictor (Stephan & Stephan, 1996; Ybarra & Stephan, 1994). ITT is, therefore, especially useful for those interested in reducing as well as understanding prejudice.

The Multicomponent Approach to Intergroup Attitudes

The multicomponent approach to intergroup attitudes (MAIA), proposed by Esses, Haddock, and Zanna (1993; see also Haddock et al., 1993; Zanna, 1994), is the final example of an integrative theoretical approach to be considered. Although MAIA was derived independently from ITT, the two perspectives clearly resemble one another in their mutual emphases on symbolic beliefs and emotional reactions to outgroups as important predictors of prejudice and also in a shared interest in determining if and when stereotypes of out-groups will relate to prejudice toward them.

MAIA presumes that an intergroup attitude, like the attitude concept in general, has several components (viz., evaluations, cognitions, and affect). An attitude toward a social group is an overall evaluation, either positive or negative. Esses and her colleagues use the feeling thermometer as their preferred measure of an intergroup attitude as a global evaluation. The goal of MAIA is to predict prejudice and intergroup attitudes, relying mainly on cognitive and affective factors as the key predictors. Stereotypes and symbolic beliefs constitute MAIA’s cognitive factors. Stereotypes are beliefs about the characteristics of groups, both those shared with other perceivers (i.e., a consensual stereotype) and those unique to a given perceiver (a personal stereotype), with personal stereotypes assumed by MAIA researchers to be more useful to predict prejudice than consensual stereotypes. Symbolic beliefs are a person’s ideas as to how a social group hinders or facilitates her or his core values and norms. In the MAIA the affective component consists of the specific feelings and emotions evoked by a social group (see also Esses, Haddock, & Zanna, 1994). To assess personal stereotypes, symbolic beliefs, and emotions toward one or more groups, MAIA researchers typically employ open-ended measures in which respondents first list their thoughts and feelings toward a specified group and then go over their lists in order to rate the valence of each entry and the percentage of the social group believed to be characterized by it.

In their initial studies MAIA researchers explored attitudes among English-Canadian university respondents in Ontario toward several social groups: English-Canadians, FrenchCanadians, Native Indians, Pakistanis, and homosexuals (see Esses et al., 1993). The MAIA model successfully predicted attitudes toward the out-groups. Attitudes toward Pakistanis and homosexuals were best predicted by symbolic beliefs, a component of intergroup attitudes believed to be important for assessing prejudice toward disliked or unfavorable groups. By contrast, out-groups more favorably regarded by the English-Canadian respondents (viz., French-Canadians and Native Indians) were best predicted by emotions.

Esses et al. (1993) also showed that RWA is an important moderator of out-group attitudes and their subcomponents. English-Canadian respondents scoring high on RWA had consistently more negative attitudes toward all four outgroups, especially the disfavored groups, and symbolic beliefs were their single best predictor of attitudes toward different groups, including French-Canadians. By contrast, emotions best predicted the more favorable out-group attitudes of those scoring low on RWA.

These conclusions, particularly regarding homosexuals as a target group, were further reinforced in two studies by Haddock et al. (1993). Their first study confirmed the more negative attitude of high RWA scorers toward homosexuals and the importance of symbolic beliefs in predicting prejudice toward homosexuals. Their second study replicated and extended these findings by showing that for those scoring high on RWA, past experience and perceived value dissimilarity were additional factors along with symbolic beliefs that were useful in predicting their prejudicial attitude toward homosexuals.

Because intergroup attitudes can be ambivalent rather than uniformly positive or negative, Esses and her colleagues extended their open-ended techniques to assess attitudinal ambivalence toward various social groups. In one study, Bell, Esses, and Maio (1996) assessed evaluations, stereotypes, symbolic beliefs, and emotions that a sample of English-Canadian university students in Ontario felt toward Native People, French-Canadians, Canadians, and Oriental immigrants. Respondents were more ambivalent toward Native People than Canadians or Oriental immigrants, with French-Canadians in between. Correlations between average ambivalence scores and an overall summary evaluation of each group showed that ambivalence was unrelated to attitude toward Native Peoples but negatively related to attitudes for the other groups, especially French-Canadians. Because MAIA takes into account ambivalence in intergroup attitudes, it could also qualify as an ambivalence approach to prejudice.


As perhaps the ultimate form of an integrative approach to the psychology of bigotry, one could ask what a general theory of prejudice would look like. In reviewing the literature on theories of racism and their own research on values and prejudice, Biernat, Vescio, Theno, and Crandall (1996) outlined just such a general theory of prejudice. A general theory, they suggested, should seek to predict or explain prejudice by oppressors toward an array of potential target groups, such as Blacks, homosexuals, ethnic groups, women, and so on in the United States and in other countries. They also generated a list of factors that promote prejudice. From racism and belief congruence theories (as well as SDT, ITT, and MAIA, it might be added), these prejudice-promoting factors include negative affect toward Blacks (and other groups), prototypic values such as antiegalitarianism, individualism, and the Protestant ethic, the perception that members of groups who are the target of prejudice violate cherished beliefs and values, as well as normative and contextual cues that condone or permit prejudice and discrimination. Other contributing factors, they noted, would include known correlates of prejudice, such as an authoritarian personality (especially RWA) and attributional styles in perceivers that lead them to attribute negative outcomes confronting oppressed people to internal, controllable causes rather than external ones.

To their list of factors promoting prejudice should also be added individual differences in aggressiveness and social dominance orientation, realistic threats, and situational cues that prime and stimulate negative out-group attitudes, both subliminally and supraliminally. In addition, unconscious processes of the types specified by the OTAP and automatic processing approaches to prejudice would also need to be taken into account. On the other hand, humanitarian and egalitarian values, internal motivation to avoid prejudice, and empathy and sympathetic identification with the underdog would help to counteract prejudice and its expression.

This outline for a general theory of prejudice summarizes well the insights of psychology’s best theories for understanding prejudice at the dawn of the twenty-first century. It highlights ambiguities that future research might try to resolve, such as whether egalitarian values promote or counter prejudice or both, depending on yet other factors. Finally, it is perhaps useful as a heuristic device for designing and executing studies of prejudice, with an eye to evaluating the relative power of promotive and counteractive factors and assessing their unique predictive power and interactions. Illustrating just such an approach is the research by Biernat, Vescio, Theno, and Crandall (1996), which (among other things) included measures of core American values, prejudice scales, supraliminal priming of values, and experimental variations in value violation by attitude targets representing (in different studies) variations in race, sexual orientation, and weight status.

Having completed a review of prejudice from the perspective of the bigot, I now consider the psychology of prejudice from the viewpoint of the victim or target.

The Psychology of the Victim of Prejudice and Discrimination

Psychologists have long been interested in the effects of discrimination on members of oppressed groups. One early approach to exploring this question was to assess samples of oppressed individuals on psychological measures as a means of exploring the impact of oppression. Kardiner and Ovesey (1951), for example, used psychoanalytic interviews and responses to projective tests such as the thematic apperception test (TAT) and the Rorschach to assess the “mark of oppression” among Black Americans. Similarly, Karon (1975) compared samples of White respondents and northern versus southern Black respondents in the United States on a modified version of the Tomkins-Horn Picture Arrangement Test (PAT), a projective test for assessing personality. Although both studies showed evidence of the stigma of being Black in the United States, they did not link it clearly to experiences of discrimination encountered by their respondents.

Attributional Ambiguity Perspectives

Beginning in the 1970s, research on the psychology of being a victim of prejudice and discrimination changed in several important ways (see Dion, Earn, &Yee, 1978). First, it shifted toward an experimental approach in which discrimination experiences were manipulated by investigators in the psychological laboratory by creating conditions in which participants from stigmatized groups either could or could not attribute a negative outcome to prejudice on the part of others (an attributional ambiguity paradigm) or were explicitly given the odds that their failure was due to discrimination by allegedly biased judges of their performance (the base rate paradigm). Second, these experimentally oriented researchers often adopted a viewpoint stressing the attributional ambiguity of being a target of prejudice (see Crocker & Major, 1989; Crocker, Major, & Steele, 1998; Dion, 1975, 1986; Dion & Earn, 1975; Dion et al., 1978).

According to an attributional ambiguity perspective, instances of encountering prejudice or discrimination are often ambiguous. For example, Black Americans who encounter a rejection from a White American confront an attributional dilemma to explain the situation and must decide whether the rejection is due to something about themselves (i.e., a personal characteristic) or to something about the person rejecting them (e.g., a prejudicial bias or a discriminatory reaction against Blacks). Attributional ambiguity perspectives emphasize that the type of attributions that a victim of prejudice or discrimination makes in such a situation (i.e., an internal attribution to the self, an external attribution of perceived prejudice or discrimination, or perhaps both) has a psychological impact on the victim’s self-evaluations and affective reactions.

Attributions of Prejudice and Self-Esteem

Dion (1975) provided the first suggestive evidence for a link between attributions of prejudice and self-esteem in an experiment where university women competed against several opponents in a laboratory setting, who they were led to believe were either all male or all female; and the women themselves were made to fail either mildly or severely. Following experimentally induced failure, the women rated themselves on positive and negative traits comprising the female stereotype and self-esteem traits and indicated to what extent their opponents were biased and prejudiced against them. From this latter measure, women were further categorized into high- versus low-perceived prejudice groups, with perceived prejudice taken as an additional independent variable along with the experimental variables of alleged sex of the opponents and severity of failure (i.e., an internal analysis).

Unsurprisingly, the greater the failure, the lower was the women’s subsequent self-esteem. However, perceived prejudice moderated this effect and apparently mitigated the impact of severe failure in decreasing women’s self-esteem. Specifically, women who experienced severe failure with male opponents and perceived it as reflecting sexist prejudice showed higher self-regard than did those who did not see their putative male opponents as prejudiced. Dion (1975) interpreted this finding as suggesting that perceived prejudice or discrimination may not inevitably lower self-esteem in the victim. Rather, under some circumstances the attribution of prejudice may sustain self-esteem by enabling the minority or subordinate group member to attribute a negative experience to prejudice by others toward an arbitrary trait (i.e., their group membership) rather than to their own personal qualities as an individual.

In an important theoretical statement and elaboration of the attributional ambiguity perspective, Crocker and Major (1989) reviewed the then-existing literature and outlined several ways that members of stigmatized groups could protect their self-concepts in the face of a negative experience. For example, a stigmatized group member could interpret the negative encounter as due to prejudice or discrimination toward their group. Alternatively, they could protect themselves from invidious comparisons with privileged majority group members by comparing their outcomes to their own ingroup rather than to the out-group and by focusing on those dimensions on which their group exceeds the dominant outgroup. Major and Schmader (1998) have added psychological disengagement to the list of ways in which stigmatized group members may psychologically insulate and protect themselves from prejudice and discrimination. Miller and Kaiser (2001a, 2001b) recently outlined the wide variety of responses that those who are discriminated against may employ to protect themselves, drawing from the literature on coping and stress as well as attachment theory for insights.

Crocker and Major (1993) qualified the conditions under which attributing negative outcomes to prejudice could buttress one’s self-esteem: namely, when the stigma was perceived as legitimate, justifiable, or controllable and legitimizing beliefs supported the stigmatized group’s lower status, or when other important beliefs were threatened by attributions of prejudice. Crocker, Cornwell, and Major (1993) supported this reasoning in a subsequent experiment in which obese women were rejected by an attractive male confederate as a potential date. Although the obese women attributed the negative outcome to their weight, they did not attribute it to the male rater or to his prejudice. Crocker et al. interpreted the lower self-esteem by obese women to the fact that obesity is widely seen as a controllable stigma, which legitimizes and justifies prejudice and bias toward the overweight. The stigma of obesity, however, applies more to White than to Black American women (Hebl & Heatherton, 1998).

Crocker, Major, and their colleagues have also conducted experimental tests of the attributional ambiguity perspective with groups that regard prejudice and discrimination toward them as illegitimate. Crocker, Voelkl, Testa, and Major (1991) focused on sex and race in separate experiments in order to explore the potential buffering effects of perceived prejudice on self-esteem. Their study with White U.S. university women as participants succeeded in experimentally varying their attributions to prejudice on the part of a sexist man evaluating an essay of theirs negatively; however, the trait measure of global self-esteem failed to yield reliable differences as a function of perceived prejudice, though the mood measure followed the prediction of a self-protective function for attributions of prejudice.

Crocker et al. (1991) reported finding evidence for the buffering effects of perceived prejudice on self-esteem with BlackAmerican participants who had received either positive or negative interpersonal feedback from a White evaluator. These participants believed that the White evaluator either could see them from another room and was thus aware of their race or could not see them because of a drawn blind and hence was unaware of their race. Black participants who thought they could be seen by aWhite evaluator and had attributed the evaluator’s feedback to prejudice showed less of a pretestposttest difference in self-esteem than when they thought that the White evaluator could not see them. In other words, in the condition where prejudice was attributed, Black participants appeared to discount the negative feedback from a White evaluator, with the consequence that their self-esteem was left unchanged. They also discounted positive feedback when the White evaluator could allegedly see them and showed decreased self-esteem in that condition.

The classic book Black Like Me, in which White author James Griffin (1961) described his experiences posing as a Black man in the U.S. South of the 1950s, had suggested a similar process among Black Americans. Recalling an instance of racial discrimination he had experience, he noted, “The Negro’s only salvation . . . lies in his belief, the old belief of his fore fathers, that these things are not directed against him personally, but against his race, his pigmentation. His mother or aunt or teacher long ago carefully prepared him, explaining that ‘. . . they don’t do it to you because you’re Johnny—they don’t even know you. They do it against your Negro-ness’” (p. 48). In the United States, Black Americans are considerably more likely to be targets of prejudice and discrimination than are members of other minority or subordinate groups. Perhaps as a consequence of this greater victimization now and in the past, BlackAmericans have developed through ethnic group socialization the strategy of discounting negative (and perhaps positive) feedback from White majority group members and attributing negative feedback to prejudice as a means of coping and sustaining their self-esteem.

Some investigators (e.g., Branscombe & Ellemers, 1998; Kobrynowicz & Branscombe, 1997), however, have questioned whether Crocker et al. (1991) actually succeeded in demonstrating the buffering effects of attributing prejudice on self-esteem with their Black participants. Branscombe and Ellemers (1998) have instead suggested that in-group identification is a necessary mediator between the attribution of prejudice for experiences of oppression and selfesteem for Black American men and women as well as other minority groups in the United States, such as Native Americans and Hispanic-Americans. The greater the ingroup identification, the more likely that attributions of prejudice for experiences of discrimination or oppression will be associated with the maintenance and retention of high self-esteem.

Protective Benefits for Majority Group Members

Of course, even members of dominant, hegemonic groups can and sometimes do avail themselves of the self-protective benefits of perceiving themselves and their group as being discriminated against, but apparently without the same psychological dilemma and tradeoff confronting members of oppressed groups. Kobrynowicz and Branscombe (1997) argued that certain members of structurally privileged groups, such as White American men whose self-esteem may be low or otherwise vulnerable, may exaggerate estimates of perceived discrimination against their group as a means of bolstering their self-esteem. Consistent with this perspective, a sample of White men scoring low in self-esteem were especially prone to perceive themselves and their group as having been discriminated against on the basis of gender. Likewise, Branscombe (1998) showed that asking men to contemplate their group’s disadvantage on the basis of gender led to higher self-esteem, whereas thinking about their group’s advantages produced decreases on group-related well-being. By contrast, women contemplating their group’s disadvantages scored lower in reported self-esteem. Thus, the selfprotective effect of attributing one’s failure to discrimination is apparently even more evident among dominant majority group members and has positive benefits for both their selfesteem and their sense of control.

The Personal-Group Discrimination Discrepancy

Research originally conducted in the tradition of relative deprivation theory has suggested that individuals in subordinate and oppressed groups typically perceive more group discrimination than personal discrimination. Specifically, in testing models of egoistic relative deprivation (defined later), Crosby (1982) observed that members of a sample of working women in Massachusetts believed that they, as individual women, were personally less deprived and discriminated against in terms of income and employment opportunities than were women as a group. Crosby (1984) subsequently attributed the tendency for women to perceive less personal than group discrimination to a process of denial of their personal disadvantage.

This phenomenon has since been observed among ethnic and racial groups in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere and has been labeled the personal-group discrimination discrepancy (PGDD; Taylor, Wright, Moghaddam, & Lalonde, 1990; Taylor, Wright, & Porter, 1994). Much like Crosby (1982), Taylor et al. (1990) found that Haitian and East Indian women in Montreal reported more group than personal discrimination across four sources of potential discrimination (viz., race, culture, status as newcomers to Canada, and sex). Dion and Kawakami (1996) likewise found a PGDD across a variety of domains for six ethnic groups in Toronto, three of them visible minorities and the other three White or nonvisible minorities, although the PGDD was consistently stronger among the visible minorities.

Explanations for the Personal-Group Discrimination Discrepancy

One reason that people from oppressed groups may be reluctant to claim that they have personally experienced prejudice or discrimination is that there are social costs to attributing a setback to discrimination. In two studies, Kaiser and Miller (2001) showed that a Black person who attributed a failing grade on a test to discrimination was perceived by Whites as being a complainer and was evaluated less positively than was a Black person attributing the failure to the low quality of his answers on the test.

Perhaps the most comprehensive explanation of the PGDD, at present, has been suggested by Postmes, Branscombe, Spears, and Young (1999). Postmes and his colleagues argued that the PGDD is not an intentional comparison between oneself and one’s group as regards experienced discrimination. If the latter were the case, the difference between separate ratings of perceived discrimination for self and for group (i.e., the standard way of assessing the PGDD) should relate highly to a single direct comparison for self (compared to others of one’s group, e.g., a gender group) or in-group (compared to a comparison out-group, e.g., the other gender group). In fact, standard PGDD scores correlated only modestly with direct comparisons for self and for group.

Instead, Postmes et al. (1999) proposed and showed that ratings of personal discrimination and of group discrimination are based on two separate judgments: an interpersonal judgment comparing self and other in-group members for ratings of personal discrimination and an intergroup judgment comparing one’s in-group to an out-group for ratings of group discrimination. Consistent with this emphasis on different types of judgment and comparison referents, they also demonstrated that ratings of personal discrimination or advantage reflect personal, self-serving motives; whereas ratings of group discrimination or advantage are influenced by social identity motives and in-group identification. Other researchers’ analyses of the PGDD converge with Postmes et al.’s conclusions (Dion & Kawakami, 1996; Kessler, Mummendey, & Leisse, 2000; Quinn, Roese, Pennington, & Olson, 1999).

Perceived Prejudice and Discrimination as Stressors

A Stress Model

A number of investigators have independently proposed that perceiving oneself to be a target of prejudice or discrimination is a psychosocial stressor. For example, Dion, Dion, and Pak (1992) contended that perceived prejudice or discrimination is a social stressor because it elicits cognitive appraisals of threat such that its victims see themselves as being deliberate targets of negative behavior by one or more out-group antagonists and impute stable, malevolent motives and intentions to them. Moreover, prejudice and discrimination are often unpredictable stressors, entailing greater adaptational costs for the victim than a predictable or controllable stressor (see Allison, 1998, for an excellent discussion of other stress models).

If perceived prejudice and discrimination are indeed stressors, they should produce in individuals various socialpsychological consequences known to result from stress, such as negative affect, reported stress, psychological or psychiatric symptoms, and lowered sense of well-being, as well as heightened in-group identification (a frequent response to external threat to one’s group). Dion et al.’s stress model of perceived discrimination has now been amply supported by both experimental and correlational studies. In an experiment varying perceived prejudice in an attributional ambiguity paradigm, Dion and Earn (1975) found that when they made attributions to prejudice for a severe failure, Jewish men showed evidence of heightened in-group identification as well as a stress response on mood measures: namely, feeling more aggression, greater sadness, higher anxiety, and heightened self-consciousness. Similar, Crocker et al. (1993) found that women, especially obese ones, reported more negative moods when they received negative feedback from an attractive man as opposed to positive feedback.

Correlational studies concur strongly with experimental studies in documenting a link between perceived discrimination and stress. Perceptions of discrimination in Black Americans correlate with psychiatric symptoms. Landrine and Klonoff (1996; Klonoff & Landrine, 1999) developed a reliable 18-item measure of perceived racial discrimination called the Schedule of Racist Events (SRE) and validated it in two separate studies with samples of Black American community respondents. In the most recent study with more than 500 respondents sampled from middle- and lower-class sections of San Bernardino, California, they found that 96% reported discrimination in the past year and 98% at some time during their lives. For 95% of the respondents, these discrimination experiences were labeled as stressful. Black American men reported more experiences of discrimination than did their female counterparts. In both studies, frequency of discrimination experiences correlated positively with psychiatric symptoms, accounting for about 10% of the variance. In the 1996 study, the frequency of discrimination experiences was also linked to cigarette smoking.

Other researchers have highlighted the cumulative and chronic stressfulness of perceived discrimination among Black Americans. Feagin (1991) emphasized that for Black Americans, even those well ensconced in the middle class, the cumulative effect of racist encounters over a lifetime becomes potentially more potent than a simple sum of frequency count of such experiences might suggest. Branscombe, Schmitt, and Harvey (1999) showed the negative effects upon well-being of chronic perceptions of discrimination in Black American respondents. Branscombe and her colleagues emphasized that chronic perceptions of discrimination and stable attributions of pervasive prejudice have quite different effects on selfesteem and well-being than do attributions to prejudice for a single event, such as is typically explored in laboratory studies of perceived prejudice or discrimination.

A Biopsychosocial Model

Clark, Anderson, Clark, and Williams (1999) proposed a biopsychosocial model of racism as a stressor for Black Americans. Its underlying assumption is that perceived racism leads to heightened psychological and physiological stress responses from Black Americans. In this model, constitutional, sociodemographic, psychological, and behavioral factors are proposed to moderate the relationship between an environmental stimulus and its perception as being racist. Perceptions of racism are then linked to coping responses, psychological and physiological stress responses, and health outcomes.

The links between perceived racism and health outcomes among Black Americans are perhaps the most intriguing and important aspect of Clark et al.’s (1999) model. The authors suggested that racism and its perception (or denial) relate to cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and immune system responses by Black Americans. Hypertension among Black Americans may well be associated, albeit in complex ways, with experiences of racism and methods of coping with them. For example, Krieger (1990) found that Black American women who indicated that they passively accepted racist experiences were over four times more likely to report hypertension than were those indicating a more active response to unfair treatment. Moreover, those Black American women reporting no instances of unfair treatment were more than 212 times more likely to report hypertension than were those reporting one or more experiences of racism. If one assumes that Black women reporting no instances were denying or internalizing racist experiences, this finding and other studies (Krieger & Sidney, 1996) suggest that as a coping mechanism, denial may have unfortunate health correlates or consequences for Black Americans. The specific links between perceptions and experiences of racism and hypertension in Black Americans of both sexes, however, remain to be firmly established and better understood.

Like racism, sexism also has pernicious consequences for individuals experiencing and perceiving it. Landrine, Klonoff, Gibbs, Manning, and Lund (1995) correlated lifetime and recent experiences of sexist events from their Schedule of Sexist Events (SSE) with scores from anxiety and depression scales, the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSC), and a measure of premenstrual tension syndrome (PMTS). Hierarchical regression analyses were performed in which generic stress measures for life events and hassles were entered at the first step, followed by lifetime and recent SSE scores in the second step. SSE scores accounted for additional variance beyond the generic stress indexes. Sexist discrimination emerged as an especially important and better predictor than generic stress for symptoms from the PMTS and HSC measures including premenstrual, somatization, obsessive-compulsive, depressive, and total psychiatric symptoms. Moreover, the ability of SSE scores to predict symptoms varied as a function of the U.S. women’s ages and ethnicities. Lifetime SSE scores enhanced prediction (over and above generic stress measures) of total HSC symptoms for older women but not for younger ones.

Buffers for Discrimination-Related Stress

Not all members of oppressed groups will suffer the stress of discrimination in the same way or to the same extent. The personality construct of hardiness—a composite of selfesteem and sense of control—may be one factor that buffers the stress of experiencing or perceiving discrimination toward oneself and one’s group. Dion et al. (1992) explored the role of personality-based hardiness in a study of Toronto’s Chinese community. As they predicted, the relationship of discrimination to psychological symptoms was markedly higher among Chinese community respondents who were low in hardiness than among those high in hardiness. Indeed, for those scoring high in hardiness, discrimination and reported psychological symptoms were effectively unrelated, whereas they related reasonably strongly for those low in hardiness. In addition, alternative interpretations in terms of differential life stresses or differential exposure to discrimination in the two hardiness groups were ruled out as rival explanations (see Dion et al., 1992).

Foster and Dion (2001) explored whether the beneficial relationship of personality-based hardiness to discriminationrelated stress is due to buffering or denial in an experiment in which women confronted gender discrimination on an examination. The findings favored a buffering interpretation and suggested that the buffering was due to the types of attributions that hardy women made relative to their less hardy counterparts. Specifically, hardy women made specific, unstable attributions rather than global, stable ones; that is, they tended to see the gender discrimination as a unique and unusual occurrence, even though there were no differences between the hardy and nonhardy women in perceived unfairness of the discrimination.

Whereas hardiness may provide a personality-based buffer and coping dimension, in-group identification has been hypothesized to be important in predicting reliance on group-based responses to coping with discrimination and buffering self-esteem. Branscombe and Ellemers (1998) proposed a rejection-identification model suggesting that greater willingness to make attributions to prejudice among Black Americans heightens their minority-group identification as well as hostility toward the dominant White group but has a negative effect on personal and collective sense of wellbeing. Minority-group identification, however, has a buffering effect in sustaining well-being. Branscombe and her colleagues tested and supported this model with SEM procedures. Some alternative theoretical models failed to receive support.

Stereotype Threat

Not only do women and minority members confront prejudice and discrimination, but they also must deal with broadly shared, negative stereotypes about their groups by majority group members, which can have pernicious and deleterious effects upon their academic and athletic performance. Black Americans, for example, confront low expectations in the realm of academic ability, whereas women in the United States, Canada, and some other societies are presumed by consensually shared stereotypes to be inferior in mathematics compared to men.

Steele (1997; Steele & Aronson, 1995) and his colleagues contended that negative stereotypes impugning the abilities of stigmatized group members constitute a powerful situational threat with two notable consequences. First, in a testing situation involving an ability where one’s group is negatively stereotyped, the performance of those members who care about the ability and doing well on the test can be adversely affected. Second, chronic experiences of stereotype threat can lead members of stigmatized groups to disidentify by denying the importance of the ability for themselves. At the college level, this disidentification can lead to academic dropouts among Black Americans and proportionally fewer women enrolling in math, science, and engineering programs where mathematical ability is prerequisite.

Initial Studies

Steele and Aronson (1995) reported the first set of four experiments documenting the impact of stereotype threat on the performance of Black American university students, relative to their White American counterparts, at Stanford University, an elite U.S. university. These investigators told participants that difficult and challenging items from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) either were diagnostic of their intellectual ability (the diagnostic or stereotype threat condition) or were a test of problem-solving with no implications for diagnosing their intellectual ability (the nondiagnostic or nostereotype-threat condition). In all four studies, participants’ previous Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) scores in high school were statistically controlled in the analyses by means of analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) procedures.

The first two studies by Steele and Aronson (1995) demonstrated that Black American participants in the diagnostic or stereotype threat condition completed fewer items and attained lower accuracy (i.e., number of items correct relative to the number attempted) than did either Black or White participants in the other conditions. Steele and Aronson’s third experiment demonstrated that the diagnostic ability manipulation elicited among Black participants who were expecting to take a difficult test (but did not do so) the racial stereotype of Blacks held by Whites as well as an avoidance of selfcharacterization in terms of this stereotype, and even an avoidance of indicating one’s racial status on a demographic postquestionnaire, relative to nondiagnostic and control conditions. In Study 4, priming race by merely having participants indicate their race on a demographic questionnaire before attempting a challenging intellectual test served to inhibit performance by Black participants and presumably to elicit stereotype threat. Steele and Aronson proposed that the mechanism underlying the impact of stereotype threat on the test performance of their Black American participants was probably an inefficiency of cognitive processing, not unlike that produced by other evaluative pressures.

Croizet and Claire (1998) extended the applicability of the stereotype threat concept to those of low socioeconomic status (SES) outside the United States. Using a predominantly female sample of French university students, these investigators likewise found that under stereotype threat, students of low SES obtained fewer correct answers, attempted fewer items, and had lower overall accuracy on verbal GRE items. By contrast, much like Steele and Aronson (1995) had previously found in comparing Black and White American participants, there was no difference in test performance between participants of low and high SES when the same test was described as nondiagnostic of one’s intellectual ability. Varying the salience of SES before the test by having participants indicate their parents’occupation and educational level, however, had no effect in this study.

Recent Studies

Spencer, Steele, and Quinn (1999) themselves applied stereotype threat theory to U.S. women’s math performance in three studies including math-oriented students who had taken calculusandhadperformedhighlyonthehigh-schoolmathematics section of the SAT. Their first experiment demonstrated that a gender difference, with women underperforming men, occurred only when the math GRE items used to assess math performance were difficult rather than easy. Spencer and his colleagues varied stereotype threat in the next two studies by informing participants either that there was a gender difference previously obtained with the math GRE items they were to solve (threat condition) or not (no stereotype threat). In the no threat condition, women’s performance on the math GRE test equalled that of men. By contrast, in the threat condition, women underperformed men. Finally, their third experiment demonstrated that the stereotype threat effect was obtainable at a state university in the U.S. whose academic standards were less rigorous and selective than the elite university samples in prior studies and further explored possible mediating processes. The mediational tests excluded evaluation apprehension and self-efficacy as a basis for the impact of stereotype threat on women’s math performance. Anxiety emerged as a weak mediator of stereotype threat.

Finally, recent studies by different sets of investigators show that stereotype threat can affect the performance of White majority group members and does not require that one be a member of a historically stigmatized group. Aronson et al. (1999) conducted two experiments in which White students of high math ability at an elite U.S. university were presented information that Asian Americans outperform Whites in math (stereotype threat condition) or not (no threat condition). Additionally, in the second study they selected math-oriented students who scored on the bottom and top tertiles of rated importance of mathematics ability to their self-concept as a means of assessing low versus high identification with this domain. Their first study showed that White students performed less well on a challenging math test when threatened with a racial stereotype indicating their inferiority relative to Asians. Their second study showed that this stereotype effect occurred only when the White students were math-identified and that evaluation apprehension was a weak, potential mediator.

Stone, Lynch, Sjomeling, and Darley (1999) took advantage of a golf test that they presented to Black and White Princeton University participants as indicating their “natural athletic ability” or their “sports intelligence.” Their first study showed that performance by Black students on the golf test suffered more when it constituted a stereotype threat (an indication of sports intelligence—a negative stereotype for Whites) than when it did not (an indication of natural athletic ability—a positive stereotype for Blacks). By contrast, for White participants for whom the opposite was true (i.e., sports intelligence is a positive stereotype, and natural athletic ability is a negative or less positive stereotype than for Blacks), the reverse pattern was obtained, as predicted from stereotype threat theory. Their second study, focusing on White participants only, showed that the detrimental effects of stereotype threat on performance on the golf test occurred only for “engaged” participants for whom performance in the athletic domain was important to their self-worth and not for those who were “disengaged.” In addition to showing the importance of engagement for the stereotype threat effect, their explorations of mediators for White participants implicated performance anxiety and lowered expectations when the task’s difficulty became apparent.

In sum, accumulating evidence suggests that the stereotype threat effect is real and that its effects can be demonstrated among historically stigmatized groups such as Black Americans and White women as well as nonstigmatized groups. Also, apart from the obvious importance of a person being engaged and identified with the domain (e.g., math, athletics, etc.), the precise mechanisms responsible for the stereotype threat effect remain somewhat ambiguous. The preceding studies have assessed an array of potential mediators—such as self-handicapping and situational and trait anxiety, as well as test anxiety, evaluation apprehension; self-concept, and so on—with self-report measures. Weak evidence of potential mediators has emerged, though not the same ones across studies and groups. Perhaps different mechanisms will ultimately be shown to be important for different target groups. What seems clear at present is that the stereotype threat effect is not due to a lowering of effort, as stereotype-threatened individuals typically work or try harder than their nonthreatened counterparts. On the other hand, stereotype threat seems to act as a distractor and an additional pressure that reduces one’s effectiveness for successfully completing challenging tasks at the limit of one’s ability in a given domain.

Advocates of stereotype threat theory suggest that their perspective is optimistic in that it points to a situational stressor as a key factor in underperformance by negatively stereotyped and stigmatized groups, in contrast to dispositional interpretations of innate inferiority in ability, genetic factors, and so on. Stereotype threat theory also provides a viable explanation for why academic achievement tests have lower criterion validity for stigmatized groups in the U.S. and elsewhere than for nonstigmatized ones. Once the deleterious effects of stereotype threat are identified and understood, steps to counteract them in standardized testing and in academic learning environments can be developed—a process that Steele and his colleagues have already begun with some notable success (see Aronson, Quinn, & Spencer, 1998; Steele, 1997).

Relative Deprivation, Perceived Discrimination, and Desire for Corrective Action

Paradoxically, members of oppressed groups do not always, or even often, respond to stereotypes, disadvantage, deprivation, and discrimination by seeking redress or social change. Relative deprivation theory (RDT) is one conceptual framework that tries to predict when and why members of an oppressed group will respond to their disadvantage with attempts to instigate social change, such as political protest. As its name implies, RDT assumes that one’s feelings of deprivation are not absolute but instead depend on the individual or group with whom one compares.

RDT proposes different types of deprivation as defined by two dimensions. One dimension concerns the focus of comparison and defines the distinction between egoistic and fraternalistic relative deprivation (RD). Egoistic RD occurs when an individual feels deprived relative to others in their membership group. Fraternalistic RD (also called collectivistic RD by those of us preferring a gender-neutral label) occurs when one’s group is perceived to be at a disadvantage to one or more out-groups. The second dimension concerns the cognitive-affective distinction. Cognitive RD concerns the perception of inequality, whereas affective RD refers to resentment over inequalities. Taken together, these two dimensions define four types of RD. Reviews of RDT (e.g., Dion, 1986) indicate that of these four types, it is primarily affective, collectivistic RD (i.e., resentment over poorer treatment of one’s group compared to other groups) that best predicts desires and attempts at social change.

In a series of studies, I and my colleagues have pitted perceived discrimination against measures of RD types to assess their relative efficacy at predicting attitudinal measures of desires to take corrective action (Dion, 2002). With groups in Canada such as lesbians and gays, Chinese university students, and women, we have consistently found that perceived discrimination is a more powerful and consistent predictor of reported desires to corrective action than are the different RD types, with the notable exception of affective, collectivistic RD (e.g., Birt & Dion, 1987; Dion & Kawakami, 2000). Together, perceived discrimination and affective, collectivistic RD predict desires to take corrective action in response to group disadvantage quite well. Relatedly, Foster (2000) has shown that global attributions of gender discrimination (i.e., seeing gender discrimination as affecting many situations in one’s life) was also associated with greater proneness to support collective action in U.S. college women. Thus, the victim’s perceptions of discrimination—whether it is seen as being global in its effects, whether it affects one’s group, and whether it evokes a negative affective response—make a difference in stimulating desires to take corrective action and to mobilize one’s efforts with others to create social change.


Perceived prejudice and discrimination are pivotal in the psychology of ethnic and intergroup relations. The literature on the psychology of being a victim of prejudice and discrimination that was reviewed earlier suggests several conclusions. First, for some groups and for some individuals within oppressed groups, perceptions of prejudice and attributions of setbacks to prejudice may buffer self-esteem and maintain well-being. However, the buffering effect of attributed prejudice is probably a weak one, may occur for only some groups, involves a tradeoff between types of self-esteem and perceived control, and is mediated or moderated by in-group identification. Somewhat perversely, the buffering effects of perceived discrimination on self-esteem seem to be more straightforward and clearer for members of dominant than of subordinate groups. Second, the experience or perception of prejudice and discrimination toward oneself and one’s group is unquestionably stressful, although personality-based hardiness and in-group identification may moderate discriminationrelated stress to some extent. Discrimination-related stress has been linked to mental and physical health outcomes for both American women and Black Americans. Stereotype threat—the perception of being negatively stereotyped by others in academic and other domains—is also a stressor whose deleterious effects on achievement task performance are now established, although the mediators are unclear. Finally, Some evidence suggests that perceived prejudice and discrimination, along with feelings of resentment about ingroup disadvantage relative to other groups, instigate desires to take corrective social action. These conclusions demonstrate that our knowledge of the psychology of victimization has advanced appreciably in the last several decades of the twentieth century.

A Final Thought

Having considered the psychology of bigotry as well as the psychology of being a victim of prejudice and discrimination, a next step for future psychological research on prejudice may be to explore the reciprocal interaction between bigot and victim. To date, the psychology of bigotry and the psychology of being a victim of prejudice and discrimination have been investigated separately from one another and have focused heavily on intrapersonal dynamics (e.g., the effects of automatic processing on a person’s cognitions and behaviors). Yet, some previous theorists (e.g., Dion et al., 1978) have suggested that the bigot and the victim of prejudice form a complementary role relationship with one another. Understanding the interpersonal dynamics of prejudice may require investigating situations in the laboratory and the community where victims of prejudice confront the bigotry, whether from one or more persons or an institution, directly. As always, psychological researchers interested in prejudice will rise to the methodological and theoretical challenges of exploring the reciprocal interactions between bigot and victim.


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