Confront prejudice – and reduce general bigotry


Whites chastised for using black stereotype express less prejudice about Latinx and women

Recent protests against racism and police brutality have sparked soul-searching. What if we hear someone say something racist or sexist? Shouldn’t we just let it go, many people assume, since we are unlikely to change anyone’s opinion or behavior?

An article published in Social Psychological and Personality Science finds surprising value in confronting bigoted remarks. In three studies, researchers found that white subjects confronted with their use of negative stereotypes about a group reduced their bigoted behavior not only against that group, but also against other minorities. And these same people also reduced their use of negative stereotypes about women.

The results suggest that interpersonal confrontations can have a big influence, reducing biases against multiple groups and multiple stereotypes, according to the authors of the paper: Kimberly E. Chaney of the University of Connecticut, Diana T. Sanchez of the University Rutgers, California State University, Nicholas P. of Long Beach. Alt and Margaret Shih of UCLA Anderson.

The article goes beyond individual bias reduction research and documents the “side transfer effects” of confronting bias.

Bias reduction strategies often play a key role in the sensitivity training that executives use to identify and combat racism within their organizations. The Trump administration is under attack for its recent decision to withdraw funding for such training, calling it “divisive anti-American propaganda”.

This article builds on previous research that found that people who held negative attitudes towards, for example, black people, often held similar attitudes towards other minorities. These studies showed that people confronted with their prejudices were able to better identify when and how they used negative stereotypes. This provided a “critical first step” in motivating them to change their behavior.

Given this evidence of “widespread bias,” the authors hypothesized that confronting a set of biases would likely lead to a more general reduction in harmful behaviors. They sought to test this using online and in-person research.

Two of the studies were of similar design. In the first, participants saw 16 images paired with phrases designed to evoke a stereotypical response. For example, they might see a photo of a black man with the phrase “This person could be found behind bars”, and their task was to make a quick judgment on the person. Participants often responded in a stereotypical way (calling the person a criminal), even though they could make a neutral response (like a bartender).

To some of the randomly selected participants, the experimenter responded in a confrontational manner saying, “I found some of your answers to be a bit offensive. People shouldn’t use stereotypes, you know? before continuing the experiment.

Participants were then asked to record whether they had experienced various emotions during the survey, such as feelings of guilt or anger towards the experimenter. A week later, participants received a similar online survey that included photos and descriptive sentences of white, black, and Latino individuals. Their responses were coded as stereotypical or neutral.

The second study examined the impact of a similar scenario on attitudes towards women. In both studies, white participants who were confronted with the use of negative black stereotypes subsequently used fewer negative Latinx and female stereotypes.

In the final study, white men participating in an online survey were asked to recommend responses to four scenarios involving questions of morality. One of the situations involved a nurse. Afterwards, a randomly selected group was confronted for calling the nurse “her”. Next, they were asked a series of questions, some of which aimed to determine whether they were motivated by racial egalitarianism. For example, they were asked to rate on a scale of 1 (not often) to 7 (a lot) the question: “In the past 24 hours, how often have you found yourself thinking about how often do you use racial stereotypes? »

In this study, white men who were confronted online by a stranger for using a female gender role stereotype used fewer negative black and Latino stereotypes than participants who were not confronted. This behavior was found to be true 24 and 72 hours later, suggesting the “endurance” of side transfer effects, the authors noted.


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