The space between us: stereotype threat and distance in interracial contexts

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Jan;94(1):91-107. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.1.91.


Four studies investigate the role that stereotype threat plays in producing racial distancing behavior in an anticipated conversation paradigm. It was hypothesized that the threat of appearing racist may have the ironic effect of causing Whites to distance themselves from Black conversation partners. In Study 1, participants distanced themselves more from Black partners under conditions of threat, and this distance correlated with the activation of a "White racist" stereotype. In Study 2, it was demonstrated that Whites' interracial distancing behavior was not predicted by explicit or implicit prejudice. Study 3 provides evidence that conceiving of interracial interactions as opportunities to learn may attenuate the negative consequences of threat for Whites. Study 4 found that Whites have conscious access to their experience of stereotype threat and that this awareness may mediate the relationship between threat and distance. These results are discussed within a broader discourse of racial distancing and the possibility that certain identity threats may be as important as prejudice in determining the outcomes of interracial interactions.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Black or African American*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prejudice*
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Stereotyping*
  • United States
  • White People / psychology*