Can the absence of prejudice be more threatening than its presence? It depends on one's worldview

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Dec;99(6):933-47. doi: 10.1037/a0020434.

Abstract

The present research used validated cardiovascular measures to examine threat reactions among members of stigmatized groups when interacting with members of nonstigmatized groups who were, or were not, prejudiced against their group. The authors hypothesized that people's beliefs about the fairness of the status system would moderate their experience of threat during intergroup interactions. The authors predicted that for members of stigmatized groups who believe the status system is fair, interacting with a prejudiced partner, compared with interacting with an unprejudiced partner, would disconfirm their worldview and result in greater threat. In contrast, the authors predicted that for members of stigmatized groups who believe the system is unfair, interacting with a prejudiced partner, compared with interacting with an unprejudiced partner, would confirm their worldview and result in less threat. The authors examined these predictions among Latinas interacting with a White female confederate (Study 1) and White females interacting with a White male confederate (Study 2). As predicted, people's beliefs about the fairness of the status system moderated their experiences of threat during intergroup interactions, indicated both by cardiovascular responses and nonverbal behavior. The specific pattern of the moderation differed across the 2 studies.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Emotions
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prejudice*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Justice
  • Social Perception
  • Social Stigma
  • United States
  • Women / psychology*