Temporal distance and discrimination: an audit study in academia

Psychol Sci. 2012 Jul 1;23(7):710-7. doi: 10.1177/0956797611434539. Epub 2012 May 21.

Abstract

Through a field experiment set in academia (with a sample of 6,548 professors), we found that decisions about distant-future events were more likely to generate discrimination against women and minorities (relative to Caucasian males) than were decisions about near-future events. In our study, faculty members received e-mails from fictional prospective doctoral students seeking to schedule a meeting either that day or in 1 week; students' names signaled their race (Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Indian, or Chinese) and gender. When the requests were to meet in 1 week, Caucasian males were granted access to faculty members 26% more often than were women and minorities; also, compared with women and minorities, Caucasian males received more and faster responses. However, these patterns were essentially eliminated when prospective students requested a meeting that same day. Our identification of a temporal discrimination effect is consistent with the predictions of construal-level theory and implies that subtle contextual shifts can alter patterns of race- and gender-based discrimination.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Psychological Tests
  • Racism / psychology
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexism / psychology
  • Social Discrimination / ethnology
  • Social Discrimination / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Universities