"Prejudiced" behavior without prejudice? Beliefs about the malleability of prejudice affect interracial interactions

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2012 Sep;103(3):452-71. doi: 10.1037/a0028849. Epub 2012 Jun 18.


Prejudiced behavior is typically seen as emanating from prejudiced attitudes. Eight studies showed that majority-group members' beliefs about prejudice can create seemingly "prejudiced" behaviors above and beyond prejudice measured explicitly (Study 1b) and implicitly (Study 2). Those who believed prejudice was relatively fixed, rather than malleable, were less interested in interracial interactions (Studies 1a-1d), race- or diversity-related activities (Study 1a), and activities to reduce their prejudice (Study 3). They were also more uncomfortable in interracial, but not same-race, interactions (Study 2). Study 4 manipulated beliefs about prejudice and found that a fixed belief, by heightening concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself and others, depressed interest in interracial interactions. Further, though Whites who were taught a fixed belief were more anxious and unfriendly in an interaction with a Black compared with a White individual, Whites who were taught a malleable belief were not (Study 5). Implications for reducing prejudice and improving intergroup relations are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Black People / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Prejudice / psychology*
  • Race Relations / psychology*
  • Racial Groups / psychology*
  • Racism / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People / psychology
  • Young Adult