"I guess what he said wasn't that bad": dissonance in nonconfronting targets of prejudice

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2013 Jul;39(7):856-69. doi: 10.1177/0146167213484769. Epub 2013 Apr 12.


Although confrontations can be an effective means of reducing prejudicial responding, individuals often do not confront others due to the interpersonal costs. In the present research, we examined the intrapersonal implications of not confronting prejudice. In three studies, female participants were exposed to a confederate who made a sexist remark. Consistent with self-justification theories, in Study 1, participants who valued confronting and were given the opportunity to confront-but did not-subsequently made more positive evaluations of the confederate. Study 2 found that when participants were given a chance to affirm an important aspect of the self prior to evaluating the confederate, these inflated evaluations of the confederate did not occur. Finally, in Study 3, participants who initially valued confronting but did not confront a sexist partner reduced the amount of importance they placed on confronting. These data reveal that there are important intrapersonal consequences of not confronting prejudice.

Keywords: confrontations; dissonance; inaction; prejudice; sexism.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Dissonance*
  • Dissent and Disputes*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sexism*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires