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White Privilege Awareness and Efficacy to Reduce Racial Inequality Improve White Americans’ Attitudes Toward African Americans


  • We thank Eric Vanman, Kim Case, Jon Iuzzini, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on previous drafts. We thank Chris Henrich for statistical consultation and Ashley Myers for research assistance.

Tracie L. Stewart, Department of Psychology, University of Mississippi, 205 Peabody Hall, University, MS 38677 [e-mail:]


Two experiments examined effects of heightened awareness of white privilege (illegitimate advantages held by White Americans) and efficacy to reduce racial inequality on White American college students’ attitudes toward African Americans and White Americans. Efficacy to reduce inequality was either measured (Experiment 1) or manipulated (Experiment 2), and heightened white privilege awareness (WPA) was either manipulated (Experiment 1) or held constant (Experiment 2). All participants, except control participants in Experiment 1, read a passage describing their university's under-representation of African American faculty. Afterward, they wrote letters in support of hiring more African American faculty and were told there was either a 95% or 5% chance their actions would be effective (Experiment 2) or were simply thanked and their perceived efficacy concerning change measured (Experiment 1). Heightened WPA and higher efficacy (measured and manipulated) independently improved participants’ attitudes toward African Americans, but had no effect on their attitudes toward White Americans.