Teaching & Learning Guide for: The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: Insights from Aversive Racism
Article first published online: 23 SEP 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Social and Personality Psychology Compass
Volume 3, Issue 6, pages 1120–1128, December 2009
How to Cite
Pearson, A. R., Dovidio, J. F. and Gaertner, S. L. (2009), Teaching & Learning Guide for: The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: Insights from Aversive Racism. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3: 1120–1128. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2009.00227.x
- Issue published online: 27 NOV 2009
- Article first published online: 23 SEP 2009
- Cited By
Intergroup bias is one of the most actively researched topics in the field of social psychology. Hundreds of books and thousands of research articles have addressed this issue over more than half a century. Although the psychological roots of blatant prejudices are well documented, the development of more subtle and often unintentional forms in societies in which its expression is discouraged poses new and unique challenges to the pursuit of justice and equality in contemporary society. Our interests in the psychological underpinnings of prejudice as researchers and educators are both practical and conceptual. On the practical side, understanding the nature of contemporary forms of prejudice has clear implications for developing effective techniques for combating bias and discrimination. In 1967, nearly 3 years after the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, race riots in the United States prompted the Kerner Commission to investigate the sources of racial tension. Upon the conclusion of its investigation, the commission cited White America’s failure to assist Blacks in need, rather than actively trying to harm Blacks, as a primary cause of racial disparities and, ultimately, civil unrest (Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968). Indeed, it was research on the differential helping behavior of politically liberal Whites toward Black and White motorists who were stranded on a highway that represented the first empirical work on aversive racism (Gaertner, 1973). Considerable subsequent research on aversive racism has revealed that the consequences of subtle bias can be as severe and pernicious as those of blatant prejudice. Conceptually, the complexities of contemporary forms of prejudice and recent advances in techniques and tools for studying non-conscious biases make this research area an exciting and challenging one. We hope that this guide can help orient educators to the many excellent resources that exist and convey our enthusiasm for exploring what psychological methods and theories can contribute to understanding one of the most challenging social issues faced in contemporary society.
- 1Allport, G. W. (1954/1979). The Nature of Prejudice (25th anniversary edition). Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.
A classic text by one of the most influential prejudice scholars of the 20th century.
- 2Dovidio, J. F., Glick, P., & Rudman, L. A. (Eds.). (2005). On the Nature of Prejudice: Fifty Years after Allport. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Organized around Allport’s central themes, this edited volume commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Gordon Allport’s classic work by examining the current state of knowledge in the field. Renowned international scholars review recent developments and share their insights into where the next few decades may take us. Certain to be a future classic!
- 1Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,56, 5–18.
A seminal article that demonstrates both automatic and controlled components of stereotyping. The first series of studies to show that racial stereotypes are activated automatically upon perceiving a person’s group membership. Also one of the first papers to use indirect cognitive methods (e.g., subliminal priming) to assess stereotypic group judgments.
- 2Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2004). Aversive racism. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 36, pp. 1–51). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
A comprehensive review of research on aversive racism, detailing historical trends and over three decades of theoretical and empirical work on the causes, consequences, and challenges of contemporary racial prejudice.
- 3Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56, 109–118.
An engaging review of research on contemporary sexism, distinguishing benevolent and hostile forms of sexism and their complementary contributions to gender inequality within the United States and internationally.
- 4Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,90, 751–783.
The most comprehensive empirical review, to date, of the effectiveness of intergroup contact for reducing prejudice. Important questions tested in this review include that of whether intergroup contact is associated with less prejudice even when Allport’s ‘optimal’ conditions (e.g., shared goals, equal status between groups) are not met (it is), whether these conditions significantly enhance the degree to which contact promotes positive intergroup relations (it does), and whether the contact–prejudice link extends to group contexts beyond interracial and interethnic samples (it does).
- 5Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Implicit and explicit prejudice and interracial interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 62–68.
The first study to examine how implicit and explicit racial attitudes systematically influence verbal and non-verbal behavior and subsequent impressions during interracial interactions.
- 6Hebl, M. R., Foster, J. B., Mannix, L. M.., & Dovidio, J. F. (2002). Formal and interpersonal discrimination: A field study of bias toward homosexual applicants. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 815–825.
One of the first studies to examine discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the interpersonal processes involved in such stigmatization in actual employment settings.
- 7Pettigrew, T. F., & Meertens, R. W. (1995). Subtle and blatant prejudice in Western Europe. European Journal of Social Psychology, 25, 57–75.
A cross-national perspective on subtle and blatant forms of prejudice and their distinction.
- 8Son Hing, L. S., Li, W., & Zanna, M. P. (2002). Inducing hypocrisy to reduce prejudicial responses among aversive racists. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 71–78.
This study identifies a potent strategy (hypocrisy induction) for reducing aversive racists’ prejudicial behavior and employs a new individual difference measure for assessing aversive racism.
- 9Greenwald, A. G., Poehlman, T. A., Uhlmann, E. L., & Banaji, M. R. (2009). Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: III. Meta-analysis of predictive validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 17–41.
A meta-analysis of judgmental biases and discrimination effects using the Implicit Association Test (IAT) demonstrating the power of indirect measures for predicting modern forms of discrimination.
- 10Pearson, A. R., Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2009). The nature of contemporary prejudice: Insights from aversive racism. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 314–338.
An overview of theoretical and empirical work on contemporary racism in the United States, detailing its consequences for everyday social interactions and decision-making, techniques for combating subtle forms of bias, and emerging developmental perspectives on its origins and maintenance.
1. Project Implicit
An educational and research resource for studies on implicit social cognition, featuring online demonstrations and tests of implicit bias and stereotyping, including assessments of implicit attitudes toward racial and ethnic groups, weight, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and political orientation.
The most comprehensive online resource to date for information on prejudice, discrimination, multiculturalism, and diversity. A wonderful compilation of educational resources, including research summaries on key topics in the field, multimedia links, teaching resources (including in-class exercises, springboard topics for discussions, bibliographies, and suggested assignments), links to relevant organizations, and a directory of experts in the field.
An excellent resource for educators, researchers, and policy-makers on the nature, causes, and consequences of stereotype threat, including descriptions of situational and personality influences, mechanisms, unresolved questions, and critiques of research on this important phenomenon. The website also includes an extensive collection of research articles, chapters, and books in this research area.
4. A Class Divided
Two comprehensive web guides to the dramatic 1968 classroom demonstration by elementary school teacher Jane Elliott revealing the power and ease with which intergroup biases can develop, including teaching guides, online readings and links, transcripts of interviews, and free access to a full-length PBS Frontline documentary on the original demonstration.
5. CROW: Course Resources on the Web
A resource for online demonstrations and class exercises covering a wide variety of introductory topics in prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination.
6. What Would You Do?
Video clips from a hidden camera television show on ABC showing bystander reactions to racism, sexism, and homophobia. Excellent for generating discussion on variability in bystander responses to prejudice, and personal and situational antecedents and social norms that drive these responses.
The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice
This course is a cross-disciplinary seminar on the cultural, biological, and psychological underpinnings of intergroup prejudice, designed for graduate students and advanced undergraduates in psychology, sociology, anthropology, communications, and related disciplines. Although course content will emphasize the causes and consequences of traditional and contemporary forms of racial bias in the United States, other forms of ‘isms’ will also be explored, both nationally and cross-nationally. Topics will include psychological and behavioral manifestations of blatant and subtle forms of bias, prejudice in everyday interpersonal interactions, techniques for reducing conscious and non-conscious biases, and emerging developmental and neuroscientific perspectives on intergroup bias.
Requirements and Grading
The primary requirements of the course are to complete assigned readings and actively participate in class discussions, which include posting reading responses to the course bulletin board in advance of class discussions and serving as a co-facilitator of one class discussion. Grading for the course will be based on discussion participation (25%), weekly reading responses (25%), a mid-term ‘exam’, which may involve alternative exercises such as debates on key controversies in the field (25%), and a final 12–15-page research proposal (which should relate to students’ personal research interests, 25%).
Readings for each class will include selected chapters from the recent edited volume by Dovidio, Glick, and Rudman (2005) reflecting on Allport’s seminal book, and two to three journal articles illustrating relevant processes. Optional readings are indicated for some topics to provide interested readers with additional information. Class facilitators will also have the flexibility to choose alternative articles for the class to read, with the permission of the instructor. All readings will be made available through the course website.
Allport, G. W. (1954/1979). The Nature of Prejudice (25th anniversary edition). Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. (Optional)
Dovidio, J. F., Glick, P., & Rudman, L. A. (Eds.). (2005). On the Nature of Prejudice: Fifty Years after Allport. Malden, MA: Blackwell. (Selected readings)
Reading responses. Students will be asked to post a two- to three-paragraph reading response to the online course bulletin board by 7 p.m. the evening before class. Reading responses can incorporate a wide range of questions/comments, including (but not limited to) identifying key issues that are confusing or need clarification, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the research, discussing alternative explanations, possible boundary conditions, discussing theoretical and/or practical implications of the study findings, identifying points of contact with other readings or prior class discussions, and/or describing alternative ways of testing the study hypotheses.
Class facilitator. To allow flexibility to accommodate student interests, students will be asked to co-facilitate one class. Students will work with the instructor to organize the class, formulate questions, and highlight key controversies to guide class discussion. In addition, facilitators will identify a ‘stump the chump’ study from an empirical article. The article should be one that is not covered in the readings and that illustrates a key insight related to the topic. For this exercise, the student facilitator will describe the design of the study and will ask the class to make predictions and formulate a rationale for these predictions before revealing the study results.
Research proposal. A short research proposal (12–15 pages) will be due at the end of the semester. The proposal should build on a topic relevant to the study of prejudice but ideally relate to one’s own research interests. The paper should be in APA format and include a thorough introduction (background), a methods section, a proposed results section, and a discussion of the contribution such a project would make to the field.
Week 1: Prejudice: Past and Present (DGR Ch. 1)
Duckitt, J. H. (1992). Psychology and prejudice: A historical analysis and integrative framework. American Psychologist, 47, 1182–1193.
Pearson, A. R., Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2009). The nature of contemporary prejudice: Insights from aversive racism. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 314–338.
Week 2: The Nature of the Problem (DGR Ch. 3)
Kurzban, R., & Leary, M. (2001). Evolutionary origins of stigmatization: The functions of social exclusion. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 187–208.
Brewer, M. B. (1999). The psychology of prejudice: Ingroup love or outgroup hate? Journal of Social Issues, 55, 429–444.
Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. (2000). Aversive racism and selection decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11, 315–319.
Week 3: Motivational Processes (DGR Chs 6, 15)
Fein, S., & Spencer, S. J. (1997). Prejudice as self-image maintenance: Affirming the self through derogating others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 31–44.
Monin, B., & Miller, D. T. (2001). Moral credentials and the expression of prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 33–43.
Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56, 109–118.
Pratto, F., & Shih, M. (2000). Social dominance orientation and group context in implicit group prejudice. Psychological Science, 11, 521–524.
Week 4: Cognitive Processes (DGR Chs 11, 13)
Hamilton, D. L., & Gifford, R. K. (1976). Illusory correlation in interpersonal perception: A cognitive basis of stereotypic judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 12, 392–407.
Nelson, T. E., Biernat, M. R., & Manis, M. (1990). Everyday base rates (sex stereotypes): Potent and resilient. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 664–675.
Hodson, G., Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Processes in racial discrimination: Differential weighting of conflicting information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 460–471.
Bargh, J. (1999). The cognitive monster: The case against the controllability of automatic stereotype effects. In S. Chaiken & Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual-Process Theories in Social Psychology (pp. 361–368). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Week 5: Emotion Processes (DGR Ch. 22)
DeSteno, D. et al. (2004). Prejudice from thin air: The effect of emotion on automatic intergroup attitude. Psychological Science, 15, 319–324.
Cottrell, C. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2005). Different emotional reactions to different groups: A sociofunctional threat-based approach to “prejudice”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 770–789.
Mackie, D. M., Devos, T., & Smith, E. R. (2000). Intergroup emotions: Explaining offensive action tendencies in an intergroup context. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 79, 602–616.
Cuddy, A. J. C., Rock, M., & Norton, M. I. (2007). Aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Inferences of secondary emotions and intergroup helping. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 10, 107–118.
Week 6: Mid-Term Exam (Debates)
Week 7: Prejudice in Social Interactions I: Processes
Word, C. O., Zanna, M. P., & Cooper, J. (1974). The nonverbal mediation of self-fulfilling prophecies in interracial interaction. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 10, 109–120.
Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Implicit and explicit prejudice and interracial interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 62–68.
Snyder, M., Tanke, E. D., & Berscheid, E. (1977). Social perception and interpersonal behavior: On the self-fulfilling nature of social stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 655–666.
Week 8: Prejudice in Social Interactions II: Consequences (DGR Ch. 10)
Hebl, M. R., Foster, J. B., Mannix, L. M., & Dovidio, J. F. (2002). Formal and interpersonal discrimination: A field study of bias toward homosexual applicants. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 815–825.
Kawakami, K., Dunn, L., Karmali, F., & Dovidio, J. F. (2009). Mispredicting affective and behavioral responses to racism. Science, 323, 276–278.
Richeson, J. A., & Shelton, J. N. (2007). Negotiating interracial interactions: Costs, consequences, and possibilities. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 316–320.
Week 9: Institutional Biases (DGR Ch. 14)
Graham, L. O. (1995). Invisible man: Why this Harvard-trained lawyer went undercover as a busboy at an all-white Connecticut country club. In Lawrence Otis Graham (Ed.), Member of the Club: Reflections on Life in a Racially Polarized World (pp. 1–26). New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Eberhardt, J. L., Davies, P. G., Purdie-Vaughns, V. J., & Johnson, S. L. (2006). Looking deathworthy: Perceived stereotypicality of black defendants predicts capital-sentencing outcomes. Psychological Science, 17, 383–386.
Dovidio, J. F., Penner, L. A., Albrecht, T. L., Norton, W. E., Gaertner, S. L., & Shelton, J. N. (2008). Disparities and distrust: The implications of psychological processes for understanding racial disparities in health and health care. Social Science & Medicine, 67, 478–486.
Week 10: Combating Explicit Biases (DGR Ch. 17)
Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. (1999). Reducing prejudice: Combating intergroup biases. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8, 101–105.
Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 751–783.
Paluck, E. L. (2009). Reducing intergroup prejudice and conflict using the media: A field experiment in Rwanda. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 574–587.
Stangor, C., Segrist, G. B., & Jost, J. T. (2001). Changing racial beliefs by providing consensus information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 486–496.
Son Hing, L. S., Li, W., & Zanna, M. P. (2002). Inducing hypocrisy to reduce prejudicial responses among aversive racists. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 71–78.
Week 11: Combating Implicit Biases (DGR Ch. 20)
Devine, P. G. (1989). Stereotypes and prejudice: Their automatic and controlled components. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 5–18.
Blair, I. V. (2002). The malleability of automatic stereotypes and prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6, 242–261.
Rudman, L. A., Ashmore, R. D., & Gary, M. L. (2001). “Unlearning” automatic biases: The malleability of implicit prejudice and stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 856–868.
Turner, R. N., Hewstone, M., & Voci, A. (2007). Reducing explicit and implicit outgroup prejudice via direct and extended contact: The mediating role of self-disclosure and intergroup anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 369–388.
Week 12: Developmental Perspectives (DGR Ch. 19)
Dunham, Y., Baron, A. S., & Banaji, M. R. (2008). The development of implicit intergroup cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12, 248–253.
Apfelbaum, E. P., Pauker, K., Ambady, N., Sommers, S. R., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Learning (not) to talk about race: When older children underperform in social categorization. Developmental Psychology, 44, 1513–1518.
McGillicuddy-De Lisi, A. V., Daly, M., & Neal, A. (2006). Children’s distributive justice judgments: Aversive racism in Euro-American children? Child Development,77, 1063–1080.
Week 13: Neuroscientific Perspectives
Cunningham, W. A., Johnson, M. K., Raye, C. L., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2004). Separable neural components in the processing of Black and White Faces. Psychological Science,15, 806–813.
Amodio, D. M., & Ratner, K. (forthcoming). The brains behind intergroup relations: A social neuroscience analysis of the regulation of intergroup responses. To appear in J. Decety and J. T. Cacioppo, Handbook of Social Neuroscience. Oxford University Press.
Olsson, A., Ebert, J. P., Banaji, M. R., & Phelps, E. A. (2005). The role of social groups in the persistence of learned fear. Science,309, 785–787.
Week 14: Wrap-Up & Synthesis (DGR Ch. 26)
Steele, S. (1990) A negative vote on affirmative action. Excerpted from The Content of Our Character. Originally published in The New York Times Magazine, 13 May 1990.
Fiske, S. T., Bersoff, D. N., Borgida, E., Deaux, K., & Heilman, M. E. (1991). Social science research on trial: Use of sex stereotyping research in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins. American Psychologist, 46, 1049–1060.
Paluck, E. L., & Green, D. P. (2009). Prejudice Reduction: What works? A critical look at evidence from the field and the laboratory. Annual Review of Psychology,60, 339–367.
Confirmation Bias in Action
Instructor Preparation: Prepare stick-on labels (one for each student) with a single trait (e.g., lazy, ambitious, athletic, etc.) printed large enough to be visible at a distance of 5–6 feet.
Exercise: Place the trait labels in an envelope and ask each student to select one label at random and place it on the forehead or chest of the student to his or her left, such that the trait remains to be visible to all members of the class except for the student for whom the trait was selected.
Is Fate at Work? Ask each student to provide the class with a brief (1–2 min) verbal description of what he or she did over the summer or winter break. Upon the conclusion of each description, ask the class to formulate questions for the speaker with the aim of assessing whether or not the speaker’s personality actually reflects elements of the randomly chosen trait (i.e., is fate at work?). Relay to the class that any question is a fair game, as long as it does not mention the assigned trait or a synonym of the trait.
Author Commentary and Discussion: Following this exercise, it is useful to discuss Darley and Gross’s (1983) classic study on confirmatory bias and a recent adaptation and extension of this study by Wegener, Clark, and Petty (2006), which tie well into a discussion of processes that work to perpetuate subtle forms of discrimination (see Hodson, Dovidio, & Gaertner, 2002). Indeed, the point of the Darley and Gross study is that people believe that they are objective information processors and that they typically refrain from using non-diagnostic information, such as race or social class, to develop impressions of another person’s character or ability when more direct diagnostic information is available. In the Darley and Gross experiment, participants are presented with ‘non-diagnostic’ information about a young girl’s socioeconomic status as being either high or low. Participants are then shown a video of an ambiguous test performance by the girl (i.e., one that reveals both successes and failures). In their study, those who were led to believe that the girl was higher in socioeconomic status developed the impression that the student’s performance was well above grade level. In contrast, although the student’s performance was identical in both conditions, participants who were led to believe that the student was of low socioeconomic status reported her performance to be well below grade level. Additionally, only those viewing the video developed these strong impressions: whereas those who did not view the video but only possessed the non-diagnostic information guessed that her abilities were at grade level; those who viewed the video believed that they had diagnostic information confirming expectations derived from the non-diagnostic information.
In the present exercise, the class questions following each speaker description are often quite revealing, as they frequently expose just how much of our searching for the truth looks to confirm, rather than disconfirm, evidence of a suspected trait or ability. Questions that seek to confirm a trait lead one to think of those situations in which the trait might be true or ability might be revealed. After several such questions, the person answering the questions may come to believe that he or she actually is, for example, quite athletic, which can lead respondents to further confirm the questioner’s initial suspicions (or stereotypes) through a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This exercise should take 15–20 min.
Darley, J. M., & Gross, P. H. (1983). A hypothesis-confirming bias in labeling effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,44, 20–33.
Hodson, G., Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Processes in racial discrimination: Differential weighting of conflicting information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,28, 460–471.
Wegener, D. T., Clark, J. K., & Petty, R. E. (2006). Not all stereotyping is created equal: Differential consequences of thoughtful versus non-thoughtful stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,90, 42–59.