Permission to be prejudiced: Legitimacy credits in the evaluation of advertisements



We investigated discrimination in the context of evaluating advertisements, based on the suppression model (justification-suppression model [JSM]) of prejudice expression. Previous research has demonstrated that when people are given an opportunity to give a high rating to an ad featuring a Black model, a sense of nonprejudice is created, which, in turn, provides an opportunity to discriminate subsequently without feeling prejudiced. We extended the JSM by investigating whether the acquisition of legitimacy credits (a moral authority earned by demonstrating nonprejudice) is a sufficient condition to release the expression of prejudice. We found that subjects who first evaluated a high-quality ad featuring a Black model felt eligible to use legitimacy credits in subsequent evaluations. But in a subsequent study, participants who acquired these credits evaluated Black model ads more negatively than White model ads only when these ads were of low quality. The implications for evaluating the subtle way that prejudice affects rating of models of color in advertisements are discussed.