Ignoring Versus Exploring Differences Between Groups: Effects of Salient Color-Blindness and Multiculturalism on Intergroup Attitudes and Behavior



Multiculturalism and color-blindness represent distinct, and in many ways conflicting, approaches to intergroup relations. We provide a review of the research and theory guiding use of these ideologies as prejudice reduction strategies: Is it best for individuals to ignore category memberships and focus on fundamental human qualities that everyone shares, as color-blindness would suggest? Or should people adhere to multicultural ideals, recognizing and indeed celebrating differences between groups? After describing these ideologies and their respective theoretical underpinnings, we examine their effects on attitudes, perceptions, and intergroup interaction behavior. We emphasize in particular the link from color-blindness to self-focus and prevention orientation and from multiculturalism to an other-focused learning orientation. Although color-blindness can have positive effects in the short term, the efforts that it prompts to inhibit and suppress negative responses can be taxing and difficult to sustain. Multiculturalism triggers more positive intergroup attitudes and behavior in nonconflictual circumstances, but has the opposite effect in threatening situations. Nonetheless, because it leads to a focus on learning about others in intergroup situations multiculturalism has the virtue of generally fostering greater attention and responsiveness to outgroup members.