How Self-Affirmations Influence the Motivation and Behaviors Associated With Prejedice Reduction
AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSONAFB OH
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Previous research has shown that when low-prejudice people behave in a manner inconsistent with their nonprejudiced standards, they feel guilty about the discrepancy and engage in a self-regulatory process that helps to inhibit future prejudiced responses. The present research tested the hypothesis that self-affirmations disrupt the prejudice reduction process by alleviating discrepancy-related guilt--the motivating force behind prejudice reduction efforts. Following activation of prejudice-relevant discrepancies, participants were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions in the type of self-affirmation none, unrelated, and related x time of behavioral assessment immediate and two-day delay factorial design, which included an appended no-discrepancy control condition. Participants affect and confidence were measured immediately after discrepancy activation and self-affirmation. Prejudice-relevant behavior was measured either immediately after the self-affirmation or two days later by having participants rate how funny they found four jokes that played on the stereotypes of black people. Self-reported ratings of joke humor as well as participants nonverbal responses to the jokes were measured. Consistent with previous research, discrepancy activation produced high levels of guilt and decreased levels of positive affect for participants without self-affirmation opportunities. Further, important self-affirmations, both related and unrelated to the discrepancy domain, alleviated guilt and boosted positive affect following prejudice-relevant discrepancies. Surprisingly, participants who did not self-affirm reported higher levels of confidence than participants who self-affirmed. To test whether self-affirmations ultimately disrupted prejudice reduction efforts, prejudice-relevant behavior was examined.