Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition

By Gordon B. Moskowitz | Go to book overview

23
Margo J. Monteith Corrine I. Voils
University of Kentucky

Exerting Control Over Prejudiced Responses

Early approaches to reducing prejudice 1 were primarily aimed at producing stereotype, attitude, and behavioral change among individuals whose attitudes presumably were highly prejudiced. This was the goal of research that was intended to change prejudiced attitudes through propaganda (e.g., oral presentations and movies), education, and therapeutic and group interaction techniques (see Harding, Kunter, Proshansky, & Chein, 1954; Simpson & Yinger, 1965; Stephan, 1985). Rokeach's (1973) self-confrontation technique likewise was intended to reduce the prejudice evident in people's attitudes and values, as was research investigating the effects of intergroup contact (Amir, 1969) and cooperative learning (Aronson, Blaney, Stephan, Sikes, & Snapp, 1978). There continues to be some much-needed emphasis on understanding the potential effectiveness of various strategies for reducing prejudiced attitudes and changing stereotypic beliefs (e.g., Kunda & Oleson, 1995; Leippe & Eisenstadt, 1994; Pettigrew, 1997). However, recent advances in social psychology have underscored the need to understand how prejudice also might be reduced among individuals who do not espouse stereotypic beliefs or prejudiced attitudes (i.e., low-prejudice individuals).

To those who are unfamiliar with current social-psychological theory and research on stereotyping and prejudice, the idea that prejudice-reduction research should focus on low-prejudice individuals at all might raise some puzzled brows. Reducing prejudice among people who do not hold prejudiced attitudes? The difficulty is that advances in social cognition research investigating stereotype activation and use (see Blair, this volume) have revealed that even individuals who hold low-prejudice attitudes are capable of engaging in prejudiced responses due to automatic stereotype activation and use. Furthermore, reducing prejudiced responses among such individuals is not easily accomplished. The problem centers on just how much control individuals can exert over prejudiced responses that result from rather automatic stereotype activation and use (see Bargh, 1999; Blair, chap. 22, this volume, Moskowitz, chap. 21, this volume).

Our goals in this chapter are to review the impressive advances that have been made during the last couple of decades in understanding the social-cognitive factors that encourage prejudiced responses even among individuals who hold low-prejudice attitudes; to discuss strategies that can be used for the conscious control of prejudiced responses along with limitations of these strategies; and to present theory and research suggesting that individuals may be able to learn how to control automatic stereotype activation and use through practice and efforts at deautomatizing the automatic processes involved in stereotyping. We believe that much remains to be learned about issues of control in stereotyping and prejudice. However, due to the status of accumulated knowledge about issues of control, the research tools available through social cognition methodology, and the prevalence of individuals who are motivated to control their prejudice within society, we believe that rapid progress can potentially be made in this area. Thus, our final goal is to identify issues that we believe are particularly important to consider in future research that attempts to understand the processes by which Control can be exerted over prejudiced responses.


STEREOTYPING AND CONTROLLING PREJUDICED RESPONSES

As a consequence of the civil rights movement and its aftermath, there appeared to be a fundamental shift in the nature of prejudice toward particular groups (primarily Blacks and women) in the United States (e.g., Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986; McConahay, 1986; Monteith, Zuwerink, & Devine, 1994). Expressing prejudiced beliefs and engaging in prejudiced behaviors became less socially acceptable, and many people appeared to adopt a more egalitarian stance in the attitudes that they reported (Schuman, Steeh, & Bobo, 1985). However, at the same time, research continued to reveal prejudiced responses

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