Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Belief in Paranormal Determinism as a Source of Prejudice toward Disadvantaged Groups: "The Dark Side of Stars"

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Belief in Paranormal Determinism as a Source of Prejudice toward Disadvantaged Groups: "The Dark Side of Stars"

Article excerpt

In previous research and theory dealing with prejudice, the role of belief in a paranormal determinism of human personality and behavior has been relatively overlooked. Two studies (N = 371) tested the impact of belief in astrology on prejudice toward significant stigmatized groups in France (i.e., Arabs, women, and overweight people). Results of the first study reveal that belief in astrology is a significant predictor of prejudice toward stigmatized groups. In addition, results of the second study suggest that attribution of ethnic outgroups' disadvantages to internal causes mediates the effect of belief in astrology on ethnic prejudice. Implications of these results are discussed.

Several studies have explored the links between religiosity and prejudice (Allport, 1958; Batson, Flink, Schroenrade, Fultz, & Pych, 1986; Batson, Schroenrade, & Pych, 1985; Batson & Ventis, 1982; Gorsuch, 1988) and the links between religiosity and belief in the paranormal (Beck & Miller, 2001; Donahue, 1993; Hillstrom & Strachan, 2000; Thalbourne & O'Brien, 1999). But the impact of belief in paranormal determinism on prejudice has been relatively overlooked. The present research partially fills this void. The main goals were: (1) to provide new insights about the relationship between belief in the paranormal and prejudice toward societally disadvantaged groups; and, (2) to examine the psychological mechanisms by which belief in a paranormal determinism might affect prejudice. In the present document, we use the term paranormal determinism to refer to the belief that human personality and behaviors are directly determined by the influence of paranormal factors.

It is relatively well-known that people seek to make sense of the world by making judgments about the cause(s) of human behavior(s) and personality. Attribution theory (Heider, 1958; Kelley, 1973) suggests that behaviors (e.g., poverty) can be attributed to internal causes (e.g., lack of ability, lack of intelligence) or external causes (e.g., institutional discrimination). According to Crandall (1994), the tendency to hold individuals responsible for their situations and to attribute their situations to internal factors is an important source of prejudice. Similarly, Guimond, Begin, and Palmer (1989) showed that students who believed that the poor and the unemployed were responsible for their own fate (e.g., lack of effort) were less tolerant than were those who believed that the unequal distribution of resources by society was responsible for their poverty (external attribution).

Regarding the link between belief in a paranormal determinism and prejudice, attribution theory seems particularly relevant. Specifically, we suggest that belief in paranormal determinism implies two distinct sets of beliefs. The first is a belief that both behaviors and personality are affected by uncontrollable external influences (see Lester, 1994; Sosis, Strickland, & Haley, 1980). Second, it is assumed that these forms of external causes (e.g. the stars in the case of astrology) have a powerful influence on individuals' behaviors and personality. Because paranormal influence is presumed to determine individuals' characteristics, behavior and personality would be seen as relatively nonmalleable and unchangeable. In other words, this attitude favors the belief that individuals' internal characteristics are relatively fixed. In the context of prejudice against disadvantaged groups, this can have important implications. Do people believing in the paranormal focus on external dimensions and attribute causes of groups' disadvantage to external causes (e.g., lack of chance .....) favoring tolerant attitudes toward these groups? Or, by contrast, do people focus on internal dimensions and attribute the causes of group disadvantage to internal and negative characteristics (lazy, unintelligent...), leading by extension to prejudicial attitudes against these groups? …

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