The Psychology of Prejudice

By Mark P. Zanna; James M. Olson | Go to book overview

which we have seen is easily done--and hence likely to avoid thinking about the personal implications of the data. But the Highs in the personal value confrontation could see their own answers, so it was very difficult for them to kid themselves that the conclusion about equality and selfishness applied to someone else, but not to them.

I suspect personal value confrontation (and perhaps personal religious confrontation) would be particularly troubling to Highs, because they conceive of themselves as "the good people." When they could (or, had to) see a way in which they were falling short of their self-image, many may have resolved to change. They seemingly responded beautifully, nondefensively, constructively when an inconsistency in their thinking was pointed out. Freedom and equality are probably highly compartmentalized concepts in authoritarians' thinking, both endorsed with little thought, as cultural values. But when the connection was made between equality and other people's freedom, a more comprehensive, better integrated understanding of equality in society may have emerged.

Most Highs do not realize they are unusually submissive, conventional, and aggressive ( Altemeyer, 1988). When they learn they are, they usually express some willingness to change. The right-wing authoritarians I study are not irredeemable Nazi-types as a rule, but fearful people whose circumstances have kept them in those tight circles. They would never suspect they are enemies of freedom or equality. But if one can get past the defenses they have thrown up to protect their vulnerabilities, as Rokeach's procedure might, Highs may be remarkably capable of change. This gives hope, if it is true.1


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

I would like to thank Professor Paul Chartrand and Frieda Ahenakew, Heads of the Department of Native Studies at my university, and Donald Salmon, Marvin Brodsky, Ross Hartsough, and Jim Shapiro, my colleagues teaching introductory psychology, for their valued cooperation in these studies.


REFERENCES

Adorno T. W., Frenkel-Brunswik E., Levinson D. J., & Sanford R. N. ( 1950). The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper & Row.

Altemeyer B. ( 1981). Right-wing authoritarianism. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

____________________
1
A replication of the personal value confrontation procedure in March 1992 produced the following results by the following summer: High controls (N = 14) = 21% support; High experimentals (N = 14) = 50% support; z = 1.58, p < .15 by a two-tailed test. Low controls (N = 13) = 54% support; Low experimentals (N = 16) = 56% support; z = 0.13, p > .50. A fourth experiment is being conducted in 1992-1993.

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