The Space Between Us

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 24
  • Published : December 8, 2012
Open Document
Text Preview
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2008, Vol. 94, No. 1, 91–107

Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association 0022-3514/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.94.1.91

The Space Between Us: Stereotype Threat and Distance in Interracial Contexts Phillip Atiba Goff
The Pennsylvania State University

Claude M. Steele
Stanford University

Paul G. Davies
University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Four studies investigate the role that stereotype threat plays in producing racial distancing behavior in an anticipated conversation paradigm. It was hypothesized that the threat of appearing racist may have the ironic effect of causing Whites to distance themselves from Black conversation partners. In Study 1, participants distanced themselves more from Black partners under conditions of threat, and this distance correlated with the activation of a “White racist” stereotype. In Study 2, it was demonstrated that Whites’ interracial distancing behavior was not predicted by explicit or implicit prejudice. Study 3 provides evidence that conceiving of interracial interactions as opportunities to learn may attenuate the negative consequences of threat for Whites. Study 4 found that Whites have conscious access to their experience of stereotype threat and that this awareness may mediate the relationship between threat and distance. These results are discussed within a broader discourse of racial distancing and the possibility that certain identity threats may be as important as prejudice in determining the outcomes of interracial interactions. Keywords: stereotype threat, racial bias, racial discrimination, social distance, prejudice

Much of contemporary research on racial prejudice and discrimination must contend with a paradox. Namely, in the last half century, researchers have found a consistent decline in the expression of anti-Black racial attitudes and a similarly robust maintenance of Black–White racial inequality (Bobo, 1983). Many researchers have explained this paradox by assuming that contaminated “hearts” or “minds” are the necessary precondition for racial disparities. Each of these contemporary theories about racial discrimination locates the problem of racial inequality within individual agents and assumes that if there is racism, there must be racists. The present research adopts a more contextual approach to racial inequality and discrimination in order to explain the paradox of diverging racial attitudes and outcomes. Rather than assuming that contaminated “hearts and minds” are solely responsible for racial discrimination, in the present research we hypothesized that one’s concern with appearing prejudiced might have the ironic and unintended consequence of causing racial harms. Of note, research on intergroup contact has frequently assumed that making racially egalitarian values important to an individual is a significant step toward prejudice reduction

Phillip Atiba Goff, Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University; Claude M. Steele, Department of Psychology, Stanford University; Paul G. Davies, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. We thank Larisa A. Heiphetz for her helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Phillip Atiba Goff, Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, 441 Moore Building, University Park, PA 16802. E-mail: philgoff@psu.edu 91

(Allport, 1954). Yet we predict that this same prosocial concern may contribute to racial distancing under conditions where an egalitarian individual becomes concerned with being seen as prejudiced. There is some research to support this hypothesis. A growing literature suggests that individuals are aware that they may be negatively stereotyped as racially prejudiced (i.e., Dunton & Fazio, 1997; Plant & Devine, 1998; Vorauer, Main, & O’Connell, 1998). For example, Vorauer and...
tracking img