Lay Understandings of Fat-Prejudice: The Effects of Factual Information, Doubt, and Group Membership

O’Brien, M. (Australian National University), Platow, M. J. (Australian National University)

Prejudice is a concept shrouded in definitional ambiguity, leading to a lack of consensus in the social-psychological literature over what exactly constitutes prejudice. An argument is made that examining lay-beliefs regarding prejudice is likely to impart a greater understanding of the prejudice concept. The current study examined lay people’s understandings of prejudice, manipulating three independent variables: (1) the factual nature of the negative intergroup attitude, (2) doubt expressed by a third-party about the attitude, and (3) the group membership of that third-party. Results indicated that the factual nature of the attitude strongly affected perceptions of prejudice; negative intergroup attitudes were less likely to be interpreted as prejudice when presented as fact than opinion. Further analyses revealed that participants interpreted negative intergroup statements more as prejudice when the third-party expressed doubt over them than when that third-party expressed confidence. This latter main effect was qualified, however, by the group membership of the appraiser in that this difference was significant only when the appraiser was an in-group member. Overall, each variable investigated played some role in influencing lay-people’s understandings of what constitutes prejudice. The implications of these findings for both theory and practice are discussed.

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Understanding Prejudice Symposium