When Memes Make Meaning: The Effects of Threat and Group-Based Social Proof on Interpreting Negative Intergroup Statements as Prejudice or Truth

Read, E. (Australian National University), Platow, M. J. (The Australian National University)

There is currently no consensually agreed-upon definition of the construct of prejudice in the social psychological literature. In order to understand the psychological processes behind how specific attitudes come to be understood as prejudiced or not, the current research examined how lay people conceptualise the concept. Previous literature studying prejudiced attitudes has found that the presence of justifications for specific attitudes can shift those attitudes from being interpreted as prejudice to being interpreted as truth. The current research sought to assess how the presence or absence of intergroup threat and in-group vs. out-group-based social proof (high vs. low) could operate in this process of justification. Toward this end, the study used social media as a means to present a negative intergroup message in the form of a meme. The results indicated that the interpretation of a negative intergroup attitude as either prejudice or truth was, indeed, influenced by the three experimental variables. Overall, both intergroup threat and group-based social proof do, indeed, affect how specific attitudes come to be understood as prejudiced or not.

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—- TYREE —–
Understanding Prejudice Symposium