Individual Differences

People differ systematically in their tendencies to perceive others in terms of group membership, in their propensity to see groups hierarchically, and in their willingness to endorse stereotypic characterizations and prejudicial attitudes openly. We consider three individual differences, the first of which is authoritarianism. Developed as a construct in the late 1940s, the authoritarian personality inventory was constructed to measure anti-Semitism and its correlates (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, & Sanford, 1950). The resulting personality structure largely reflected ethnocentrism, a tendency to think in rigid categories, a need to submit to authority, adherence to middle class values, and rationalized aggression.

Altemeyer (1996) continued Adorno et al.'s (1950) line of research by focusing on what he referred to as right-wing authoritarians, or people who specifically (a) submit to authorities, (b) exhibit aggression toward social deviants, and (c) maintain conventional beliefs. Those scoring high in right-wing authoritarianism are also more likely to endorse and defend the status quo and hold negative attitudes toward and limit the opportunities of stigmatized or oppressed individuals. Those high in right-wing authoritarianism are also likely to see the world as threatening and may feel more justified in discriminating against others as a way to maintain control (see also Crandall & Eshleman, 2003).

A second individual difference involves social dominance orientation (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). People high in social dominance orientation believe that group hierarchies are inevitable, see the world as involving competition between groups for resources, and view unequal social outcomes as a consequence of social hierarchies as appropriate. They tend to be high in prejudice toward a range of other groups. Individuals low in social dominance orientation, in contrast, are generally concerned about others' welfare, empathic, and tolerant of other individuals and groups (Pratto et al., 1994).

A third individual difference is the level of prejudice that people hold. Whereas authoritarianism and social dominance orientation may be related directly to overt biases, such as old-fashioned racism, other forms of bias have emerged as current norms and laws sanction open discrimination. Examples of contemporary racial biases include aversive racism (Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986), modern racism (McConahay, 1986), and symbolic racism (Sears, Henry, & Kosterman, 2000). A common, critical aspect these three different forms of contemporary bias is the conflict between the denial of personal prejudice and underlying unconscious negative feelings and beliefs.

Dovidio and Gaertner (2000), for example, proposed that aversive racism may be one factor that contributes to disparities in the workplace. At the time of hiring, aversive racism can affect how qualifications are perceived and weighed, in ways that systematically disadvantage Black relative to White applicants. Dovidio and Gaertner found that racial bias among Black applicants was not expressed when Black and White job candidates were clearly qualified or clearly unqualified for a position. However, when qualifications were not clear, bias against Black candidates emerged.

Measures of implicit attitudes and stereotypes, assessed using response latency techniques, have helped to identify who is likely to exhibit these types of subtle biases. In general, response time measures relate to a wide range of personal characteristics and orientations, such as self-esteem and political ideology (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003), and these measures have been used to increase the accuracy of predicting voting behavior, other political positions, and consumer behavior (Bassili, 1995; Fazio, Powell, & Williams, 1989). Using response time measures to assess implicit feelings about Blacks and self-report techniques to measure explicit attitudes, Dovidio, Kawakami, and Gaertner (2002) evaluated the effects of White individuals' unconscious (implicit) and conscious (explicit) attitudes on discrimination. Explicit attitudes shape deliberative, well-considered responses (e.g., overt judgments) for which people have the motivation and opportunity to weigh the costs and benefits of various courses of action, whereas implicit attitudes shape responses that are more difficult to monitor and control (e.g., some nonverbal behaviors). Thus, the relative impact of implicit and explicit attitudes is a function of the context in which the attitudinal object appears, the motivation and opportunity to engage in deliberative processes, and the nature of the behavioral response. We consider the role of the social context in the next section.

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Letting Go, Moving On

Letting Go, Moving On

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