Association for Psychological Science paper: “Ironic effects of anti-prejudice messages”; claims programs to decrease prejudices may actually increase if the prejudiced people feel they are having negative ideology forced upon them.

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In this penultimate post before vacationing Debito.org for the summer, here’s some food for thought.  According to this upcoming paper, telling prejudiced people to stop being prejudicial may be less effective than spreading a message of why diversity and equality are important to people being discriminated against.  So maybe for all these years I’ve been going about this the wrong way.  Arudou Debito

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Paper: Ironic effects of anti-prejudice messages

Published in the Association for Psychological Science

Public release date: 7-Jul-2011
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-07/afps-ieo070711.php
Contact: Divya Menon dmenon@psychologicalscience.org, courtesy Olaf

Organizations and programs have been set up all over the globe in the hopes of urging people to end prejudice. According to a research article, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, such programs may actually increase prejudices.

Lisa Legault, Jennifer Gutsell and Michael Inzlicht, from the University of Toronto Scarborough, were interested in exploring how one’s everyday environment influences people’s motivation toward prejudice reduction.

The authors conducted two experiments which looked at the effect of two different types of motivational intervention – a controlled form (telling people what they should do) and a more personal form (explaining why being non-prejudiced is enjoyable and personally valuable).

In experiment one; participants were randomly assigned one of two brochures to read: an autonomy brochure or a controlling brochure. These brochures discussed a new campus initiative to reduce prejudice. A third group was offered no motivational instructions to reduce prejudice. The authors found that, ironically, those who read the controlling brochure later demonstrated more prejudice than those who had not been urged to reduce prejudice. Those who read the brochure designed to support personal motivation showed less prejudice than those in the other two groups.

In experiment two, participants were randomly assigned a questionnaire, designed to stimulate personal or controlling motivation to reduce prejudice. The authors found that those who were exposed to controlling messages regarding prejudice reduction showed significantly more prejudice than those who did not receive any controlling cues.

The authors suggest that when interventions eliminate people’s freedom to value diversity on their own terms, they may actually be creating hostility toward the targets of prejudice.

According to Dr. Legault, “Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.” Legault continues, “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”

Legault stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

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For more information about this study, please contact: Lisa Legault at lisa.legault@utoronto.ca.

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article “Ironic Effects of Anti-Prejudice Messages: How Motivational Interventions Can Reduce (but also increase) Prejudice” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at dmenon@psychologicalscience.org.

ENDS

2 comments on “Association for Psychological Science paper: “Ironic effects of anti-prejudice messages”; claims programs to decrease prejudices may actually increase if the prejudiced people feel they are having negative ideology forced upon them.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    It will be interesting to read the full article.

    Interesting piece in the Japan Times today about the problems facing the Nigerian community in Japan.

    “Japan’s Nigerians pay price for prosperity
    Facing apathy within and racism without, a disunited community struggles to thrive on society’s periphery”

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110719zg.html

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    I can see how this makes sense, the “free-choice” as opposed to “cohersion” – especially as so many prejudiced people already have a victim mentality.
    On the other hand, think how often we are told by Team Japan that Japanese people are quick to follow rules, or that they will put the rules above personal interest, blah, blah.

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