Judith A. Hall
Stephen G. Harkins (1948-), Joanne Miller
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Arts and Sciences. Department of Psychology
Psychology, Interpersonal sensitivity, Prejudice
Modern prejudicial attitudes and discrimination toward minority group members have been linked to negative behavioral outcomes for both the target groups (Beal, O'Neal, Ong, & Ruscher, 2000) as well as for others who are present in the environment (De Dreu & Weingart, 2003). While social norms and even some laws have made prejudicial attitudes less explicitly apparent in many parts of our society, prejudicial attitudes are still very apparent worldwide. Because these attitudes are somewhat commonplace in everyday society it is only logical for researchers to explore how prejudicial attitudes affect different aspects of inter- and intrapersonal functioning. This dissertation examines how prejudicial attitudes towards Blacks are related to individuals' ability to accurately decode nonverbal cues from others who are both a part of their ingroup, as well as those who are members of an outgroup. More specifically, this dissertation tests the hypothesis that high prejudiced persons (HPP) underperform low prejudiced persons (LPP) on interpersonal sensitivity tests involving both White targets and Black targets. The decrease in sensitivity performance should be even more apparent when the target of the interpersonal sensitivity task is someone who is a minority group member, or on a Black targets interpersonal sensitivity test, compared to when the target is a member of the ingroup, or on a White targets interpersonal sensitivity test. These hypothesized relationships were tested and explored in order to determine the mechanism(s) accounting for this relation in an effort to try and understand why HPP may experience such a nonverbal decoding deficit compared to LPP on Black targets tests of interpersonal sensitivity. Study 1 documents the phenomenon that HPP are less accurate than LPP at decoding nonverbal cues and that they are slightly less accurate when decoding members of a minority group they do not like. Three subsequent experiments pursue proximal states (i.e., cognitive/emotional/motivational states aroused in the testing situation that might help or harm performance on sensitivity tasks) as an explanation for the inverse relation between prejudice and accuracy. Study 2 manipulates emotion to determine if negative proximal states (e.g., anger and anxiety) can affect accuracy on interpersonal sensitivity tests. Study 3 examines cognitive load as a possible proximal state that could also affect accuracy. Study 4 examines lack of motivation as a proximal mechanism that could also hurt HPP accuracy. Finally, Study 5 links the naturally occurring proximal states of anger and anxiety to both prejudice level and accuracy - to find out whether these states serve as mediators of the relation between prejudice and accuracy on tests of interpersonal sensitivity when the targets are members of a minority group. Results suggest that negative proximal states, more specifically anger and cognitive load do hinder performance on Black tests of interpersonal sensitivity and that these negative proximal states are linked to the experience of the highly prejudiced individual while completing an interpersonal sensitivity test involving Black targets. Highly prejudiced individuals also appear to withdraw effort on Black tests of interpersonal sensitivity causing an accuracy deficit. Implications, limitations, and future directions of these results are discussed.
Susan A. Andrzejewski
Andrzejewski, Susan A., "An examination of the relation between prejudice and interpersonal sensitivity" (2009). Psychology Dissertations. Paper 2. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d10019182
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