A Theory of Prejudice and Why it Persists (or to Whom is Obama Still Black?)
42 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 4 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
Anti-black prejudice affects how citizens evaluate black candidates. Can continued contact with such candidates change prejudice’s role in subsequent evaluations? Scholars disagree. To clarify when continued contact reduces evaluative prejudice, I integrate psychological insights into a formal model.
I find that widely-cited factors such as exposure frequency and motivation to avoid appearing prejudiced are not sufficient to reduce evaluative prejudice. Instead, citizens must associate negative personal consequences with their prejudice. Even then, prejudice’s role in subsequent evaluations declines only if a citizen’s goals, context, and beliefs about the future combine to make them rethink prejudiced beliefs. This result implies that past empirical studies about prejudice reach different conclusions because only some supply the necessary conditions. The result also explains how contextual variations can cause huge evaluative differences to emerge amongst similarly prejudiced people.
In sum, I find that prejudice change is possible, but only for certain people in special circumstances.
Keywords: prejudice; obama;
JEL Classification: C72, D72, D83, J15, J70
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation