"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Discrimination: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

"There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read." - G. K. Chesterton

***

On finding what you are looking for:


"A second view is that chronic targets of discrimination are vigilant to cues in their environment that signal that they may be targets of prejudice and discrimination, and may see discrimination when it does not objectively exist...

Cohen, Steele, and Ross (1999) found that African-American college students who received critical feedback on an essay were more likely to say that the evaluator was biased than were European-American students who received the same type of feedback, even though both groups had received identical critical comments and the essays had been corrected blind to race of essay. African-American students did not see the evaluator as more biased, however, when the critical comments were accompanied by comments indicating that the evaluator thought the essay writer was capable of meeting high standards. This study makes the important point that vigilance is sensitive to contextual cues: some cues made African-American students vigilant to bias that did not objectively exist, and other cues mitigated this vigilance...

The motivation to protect self-esteem from threat (ego-defense) may also underlie vigilance to prejudice (Allport, 1954/1979). People engage in a wide variety of self-serving strategies to protect and enhance their personal (individual) and social (collective) self-esteem (Pyszczynski et al., 1997; Rosenberg and Simmons, 1972; Tajfel and Turner, 1986). Blaming negative outcomes on external causes, such as the prejudice of others, rather than on internal causes, such as one’s own lack of ability, can help to protect self-esteem under some circumstances (Crocker and Major, 1989; Major, Kaiser and McCoy, 2003).

Furthermore, for groups that historically have been targets of discrimination, prejudice and discrimination are likely to be repeatedly primed and highly accessible cognitive constructs (Inman and Baron, 1996). As a result, the possibility of discrimination may be easily activated in ambiguous circumstances and bias perceptions of those circumstances. Members of disadvantaged groups (women), for example, are more likely to label negative actions committed by a high status perpetrator against a low status victim as discrimination than are members of privileged groups (men) who witness the same action (Rodin, Price, Bryson, and Sanchez, 1990). In sum, there are both motivational and cognitive reasons why chronic targets of discrimination may be vigilant for, and sometimes overestimate the extent to which they are targets of discrimination...

A growing body of experimental research indicates that either minimization/underestimation or vigilance/overestimation may occur, depending upon characteristics of the situation and on characteristics of the person...

Alerting people to the possibility of discrimination increases their vigilance for seeing discrimination as a cause of negative outcomes. For example, in one set of studies, women were led to expect that their work would be evaluated by a panel of male judges. Some women were told that none of the judges discriminated against women, some were told that 50% of the judges discriminated, and some were told that 100% discriminated. Not surprisingly, women who were led to expect discriminatory judges were more likely to blame a subsequent poor evaluation on discrimination than women who did not expect discriminatory judges. More interesting was the finding that women led to expect that half of the judges discriminated were just as likely to blame poor feedback on discrimination as women who had been told that all of judges discriminated (Inman, 2001; Kaiser and Miller, 2001a). These studies indicate that leading people to expect discrimination affects their interpretations of feedback. There also is evidence that subtly priming thoughts of discrimination can have an effect on perceptions (Gomez and Trierweiler, 2001). In this study, White women and African-Americans were asked how frequently they were the targets of negative events at work (such as being treated with disrespect by others). More frequent negative treatment was reported if participants responded on a questionnaire labeled “Discrimination” than if they responded on a questionnaire labeled “Everyday Experiences”...

[Ed: One can easily draw parallels with a study on backmasking showing how people are more likely to hear Secret Messages in sound recordings played backwards - when told they are going to hear them]

People are more likely to report that they have been discriminated against when they are treated negatively by an outgroup member than by an ingroup member (Dion, 1975). They are also more likely to claim that they are targets of discrimination when they know that their group membership is known rather than unknown to an outgroup evaluator...

Group identification is typically conceptualized as how important the group is to self-definition and howstrong feelings of attachment to the group are (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). Many studies have shown that among socially devalued groups, group identification is positively correlated with perceptions of personal, as well as group discrimination...

Women who were high or low in gender identification received a negative evaluation from a male under conditions of clear prejudice cues, ambiguous prejudice cues, or no prejudice cues. Regardless of whether they were high or low in gender identification, women did not blame their poor evaluation on discrimination in the absence of cues to prejudice and were highly likely to do so in presence of blatant cues to prejudice. When prejudice cues were ambiguous, however, gender identification mattered. Women who were highly gender identified were significantly more likely than low gender-identified women to blame a negative evaluation on sex discrimination when cues to discrimination were ambiguous. Further, highly gender-identified women were just as likely to attribute negative feedback to sex discrimination in the ambiguous cue condition as they were in the blatant cue condition. In contrast, among low gender identified women, attributions to sex discrimination were as low in the ambiguous condition as they were in the no cues condition (see figure 1). These findings suggest that in attributionally ambiguous circumstances, individuals who are highly identified with their groups are vigilant for discrimination, whereas individuals who are low in group identification minimize discrimination.

Group consciousness also is associated with more vigilance for discrimination. Group consciousness incorporates aspects of group identification as well as elements of perceived injustice directed against the group, and is sometimes referred to as “politicized group identification” (Gurin, Miller, and Gurin, 1980). Major and Quinton (2001) found significant positive correlations between feminist self-labeling (a measure of group consciousness among women) and perceptions of personal discrimination (r = 0.29) and discrimination against women...

People also differ in the extent to which they are chronically sensitive to the possibility of being a target of negative stereotypes and discrimination because of their group membership. One measure of this is “stigma-consciousness” (Pinel, 1999). Women who score high on a female-specific “stigma consciousness scale” endorse statements such as: “When interacting with men I feel like they interpret all my behaviors in terms of the fact that I am a woman”. Across a variety of stigmatized groups, including African-Americans, Latino(a)-Americans, Asian-Americans, and women, stigma consciousness is strongly and positively correlated with perceived personal and group discrimination and negatively correlated with distrust of others in general (Pinel, 1999). Furthermore, women who are high in stigma consciousness allocate more of their attention towards subliminally presented sexism-related words relative to women who are low in stigma consciousness (Kaiser, Vick, and Major, 2005).

A related construct is “race-based rejection sensitivity,” which is defined as a personal dynamic whereby individuals anxiously expect, readily perceive, and intensely react to rejection that has a possibility of being due to race (Mendoza-Denton, Purdie, Downey, Davis, and Pietrzac, 2002). Race-based rejection sensitivity is assessed by asking people to read attributionally ambiguous scenarios (e.g., “Imagine that you have just finished shopping and you are leaving the store carrying several bags. It is closing time, and several people are filing out of the store at once. Suddenly, the alarm begins to sound, and a security guard comes over to investigate.”), and to indicate, for each scenario, how concerned they are that a negative outcome would be due to their race and the likelihood that a negative outcome would be due to their race. In a longitudinal diary study, race-based rejection sensitivity assessed among African- American students before they entered a predominately White university predicted the frequency with which they reported a negative race-related experience (e.g., feeling excluded, insulted, or receiving poor service because of one’s race) during their first 3 weeks at university (Mendoza-Denton et al., 2002). Race-based rejection sensitivity also predicted their tendency to feel less belonging at the university and greater negativity toward both peers and professors. Taken together, the above studies indicate that people’s thoughts about and identification with their group influence their propensity to perceive discrimination, especially in ambiguous situations...

Some perspectives suggest that chronic targets of prejudice tend to minimize or underestimate the extent to which they are personally victimized by discrimination. Other perspectives suggest that chronic targets of prejudice are vigilant for, and sometimes oversensitive to signs that they are being personally victimized by discrimination. In our view, both responses are possible, and which response occurs depends on characteristics of the person, the situation, and the social structure. Our discussion highlights the complexity involved in detecting prejudice"

--- Perceiving and Claiming Discrimination in Handbook of Employment Discrimination Research / Brenda Major and Cheryl R. Kaiser


Addendum: See also - Balderdash: Imagining Discrimination
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