Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Mary Inman, Psychology

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There’s a large gap between the way many Americans (especially Caucasians) and ethnic minorities perceive racism and the reality of experiencing racism. Among many Caucasians, there is a pervasive norm that race and racism are no longer a problem, yet 74% of Blacks polled in 2009 said they were personally discriminated against because of their race (Reid & Foehls, 2010). The goal of this study was to extend prior theory on group emotions to a new domain. We tested whether creating group pride, guilt, and sympathy influenced perceptions of racism in people who belong to a privileged group (Caucasians). We used prior manipulations that created feelings of group pride, sympathy, or guilt (Harth, Kessler, & Leach, 2008) to see if Caucasians perceive racism in the situation and allocated resources to the disadvantaged group. We predicted that (1) people feeling group pride would not perceive the situation as racism and (2), in contrast, people feeling group guilt or sympathy would perceive the situation as racism. We also examined whether these emotions affected other behaviors (e.g., compensating the disadvantaged group, perceiving other situations as discrimination). We also tested whether personality traits (e.g., political affiliation, gender) predicted perceptions of racism. We asked 141 Caucasian students in our experiment to read about inequality in hiring in Black and White workers, while they were in one of our three manipulated conditions. They then indicated their emotions, decided if the racial inequality reflected racism, decided whether to compensate Black workers, and indicated whether many other situations reflected discrimination. Preliminary results supported many of the predictions.

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