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Mispredicting Affective and Behavioral Responses to Racism

Science  09 Jan 2009:
Vol. 323, Issue 5911, pp. 276-278
DOI: 10.1126/science.1164951

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Abstract

Contemporary race relations are marked by an apparent paradox: Overt prejudice is strongly condemned, yet acts of blatant racism still frequently occur. We propose that one reason for this inconsistency is that people misunderstand how they would feel and behave after witnessing racism. The present research demonstrates that although people predicted that they would be very upset by a racist act, when people actually experienced this event they showed relatively little emotional distress. Furthermore, people overestimated the degree to which a racist comment would provoke social rejection of the racist. These findings suggest that racism may persevere in part because people who anticipate feeling upset and believe that they will take action may actually respond with indifference when faced with an act of racism.

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