Ironic Effects of Anti-Prejudice Messages

Lisa Legault, Psychological Science, July 7, 2011

Organizations and programs have been set up all over the globe in the hopes of urging people to end prejudice. According to a research article, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, such programs may actually increase prejudices.

Lisa Legault, Jennifer Gutsell and Michael Inzlicht, from the University of Toronto Scarborough, were interested in exploring how one’s everyday environment influences people’s motivation toward prejudice reduction.

The authors conducted two experiments which looked at the effect of two different types of motivational intervention–a controlled form (telling people what they should do) and a more personal form (explaining why being non-prejudiced is enjoyable and personally valuable).

In experiment one; participants were randomly assigned one of two brochures to read: an autonomy brochure or a controlling brochure. These brochures discussed a new campus initiative to reduce prejudice. A third group was offered no motivational instructions to reduce prejudice. The authors found that, ironically, those who read the controlling brochure later demonstrated more prejudice than those who had not been urged to reduce prejudice. Those who read the brochure designed to support personal motivation showed less prejudice than those in the other two groups.

In experiment two, participants were randomly assigned a questionnaire, designed to stimulate personal or controlling motivation to reduce prejudice. The authors found that those who were exposed to controlling messages regarding prejudice reduction showed significantly more prejudice than those who did not receive any controlling cues.

The authors suggest that when interventions eliminate people’s freedom to value diversity on their own terms, they may actually be creating hostility toward the targets of prejudice.

According to Dr. Legault, “Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.” Legault continues, “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”

Legault stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

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  • sbuffalonative

    ” ironically, those who read the controlling brochure later demonstrated more prejudice than those who had not been urged to reduce prejudice.”

    I know that my racial buttons are pressed all the time when I read, hear, and see blacks and their apologists tell me that I need to be less prejudiced and more tolerant.

    The incessant accusations of ‘racism’ and calls for tolerance drive me mad.

    I suspect I would be less racially away if I wasn’t being made racially aware that I should be less racially aware.

    I can see anti-racism programs backfiring and promoting backlash.

  • xp seal of approval

    (explaining why being non-prejudiced is enjoyable and personally valuable)

    Look at the churches. They actually have repentance, reconciliation, and healing services so Whites can heal from prejudice against blacks. Watch those churches become all black, and the endowment money stolen by the boss preacher.

  • critical mass needed

    The authors suggest that when interventions eliminate people’s freedom to value diversity on their own terms, they may actually be creating hostility toward the targets of prejudice.

    NEVER will Whiteys be allowed to their own terms. The definition of privilege is being left alone. White privilege will not be tolerated, because it means we leave Whiteys alone.

    The diversity industry is too rich to leave us alone.

  • Anonymous

    Legault stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

    This will Never be accepted or implemented. The Majority Whitey group knows that diveristy and equality just mean dispossession. They won’t value that, so look for the forced take over to continue. Whitey never be trusted do right thing.

  • Question Diversity

    Who were the people who volunteered for the study? Since a university did it, I would imagine that it was mostly college students who took part. And when you tell young people that something is bad and wrong, it is only going to pique their curiosity (forbidden fruit syndrome). Even if the volunteers were older adults, there still is a f/f syndrome among them — The so-called “assault weapons ban” only served to heighten interest among those in the legitimate American domestic firearms market toward those kinds of firearms; before 1994, nobody much cared about them.

    I am not surprised by the other conclusion of this study. It’s just basic common knowledge among marketing professionals — Convincing people not to do something because of all the graphic and gory and awful consequences of doing so doesn’t really work, but convincing people not to do something because doing it robs of them of some sort of some sort of joy or bliss is the angle that works. Anti-smoking campaigners found out that a highway billboard that showed a diseased lung convinced nobody to stop smoking, but a billboard that showed two Marlboro-type cowboys, the caption reading, “Bob, I’m impotent” worked wonders.

  • Peejay in Frisco

    How can predjudice be eradicated (especially against whites) if all that blacks see on their television boxes, which they reportedly watch over 7 hours a day, constantly show Whitey doing all kinds of bad things to Blackey?People are getting extremely cynical after seeing all of this propaganda that everyone knows is just not true.

  • fred

    The authors suggest that when interventions eliminate people’s freedom to value diversity on their own terms, they may actually be creating hostility toward the targets of prejudice.

    Did they really need a study to discover that? It seems rather obvious that people might resent having diversity shoved down their throats.

    Legault stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.

    I suppose a minor case could be made for the benefits of equality. But I’ve yet to hear any good reasons why diversity is important and beneficial. The fact that they even feel it necessary to do studies on reducing “prejudice” suggests to me that there are some very real drawbacks to diversity.

  • anon

    “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”

    “Freely choosing” rather than indoctrinated which we are doing.

    Ever notice “prejudice” never means against white people only against minorities, until of course whites are, then that term evaporates along with the white population.

  • tony Soprano

    “Legault stresses the need to focus less on the requirement to reduce prejudices and start focusing more on the reasons why diversity and equality are important and beneficial to both majority and minority group members.”

    So far I have never heard any one actually explain how diversity benefits white people. And what does EQUALITY mean. I could treat everyone equally which I do. Yet if I paid my doctor the same amount of money I pay the guy who cuts my lawn I doubt my doctor would ever see me again.

  • Anonymous

    Come to think of it, I wasn’t all that concerned about racial issues until about three or four years ago when I ‘woke up’ and realized that whites are demonized all over from schools to tv shows.

    Then I started noticing the ads and sit-com shows everywhere that were desperately pushing ‘diversity’. So many unreal situations like a black and white dude out fishing on a quiet lake, or having a heart-to-heart talk in a diner. Or a chinese guy and his sexy, blond wife playing raquetball together.

    It just wasn’t what I saw in real life, where latinos stick with latinos and there are NEVER people of another race around – where blacks NEVER have whites around them except for the trophy white trash girlfriend who is a ghetto rat convert – or the Asians, who never have white people around them. Then there are the whites, who may have a token non-white around, but that’s about it.

    All these images, which seem to increase so much every year that more than 80% of the ads I see promote diversity. All of this made me open my eyes because my brain was saying that “This isn’t reality – why is it being promoted so much? Are people trying to tell me who I need to be friends with?”

  • sam d

    There’s no such thing as prejudice against blacks.

    Prejudice is a pre-set opinion about something or somebody, not based on facts or reason.

    Since most people base any biases or prejudices they have about blacks on their bad conduct, behavior, propensity for crime and violence, all endemic within the black community, their evaluation can’t correctly be called “prejudice,” because it’s based on reason and facts.

  • LouLou

    When they start directing anti-racism messages to blacks (who are the most racist) then I will start listening.

  • Anonymous

    Ah yes, the studies that affirm what we’ve known all along having applied common sense, that unquantifiable, medieval hoodoo of the pagans. Study affirms that punching strangers in the face is not a good way to make new friends, ACLU set to challenge findings in court, subpoenas entire Library of Congress as evidence, hires Tim Wise to give expert testimony.

  • Anonymous

    “According to Dr. Legault, ‘Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.'” Wow this is indeed Orwellian. “Legault continues, ‘But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be non prejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.'” Yep, the media is surely controlling us, which would explain the amount of advertisements, movies, TV shows, etc. that show young White women with non-Whites. Ask yourself, who owns the media?

    “Legault continues, ‘But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be non prejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.'” This here Proves to me that Multiculturalism and Diversity truly don’t work, well this and the millions of experiences I’ve had over my young life. If you have to create institutions and programs and brainwash children in school at an early age and make them feel guilty for feeling the way they do, then obviously all this is proof that it is not meant to be, and it is forced on us.

  • BAW

    In biology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology, more and more evidence is emerging that we are by nature tribal, ethnocentric creatures. IMHO, the big reason the whole diversity thing goes over like a lead balloon is because it’s diametrically opposed to our basic human nature.

    Although we are not ruled by our basic human nature, we cannot deny it. All of the “diversity is strength” schtick denies it.

    One need look only at places like Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, the Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and California (one of the most diverse states)…and then look at places like Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Utah (one of the least diverse states) to see that diversity is NOT strength; in fact, it’s a weakness.

    Furthermore, REAL diversity, in terms of diversity of thoughts, temperaments, outlooks on life, is decreasing.

    The current economic and political climate notwithstanding, I think things will REALLY have to hit the fan for that to sink in.

  • noneknown

    The elites will NEVER eliminate prejudice. Why? Because “you can’t fool Mother Nature”!

  • Duran Dahl

    Any reasonable, fair-minded individual who has to endure the strident anti-white harangues of “diversity training” winds up asking themselves the correct, albeit forbidden sort of questions. Fantasy-based leftist duckspeak is jarring to the healthy mind and produces paradoxical reactions. I am aware of one university-based (black, lesbian, Muslim) woman who cranked out “racists” like a factory. The evidence of the senses and simple logic trumps Marxist claptrap soundly.

  • Istvan

    The effect has made me more “prejudiced”. Or perhaps more aggravated. The anti-racism commercials, the mixed-race couples in commercials, the no-white male 10:00 news shows. I have completely stopped watching network TV. The only TV I watch are the History channel, Discovery and PBS, and then only when they are non-black. When History runs a show on ancient Egypt and all the Egyptians are portrayed by blacks I turn it off. If the narrator of a science show is black, I turn it off. (Except for Nova, Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t bother me, perhaps he comes across as a non-affirmative action pick?)

    At least I read more!

  • AvgDude

    Private companies stopped having diversity training seminars almost 20 years ago, soon after they became popular for a little while. The reason was that they were causing tension in office environments where none existed before. The typical diversity seminar rested on the assumption that white male heterosexuals were racist, sexist, and homophobic and that there was no way to overcome those odious traits. What you actually did or did not do was irrelevant. It didn’t take long for intelligent, college educated white male heterosexuals in those seminars to start asking the obvious question, “Isn’t the baseline assumption of this seminar, in fact, prejudice defined?” I’m assumed to be racist because I’m white. I’m assumed to hate women because I’m a man. I’m assumed to hate gays because I’m straight. Such things make no sense in a society with a criminal code based on the assumption of innocence until proven guilty.

    Prove it. Or shut up. That’s why those seminars no longer occur in private corporations, and thank God Almighty for that too.

  • Crawfurdmuir

    Being hectored at to conform with some belief will predictably cause thinking people to rebel – particularly when the belief is contrary to the evidence of their senses.

    I have known a number of people who lived under communism – not one of them is a Marxist. The only Marxists I have met are persons who have lived all their lives in the comfort of American universities. There is a parallel here to the aphorism of Sen. Russell of Georgia that the surest cure for liberalism is a strong dose of blacks.

  • Anonymous

    To poster #19, ahh, but we slaves in the public sector still suffer these beatings, er, meetings, and they increase in frequency every year.

  • Anonymous

    No one asks if these seminars are causing hatred or ill-feelings against whites, including on the pages of AmRen.

    Perhaps on some unconscious level we understand all this ‘tolerance’ training is Designed to cause harm to the feelings of whites. But apparently they don’t think whites have any feelings which could be offended.

  • El Borracho Viejo

    Well, so how many of us like being TOLD what we HAVE to do??? We get balky as a mule when that happens. Nobody wants to have any kind of authoritarian trip pulled on them. However, I think what REALLY keeps prejudice alive is the impossible, horrific, and continually repugnant behavior of the low-class blacks. It’s what they DO — what someone says about it is gas in the wind.

  • (AWG) Average White Guy

    Psychology Today published a similar article.

    Why Trying Not to Be Prejudiced Backfires

    http://goo.gl/5UgVH

  • Brendan

    There is a parallel here to the aphorism of Sen. Russell of Georgia that the surest cure for liberalism is a strong dose of blacks.

    He’s right. The Southern states have almost uniformly conservative white populations. The most liberal whites are in New England and on the West (“Left”) Coast, neither of which have many blacks right now. And the formerly most loony-liberal state, Hubert Humphrey’s Minnesota, has decisively shifted to purple after an influx of blacks, Somali, and Hmong.

  • M

    It is my God-given American right to dislike/hate/abhor/etc. anyone I so choose for any reason I so choose, and I definitely dislike/hate/abhor/etc. anyone who tries to take that right from me.

  • white is right, black is whack

    In the end, forcing people to be “less prejudice” and more “tolerant” will have the opposite effects for which they were intended.

  • Anonymous

    It’s true with any message. In my elementary school, we were regularly visited by our “motivational speaker”. They were trying to prevent us from experimenting with drugs, smoking and alcohol when we became teenagers. The speaker looked quite ridiculous and reminded me of the SNL character, “Matt Foley”, played by Chris Farley. He was bombastic and hysterical, ranting and raving about the evils of vice. I always looked forward to his lectures because they were so unintentionally comical.

    When we became teenagers, most of us experimented, to some degree, with alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. I’m not proud of that, and I don’t blame anyone but ourselves. Ironically, if that fat idiot advised us to smoke and drink, we would have probably avoided it. We knew they were trying to brainwash us. We did the opposite of what they told us out of spite.

    For years, the media has constantly reminded us that whites can be racist, and Hitler was evil. The liberal media now has a field day with Hitler. Hitler is on 24 hours on the History and Military channels. It is similar to the telescreens in George Orwell’s 1984. I believe this attempted brainwashing has only angered the white community, and increased racial tension to a boiling point. If the media portrayed racial reality, and if the government protected us from anti-white, racist attacks, there would be no need for white nationalist movements, nor racial tension. If the media stopped talking about Hitler years ago, nazism would have been forgotten. Many of the radical white supremacist groups would not even exist. Neo-nazis with there rallies and Halloween costumes get all of their ideas from Hitler movies and Hitler documentaries…most of which were made in liberal Hollywood. The media constantly attacks whites and bombards us with nazi stories. They were trying to brainwash us into self-hatred and defeat, but the exact opposite effect happened.

  • Anonymous

    The American psyche is such that if the government tells you not to do something this will be the motivator for you to do it. Because we all know that what the government desires for us is bad.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. About a year ago on NPR (believe it or not) they were discussing diversity training in the workplace. A study found that companies who did diversity training were less likely to be diverse in both low-level and senior management.

  • Bobby

    “Anti-prejudice measures actually causes prejudice.”

    The German poet,playwright and philospher,Goethe,said,”Every thought evokes its opposite.”

  • sedonaman

    Surprise, surprise. Americans don’t like to be told what to think.