Attitudes May Shape Response to Prejudice

PALO ALTO, Calif., July 28 (UPI) — People are more likely to confront prejudice if they hold a particular belief that people’s personalities can change, U.S. researchers say.

Participants in a study at Stanford University who said they thought personalities could change were more likely to confront someone making a prejudiced remark and disagree with the comment than people who did not hold that attitude, a study published in the journal Psychological Science says.


In an experiment, students, all of whom were ethnic minorities or women, were confronted by a white sophomore name Matt — actually a researcher — who made a statement that communicated bias.

The participants had a chance to respond to the biased statement, or not.

Who spoke up? Subjects who said they believed personalities could be changed were more likely to respond and disagree with “Matt’s” comment, the study found.

One implication of the study, researchers say, involves areas of law based on the assumption that people who are targets of bias should speak up.

“In the law, speaking up in the moment is very important in terms of whether people can bring lawsuits and the strength of their claims, especially in sexual harassment law,” Aneeta Rattan, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford and co-author of the study, says.

This study suggests that people may have many reasons for not speaking up when they’re the targets of bias, including their own attitudes about personality, she said.

“Maybe our standards should not start with the idea that all people want to speak up — it may depend upon their beliefs about personality,” Rattan says.

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