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Study: Bigots overestimate the number of other people who share their views

Over at the online magazine Miller-McCune, Tom Jacobs reports this week on some troubling (and also, perhaps, some hopeful) findings from a recent Australian study about people who hold bigoted beliefs.
Writes Jacobs:The newly published research, whi

Over at the online magazine Miller-McCune, Tom Jacobs reports this week on some troubling (and also, perhaps, some hopeful) findings from a recent Australian study about people who hold bigoted beliefs.

Writes Jacobs:

The newly published research, which surveyed attitudes towards [Australia’s] Aboriginal population, found prejudiced people are far more likely than their non-prejudiced neighbors to believe their fellow Australians agree with their attitudes.
Furthermore, they tend to think the attitudes of their friends and colleagues toward the minority group is even more negative than their own — a false belief that allows them to view themselves as safely within the boundaries of community norms.

Specifically, those among the 135 participants in the study who exhibited a racial bias toward Aboriginal Australians (as determined by their answers on a survey designed to detect such a bias) estimated than 70.9 percent of other non-Aboriginal Australians agreed with their views. Those without such a bias believed that 48.7 percent of their countrypeople shared their attitudes. 

The results indicated, wrote the study’s authors, “a desire to appear nonprejudiced relative to others.”

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Where’s the good news? Writes Jacobs:

[The authors of the study] view this finding as promising. If prejudiced people are presented with “clear normative information” telling them the community consensus is much different than what they perceive it to be, this “may influence them to shift their attitudes,” they write.

Hmmm…. I tend to share Jacobs’ reaction to that optimistic statement:

Perhaps. Or perhaps they simply will refuse to believe the information.

You can read Jacobs’ description of the study here and the abstract of the study, which appeared last month in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, here.