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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, 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.”

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.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/30/2010 - 01:43 pm.

    One more reason for leftists to reject their ideology’s reliance on the politics of racial identity.

    As Martin Luther King said, judge not by the color of one’s skin, but by the content of their character.

    We’ll all be better off.

  2. Submitted by Lance Groth on 04/30/2010 - 03:57 pm.

    @Thomas – It’s leftists who are bigoted?

    Gee, is that why those on the Right are currently engaged in an orgy of anti-hispanic hysteria, as championed in Arizona?

    Somehow I don’t think MLK would welcome your endorsement.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/30/2010 - 05:31 pm.

    Lance, you prove my point perfectly…thank you.

    The only people I see whipping up anti-Hispanic hysteria are leftists. Arizonans are doing something to fight illegal immigration. Its a matter of nationality, not race.

    They would just as soon deport a Canadian as a Mexican…Dr. King would understand that perfectly.

  4. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 05/01/2010 - 01:22 pm.

    Yes, there are some bigoted people but this looks like a PC study. Are there illegal immigrants here, Ummm! illegally? What part of “illegal” is hard to understand?

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/01/2010 - 10:30 pm.

    Ah yes…

    Denial… it’s not just a river in Egypt.

  6. Submitted by Steve Sundberg on 05/02/2010 - 07:15 pm.

    @Thomas: I would like to see examples of any Leftist anti-Hispanic hysteria you claim exists. The AZ law wasn’t passed by Leftists.

  7. Submitted by James Hamilton on 05/03/2010 - 12:23 pm.

    We all think more people agree with us than not. Most of us are wrong.

  8. Submitted by Cary on 05/05/2010 - 03:51 pm.

    Hey Susan! Great post. Just wanted to let you know that I cited the study that you referred to, and your post in this entry I just posted about “Naming Racism” at Minnesota Council on Foundation’s blog. Here’s the link if you’d like to go check it out.

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