Motivation and Emotion

, 35:484 | Cite as

Difficulty of refusal to assist the outgroup nonmonotonically affects the intensity of prejudiced affect

  • Anca M. Miron
  • Mark A. Ferguson
  • Amanda Peterson
Original Paper


Building on emotional intensity theory (Brehm in Pers Soc Psychol Rev 3:2–22, 1999), we propose that difficulty of engaging in prejudiced behavior should nonmonotonically influence prejudiced affect. In two experiments, we informed anti-gay participants about a gay and lesbian student organization’s need for assistance. We operationalized refusal to help the organization as a behavioral tendency motivated by the experienced prejudiced affect. To manipulate difficulty of refusing to help, in Study 1, participants were offered an opportunity to help by volunteering either 6 h (easy to refuse to help), 2 h (moderately difficult to refuse), or ½ h (very difficult to refuse) per week. In Study 2, we used the same manipulation except that the participants in the very difficult to refuse condition were asked to volunteer ½ h every other week. In both experiments, participants in the control condition were asked to help but no amount of time was specified. As predicted, prejudiced affect was a cubic function of difficulty of refusal to help: affect decreased from the control to the easy condition, increased from the easy to the moderately difficult condition, and, in Study 2, decreased from the moderate to the very difficult condition. Implications of the findings and future directions for research are discussed.


Prejudice Affect Emotional intensity Deterrence Intergroup relations Motivation 



This research was supported by a Faculty Development Grant from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh awarded to the first author. Portions of this research were presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association meeting in May 2009.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anca M. Miron
    • 1
  • Mark A. Ferguson
    • 2
  • Amanda Peterson
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin OshkoshOshkoshUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-Stevens PointStevens PointUSA
  3. 3.Marquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA

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