Recent evidence suggests that self-determined prejudice regulation is negatively related to both self-reported prejudice and automatic racial bias. However, the social-cognitive processes involved in this association have not yet been examined. Thus, the current project sought to test the ‘internalization-automatization hypothesis’, that is, to assess the extent to which prejudice regulation is automatic for those high and low in self-determined motivation to regulate prejudice. To this end, two different experimental paradigms were used. In Experiment 1 (N = 84), differences in the automatic activation and application of stereotypes were assessed for those high and low in self-determined prejudice regulation. As expected, both types of prejudice regulators showed similar stereotype activation. However, only self-determined individuals inhibited the application of stereotypes following a prime. Experiment 2 (N = 134), assessed the impact of self-regulatory depletion on the regulation of implicit prejudice. As anticipated, for the self-determined regulators, prejudice regulation did not vary between depleted and non-depleted individuals. However, when non-self-determined prejudice regulators were depleted, prejudice increased, relative to non-depleted controls. Results are discussed in terms of an increased understanding of prejudice regulation through self-determination. Evidence of the automatization of self-determined prejudice regulation offers promising implications for the reduction of prejudice.
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The Race IAT, used in the current research, measures implicit race bias by assessing people’s tendency to associate positive evaluations with White people and negative evaluations with Black people, and vice versa. Caucasians tend to categorize stereotype congruent concepts (e.g. White-Good) more quickly than stereotype-incongruent concepts (e.g. Black-Good). What is particularly relevant for the issue of depletion is that the IAT contains both an automatic and a controlled component. The automatic association is made in the stereotype-congruent pairing task, while controlled processes are required to override the dominant (i.e., stereotyped or prejudiced) response on the stereotype-inconsistent pairing task. Because respondents are required to make non-stereotypical responses, cognitive resources and control are said to be required. Presumably, performance on the stereotype-inconsistent task, for which self-regulation is required, will deteriorate when individuals are depleted, resulting in longer response latencies and greater automatic racial bias. Thus, to the extent that prejudice regulation taxes regulatory strength, self-regulation will fall short when it is depleted.
The text used in the depletion manipulation was a page from a statistics textbook, whose content was unrelated to the goals and parameters of the present study.
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This research was supported by a doctoral fellowship awarded to the first author from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and a research grant awarded to the second author from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
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Legault, L., Green-Demers, I. & Eadie, A.L. When internalization leads to automatization: The role of self-determination in automatic stereotype suppression and implicit prejudice regulation. Motiv Emot 33, 10–24 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-008-9110-4
- Implicit motivation
- Prejudice regulation