My research focuses on ways to reduce intergroup prejudice. Confronting prejudice can change others' biased behavior and attitudes. However, individuals face many barriers in the decision to confront. This is in part due to the social costs associated with confrontational responses - you may be disliked or rejected for speaking up. Additionally, individuals may simply not know the best way to respond. My research investigates ways that people can overcome these barriers and confront bias. Specifically, I train individuals to use confrontation strategies and reduce their fears of rejection. These simple interventions have the power to help people to dynamically respond to everyday instances of prejudice - both online and in face-to-face interactions.
Masters Thesis Title
Bystander Confronting of Anti-Black Racism: Effects of Belonging Affirmation and Confrontation Training
Masters Thesis Abstract
Confronting has the potential to reduce prejudice, especially when implemented by a non-target group member. Not knowing how to respond and fearing social rejection have been identified as barriers to confronting in previous studies. The current study tests whether providing training to confront prejudice and affirming the need to belong helps individuals overcome these barriers. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three training conditions: prejudice confrontation training (PCT), rude comment training (RCT), or no training control group (NT). Participants were also randomly assigned to one of two belonging conditions: belonging affirmation or control. Participants were then asked to imagine that a friend posted a racist Facebook comment on their page, and were asked to respond to the comment. Responses were coded for whether participants labeled the comment as racist, number of confrontation responses and strategy use. Training, belonging, and race interacted to predict participants’ confronting behavior. PCT increased confrontations for participants of color, whereas RCT did so for Whites. Whites confronted more when belonging was affirmed, whereas participants of color did so when belonging was not affirmed.
Masters Thesis Committee
Robyn K. Mallett, PhD; Tracy DeHart, PhD
The Impact of Regulatory Fit on Confrontations of Bias
(IN PROGRESS) Anti-Black racism remains a major problem in contemporary American life, with deleterious consequences for Blacks. Whites possess social power to change the status quo, and can be allies in the movement for social justice. Confrontation has the potential to reduce biased behavior and prejudiced attitudes, yet many people refrain from spontaneously confronting. Persuasive appeals may encourage ally confronting. The present studies test whether experiencing regulatory fit enhances the persuasiveness of a pro-confrontation message. When individuals adopt goal pursuit strategies that match their regulatory orientation, they experience a sense of fit. This fit makes individuals feel better about the tasks they are engaged in. A pro-confrontation message could be framed in terms of approaching egalitarianism or avoiding prejudice. By matching allies’ regulatory focus with the message frame, I posit that that the resulting regulatory fit will increase confronting behavior and feeling right about the message relative to regulatory misfit. These studies are unique in examining the role of persuasion, message frame, and regulatory fit in confrontation. The results could inform anti-racism interventions and impact prejudice-reduction.