People with low self esteem more prejudiced

February 24th, 2011 - 1:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 24 (IANS) When people feel badly about themselves, they’re more likely to show bias against people who are different, research shows. Says Jeffrey Sherman of the University of California-Davis: “When we feel bad about ourselves, we can denigrate other people, and that makes us feel better about ourselves.”

Sherman and his co-author Thomas Allen used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) - a task designed to assess people’s automatic reactions to words and/or images - to investigate this claim, the journal Psychological Science reports.

In order to reveal people’s implicit prejudice, participants are asked to watch a computer monitor while a series of positive words, negative words, and pictures of black or white faces appear, according to a California statement.

In the first part of the test, participants are asked to push the ‘E’ key for either black faces or negative words and the ‘I’ key for white faces or positive words.

For the second task, the groupings are reversed - participants are now supposed to associate positive words with black faces and negative words with white faces.

Determining prejudice in the IAT is pretty straightforward: If participants have negative associations with black people, they should find the second task more difficult. This should be especially true when people feel bad about themselves.

But what psychologists don’t agree on is how this works. “People were using the exact same data to make completely different arguments about why,” Sherman says.

There are two possibilities: either feeling bad about yourself activates negative evaluations of others, or it makes you less likely to suppress those biases.

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