Does motivated reasoning help people maintain an unprejudiced self-image?
Most White Americans believe they are not prejudiced people despite evidence suggesting that most people hold and express racial bias. How is this possible? Drawing on research from motivated cognition, I tested whether people engage in motivated reasoning when facing a threat to their unprejudiced self-image. Students in this study were randomly assigned to a control condition or a threat of prejudice condition. Afterward, they read an article connecting either introversion or extraversion to racial prejudice and explained why that relationship might be true. Finally, they answered how well introversion and extraversion traits describe themselves. Although I hypothesized that students would respond by shifting their self-concept away from the traits they believed are related to prejudice, the data only supported this prediction in the control condition. In the threat of prejudice condition, there was no support for the motivated reasoning explanation. In fact, it appears that students were more likely to acknowledge their racial bias in the threat of prejudice condition. Despite the lack of evidence for motivated reasoning, I discuss the implications of this study for maintaining an unprejudiced self-image.