A step before the first step?
Conventional wisdom suggests people must be willing to admit a problem exists before they can hope to solve it. This may be especially true in the case of implicit prejudice. Unlike explicit prejudice, which is conscious and deliberate, implicit prejudice is often unconscious and counter to what people intend. In addition, implicit prejudice is undesirable and leads people to respond defensively when told they have such prejudice. In this dissertation, I investigated whether social norms that encourage people to admit prejudice and exert effort to control it can be used to increase people’s willingness to admit their own implicit prejudice. In three experiments, participants watched (Experiments 1 and 2) or read about (Experiment 3) other people’s reactions to implicit attitude feedback. Then, participants were told they have an implicit bias favoring Whites over Blacks and responded to questions assessing defensiveness and willingness to admit prejudice. Experiments 1 and 2 found that seeing others acknowledge prejudice decreased people’s defensiveness to feedback about their own implicit attitudes and increased willingness to admit personal prejudice. Experiment 3 manipulated social norms with summary information about a referent group and found that while learning most other people deny prejudice caused participants to believe denying was more normal, overall, the manipulation had little influence on defensiveness or willingness to admit prejudice. Together, these experiments suggest that social norms can influence people’s willingness to admit personally prejudiced implicit attitudes, but to be effective, the example set by others must be vivid.