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"Prejudiced" Behavior Without Prejudice? Beliefs About the Malleability of Prejudice Affect Interracial Interactions

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Prejudiced behavior is typically seen as emanating from prejudiced attitudes. Eight studies showed that majority-group members' beliefs about prejudice can create seemingly "prejudiced" behaviors above and beyond prejudice measured explicitly (Study 1b) and implicitly (Study 2). Those who believed prejudice was relatively fixed, rather than malleable, were less interested in interracial interactions (Studies 1a-1d), race- or diversity-related activities (Study 1a), and activities to reduce their prejudice (Study 3). They were also more uncomfortable in interracial, but not same-race, interactions (Study 2). Study 4 manipulated beliefs about prejudice and found that a fixed belief, by heightening concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself and others, depressed interest in interracial interactions. Further, though Whites who were taught a fixed belief were more anxious and unfriendly in an interaction with a Black compared with a White individual, Whites who were taught a malleable belief were not (Study 5). Implications for reducing prejudice and improving intergroup relations are discussed.
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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Prejudiced” Behavior Without Prejudice? Beliefs About
the Malleability of Prejudice Affect Interracial
Interactions
Priyanka B. Carr, Carol S. Dweck, and Kristin Pauker
Online First Publication, June 18, 2012. doi: 10.1037/a0028849
CITATION
Carr, P. B., Dweck, C. S., & Pauker, K. (2012, June 18). “Prejudiced” Behavior Without
Prejudice? Beliefs About the Malleability of Prejudice Affect Interracial Interactions. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028849
“Prejudiced” Behavior Without Prejudice?
Beliefs About the Malleability of Prejudice Affect Interracial Interactions
Priyanka B. Carr, Carol S. Dweck, and Kristin Pauker
Stanford University
Prejudiced behavior is typically seen as emanating from prejudiced attitudes. Eight studies showed that
majority-group members’ beliefs about prejudice can create seemingly “prejudiced” behaviors above and
beyond prejudice measured explicitly (Study 1b) and implicitly (Study 2). Those who believed prejudice
was relatively fixed, rather than malleable, were less interested in interracial interactions (Studies 1a–1d),
race- or diversity-related activities (Study 1a), and activities to reduce their prejudice (Study 3). They
were also more uncomfortable in interracial, but not same-race, interactions (Study 2). Study 4 manip-
ulated beliefs about prejudice and found that a fixed belief, by heightening concerns about revealing
prejudice to oneself and others, depressed interest in interracial interactions. Further, though Whites who
were taught a fixed belief were more anxious and unfriendly in an interaction with a Black compared with
a White individual, Whites who were taught a malleable belief were not (Study 5). Implications for
reducing prejudice and improving intergroup relations are discussed.
Keywords: prejudice beliefs, beliefs about malleability, interracial interactions, intergroup relations,
prejudice
As egalitarian values became normative in mainstream America,
overt displays of racial prejudice declined. However, racially prej-
udiced behaviors persist in subtler forms (e.g., Dovidio, 2001;
Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004; Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986;
McConahay, 1986). Interactions with members of different races
are still avoided and are awkward and stressful experiences for
many White Americans (e.g., Mendes, Blascovich, Lickel, &
Hunter, 2002; Richeson & Trawalter, 2005; Shelton, 2003;
Trawalter & Richeson, 2008; Vorauer, Main, & O’Connell, 1998;
for reviews, see Shelton & Richeson, 2006; Trawalter, Richeson,
& Shelton, 2009). Even discussing topics related to race remains
taboo for many White Americans (e.g., Apfelbaum, Sommers, &
Norton, 2008; Norton, Sommers, Apfelbaum, Pura, & Ariely,
2006).
What leads many majority-group members to behave in ways
that might appear prejudiced—that is, what leads them to avoid
contact with members of other races, to avoid even topics like race
and diversity, or to become tense and aloof in interracial interac-
tions? Reasonably, the standard answer is that people’s racial
attitudes—their underlying prejudices—fuel such behaviors (e.g.,
Dovidio, Kawakami, & Gaertner, 2002; McConnell & Leibold,
2001; Richeson & Shelton, 2003). In fact, majority-group mem-
bers’ discomfort and anxiety in interracial interactions can even be
taken as a sign of their implicit prejudice (see Dovidio et al., 2002).
The present research, however, tests the hypothesis that a previ-
ously unexplored factor—people’s lay beliefs about the malleabil-
ity of prejudice—may also powerfully shape White individuals’
behaviors in these contexts, independent of the effects of their
prejudice, creating behaviors that appear prejudiced even among
those low in prejudicial attitudes. Specifically, we predicted that
those who cast prejudice as immutable (a fixed belief), compared
with those who cast it as malleable and changeable with effort (a
malleable belief), would be less interested in engaging in interra-
cial interactions (or any activities related to race and diversity) and
would be more anxious before and during interracial interactions.
Beliefs About the Malleability of Attributes
Though no research to date has examined beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice, our hypotheses draw support from much
past research examining people’s lay theories about the malleabil-
ity of other dimensions of the self, such as intelligence (e.g.,
Dweck & Leggett, 1988) and personality (e.g., Chiu, Hong, &
Dweck, 1997). This research has found that those who believe that
attributes like intelligence are more fixed rather than malleable
tend to focus relatively more on performance rather than learning,
seeking to engage in activities that help confirm their ability. For
those with a fixed (entity) belief, understandably, the possibility of
discovering or demonstrating that they do not possess the valuable
and unchangeable trait is stressful and aversive. In contrast, those
with a more malleable (incremental) belief tend to focus relatively
Priyanka B. Carr, Carol S. Dweck, and Kristin Pauker, Department of
Psychology, Stanford University.
This article is based on the first author’s dissertation. The research was
funded in part by the Graduate Research Opportunity Fund of Stanford
University. We thank Brian Lowery, Hazel Markus, Rodolfo Mendoza-
Denton, and Gregory Walton for helpful feedback about this project. We
also thank Heather Altman, Francine Biscocho, Tiffany Chhay, Katie
Duchscherer, Arielle Humphries, Tiffany Huoth, Omonigho Oiyemhonlan,
James Samuelson, and Kirsten Shubert for their invaluable assistance with
data collection and coding.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Priyanka
B. Carr, Department of Psychology, Jordan Hall (Building 420), 450 Serra
Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. E-mail: pbangard@
stanford.edu
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology © 2012 American Psychological Association
2012, Vol. ●●, No. , 000– 000 0022-3514/12/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0028849
1
more on learning and are less worried about having or proving a
trait (e.g., Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007; Mangels,
Butterfield, Lamb, Good, & Dweck, 2006; Robins & Pals, 2002).
Reflecting these different motivational foci, beliefs about mal-
leability have been found to influence interest in, reactions to, and
anxiety in various situations, especially those that may lead to a
diagnosis of ability. For instance, research has found that those
with fixed views of attributes avoid challenging tasks—tasks that
carry the potential of poor performance and a diagnosis of one’s
abilities. In one study, while 61% of children who thought intel-
ligence was malleable preferred a challenging task (“problems that
are hard, new, and different”), only 18% of those with a fixed view
of intelligence preferred such a task, choosing instead easily man-
ageable tasks (Dweck & Leggett, 1988; see also Beer, 2002;
Mueller & Dweck, 1998). In addition, research has found that
viewing personality as fixed rather than malleable leads to more
avoidance rather than engagement strategies in challenging social
situations (Chiu, Dweck, Tong, & Fu, 1997; Kammrath & Dweck,
2006; Loeb & Dweck, 1994; Rattan & Dweck, 2010).
Beyond simply avoiding challenging situations, individuals with
fixed beliefs about attributes also decline learning and improvement
opportunities that are more readily undertaken by those with more
malleable beliefs. For example, those with a fixed view of intelligence
compared with those with a malleable view are less interested in
remedial tasks that can help them improve after an unsatisfactory
performance (Hong, Chiu, Lin, Wan, & Dweck, 1999; see also
Nussbaum & Dweck, 2008) and are less cognitively attuned to and
less likely to deeply process learning information (e.g., correct an-
swers to questions they got wrong; Mangels et al., 2006).
Although people who believe attributes are fixed often avoid
situations that may call their ability into question, not every such
situation can be avoided. When it cannot, the belief that attributes
are fixed makes these situations uncomfortable and anxiety pro-
voking. For example, those who see intelligence as fixed rather
than malleable worry more about an upcoming diagnostic situation
like an IQ test (Cury, Da Fonseca, Zahn, & Elliot, 2008), are more
anxious about challenging schoolwork (Henderson & Dweck,
1990), and are more likely to anxiously self-handicap before
entering a performance situation (Rhodewalt, 1994).
In line with the idea that a fixed theory heightens concern about
one’s ability being diagnosed, research has found that stereotype
threat—an anxiety-inducing threat, marked by worry that one’s
performance on diagnostic tests may confirm negative stereotypes
about one’s group (Steele & Aronson, 1995)—is intensified by
holding a belief that ability is fixed. Believing that intelligence
can’t be changed makes situations in which it could be diagnosed
even more threatening for those faced with negative intellectual
stereotypes, while believing it is malleable can relieve stereotype
threat (Aronson, 2000; Aronson, Fried, & Good, 2002; Dar-
Nimrod & Heine, 2006; Good, Aronson, & Inzlicht, 2003). More-
over, even in the absence of stereotype threat, the heightened
anxiety engendered by more fixed beliefs about intelligence has
been found to interfere with individuals’ intellectual performance,
for instance, leading those with a more fixed view of intelligence
to perform worse than those with a malleable view on intellectual
performance tests (Cury et al., 2008; see also Blackwell et al.,
2007; Mueller & Dweck, 1998), even though their level of intel-
ligence does not differ from those with more malleable views (e.g.,
Blackwell et al., 2007; Cury, Elliot, Da Fonseca, & Moller, 2006).
Thus, compared with malleable views, fixed views of attributes,
which put proving traits to oneself and others center-stage, lead
individuals to avoid potentially challenging situations in which
their ability could be evaluated, to fail to take action to improve
their ability, and to become anxious in situations that involve
performance or diagnosis of ability, even heightening effects of
stereotype threat. Ironically, such avoidance and anxiety lead those
with more fixed beliefs about attributes like intelligence to perform
worse and appear less intelligent.
We suggest that more fixed views of prejudice can produce
analogous effects. Indeed, there are many parallels between the
dimension of intelligence and the dimension of prejudice (espe-
cially for majority-group members). Just as intelligence is gener-
ally valued, not having prejudice or not appearing prejudiced is a
highly desirable quality for many majority-group individuals liv-
ing in a culture (like parts of the United States) in which there is
normative pressure to not be racist (Crandall, Eshleman, &
O’Brien, 2002). In addition, as many stigmatized minority-group
members encounter stereotype threat in intelligence-diagnostic
situations, majority-group members often experience stereotype
threat in situations in which prejudice may be evaluated (e.g.,
Frantz, Cuddy, Burnett, Ray, & Hart, 2004; Goff, Steele, & Da-
vies, 2008). Thus, majority-group individuals who believe that
prejudice, once acquired, is relatively unchangeable may be wor-
ried about discovering in themselves and/or revealing to others the
undesirable and unchangeable trait of prejudice. These individuals
may shy away from—avoid and be less interested in—
“challenging” situations in which prejudiced thoughts or behaviors
may surface. When such situations cannot be avoided, they may
experience heightened threat and anxiety. Moreover, believing
prejudice to be unalterable, they may, relative to those with a
malleable view, reject activities aimed at reducing prejudice, for
these activities may not only seem fruitless but may also hold the
danger of revealing prejudiced thoughts or actions. Fixed views of
prejudice may thus cause majority-group individuals to behave in
ways that are negative and seem prejudiced even if they do not
possess more prejudiced attitudes.
Though beliefs about the malleability of prejudice may also
affect minority-group individuals’ reactions to cross-race encoun-
ters (for instance by affecting concerns about being the target of
unalterable prejudice; see the General Discussion section), we
focus in this initial research on majority-group individuals because
of the parallels with past research described above.
Beliefs About the Malleability of Prejudice
People’s beliefs about the malleability of prejudice may legiti-
mately vary. The psychological literature provides evidence for
both the fixedness and malleability of prejudice, with different
research findings placing prejudice at different points on the spec-
trum of malleability, from hard-wired (e.g., Cottrell & Neuberg,
2005; Fishbein, 1996) to partially malleable (e.g., Devine, 1989) to
almost entirely changeable (e.g., Barden, Maddux, Petty, &
Brewer, 2004; Sinclair, Lowery, Hardin, & Colangelo, 2005; Wit-
tenbrink, Judd, & Park, 2001). In addition, such discussions about
the nature of prejudice are not restricted to the academic world.
They seep into the world of lay individuals, inspiring, for instance,
aNewsweek cover that asks, “Is Your Baby Racist?” (Bronson &
Merryman, 2009).
2CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
We have suggested that holding a fixed view of prejudice may
lead to decreased interest and increased discomfort and anxiety in
challenging situations. However, what are challenging situations in
the domain of prejudice? In the domain of intelligence, these are
situations in which one could reveal low levels of intelligence
(e.g., a test). Analogously, in the domain of prejudice, situations in
which prejudice may surface or be evaluated (e.g., an interaction
with a person of another race) might be considered challenging.
Further, given the lack of experience of many White individuals
with interracial interactions or discussions about race or diversity
(Apfelbaum et al., 2008; Shelton & Richeson, 2006; Vittrup &
Holden, 2007), given the lack of clarity about what constitutes
prejudice (Sommers & Norton, 2006), and given the aversiveness
of being thought of as (or potentially even feeling) prejudiced
(Crandall et al., 2002; Vorauer et al., 1998), a vast majority of
situations connected to race or diversity may be challenging in that
they are fraught with the possibility of uncovering prejudice and
revealing it to oneself or others. This may apply to even seemingly
benign situations, such as a lesson on African American history, as
even in such situations prejudiced thoughts may come to mind.
Certainly, a fixed belief about prejudice may not affect reactions
in situations that carry no possibility of revealing prejudice to
oneself or others, or might not have negative effects among those
who are absolutely convinced that they have no prejudice (or
believe they have no potential of being judged as having preju-
dice). However, given the ambiguity present in situations con-
nected to race and diversity as described above, we expect a great
number of people, regardless of their actual prejudice, to be
uncertain about their prejudice status. In fact, in a survey of 32
White individuals drawn from our research sample, only 1 agreed
with the statement “I know for certain that I have absolutely no
racial prejudice,” and none disagreed with the statement that
“Sometimes I worry that I may have some racial prejudice.” Thus,
fixed beliefs about prejudice may have pervasive effects in the
race-related interactions of majority-group individuals.
In sum, we expect that White individuals who view prejudice as
more immutable or are (temporarily) taught that prejudice is fixed,
relative to those who see it as more malleable or are taught that it
is changeable, will look more prejudiced, even though they do not
actually harbor more prejudice. Experiencing heightened worries
about revealing prejudice to themselves and others in intergroup
encounters, they may avoid interracial interactions (e.g., Gaertner
& Dovidio, 1977; Towles-Schwen & Fazio, 2006; Word, Zanna, &
Cooper, 1974), exhibit great discomfort in interracial interactions
(e.g., Dovidio et al., 2002; Dovidio, Kawakami, Johnson, Johnson,
& Howard, 1997; Kawakami, Phills, Steele, & Dovidio, 2007;
McConnell & Leibold, 2001), and have little interest in discussing
race or diversity (e.g., Apfelbaum et al., 2008; Norton et al., 2006).
Moreover, believing prejudice to be unchangeable, they may show
less interest in engaging in activities that could reduce any preju-
dice they have.
Concerns About Prejudice in Interracial Interactions
Aside from the parallels with research on other fixed versus
malleable theories, there is reason to think that fixed versus mal-
leable theories of prejudice will predict prejudice-like behaviors,
especially in the context of interracial interactions. We have sug-
gested that a fixed belief about prejudice may increase worries and
concerns about discovering prejudice in oneself and/or revealing it
to others and so affect interracial interactions. In support of this
hypothesis, recent research has shown that White individuals’
concerns about their prejudice are associated with the quality of
their interracial interactions. The more Whites are concerned about
being seen as prejudiced by minority-group members, the less
enjoyment they anticipate in cross-race interactions (Vorauer et al.,
1998). Such concerns may even make some people (particularly
those low in prejudice) more likely to “choke” in an interracial
interaction—to appear colder, more distant, and less responsive
(Vorauer & Turpie, 2004). Similarly, Richeson and Trawalter
(2005) have found that heightening White participants’ fears about
having or being evaluated as having prejudice (e.g., by telling them
“most people are more prejudiced than they think they are”)
increases their anxious self-regulation in an interracial interaction,
causing them to become more cognitively depleted. In addition,
research has found that a focus on learning rather than the evalu-
ation of prejudice can alleviate the stereotype threat-related anxi-
ety experienced by majority-group members in interracial interac-
tions (Goff et al., 2008, Study 3).
Though this research does not typically tend to examine why
some individuals might be more worried about finding prejudice in
themselves or being seen as having prejudice (for examples of
exceptions, see Goff et al., 2008; Vorauer et al., 1998), fixed
beliefs about prejudice may well be a reason.
Research Overview
Eight studies tested the influence of majority-group members’
beliefs about the malleability of prejudice— both measured and
manipulated. In Studies 1a–1d, we examined whether White indi-
viduals’ measured beliefs about the malleability of prejudice pre-
dict their desire to engage in interracial interactions and their
interest in activities related to race and diversity. In Study 2, we
explored whether fixed beliefs about prejudice are associated with
greater avoidance and discomfort in anticipation of an interracial
(but not same-race) interaction. To test whether a fixed theory of
prejudice predicts not only less interest in challenging situations
but also less interest in learning, Study 3 examined whether fixed
beliefs are associated with less interest in undertaking efforts to
reduce prejudice. Studies 4 and 5 manipulated beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice. Study 4 tested whether fixed beliefs
about prejudice, mediated by increased concerns about revealing
prejudice to oneself and others, cause decreased interest in inter-
racial interactions. Study 5 examined whether fixed beliefs cause
increased physiological and behavioral anxiety, as well as de-
creased friendliness, during the course of an interracial (but not
same-race) interaction. Along the way, we tested whether the
effects of beliefs about prejudice emerge above and beyond those
of general beliefs about the malleability of personality (Study 1b),
motivation to respond without prejudice (Study 1c), explicit racial
attitudes (Study 1b), and implicit racial attitudes (Study 2). We
also distinguished between people’s own beliefs and their percep-
tions of others’ beliefs (Study 1c) and tested whether fixed beliefs
about prejudice produce their effects because people believe that
their own racial group’s prejudice is unalterable or because they
believe that another group’s (e.g., Black individuals’) prejudice is
unalterable (Study 1d).
3
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
Results supporting our hypotheses would indicate that behavior
that might seem “prejudiced” may not be so and might emanate
from people who are relatively low in attitudinal prejudice. Such
results would also suggest that to increase the frequency and
quality of intergroup interactions, to increase engagement with
topics related to race and diversity, and to increase willingness to
correct prejudice, not only people’s prejudice toward other racial
groups but also their beliefs about the malleability of prejudice
may need to be addressed.
Studies 1a–1d: Beliefs About Prejudice and Interest in
Interracial Interactions, Interest in Race-Related
Activities, Racial Attitudes, and Motivation to
Respond Without Prejudice
We developed a scale measuring participants’ beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice (the Theories of Prejudice Scale; see Appen-
dix), adapted from scales designed to measure beliefs about the
malleability of personality in general (Dweck, Chiu, & Hong, 1995).
With this scale, we tested the hypothesis that a more fixed view of
prejudice is associated with less interest in interracial interactions
(Studies 1a–1d) and in activities related to race or diversity (but not in
race-unrelated activities; Study 1a). We have suggested that, because
alargenumberofactivitiesrelatingtoraceanddiversityhavethe
potential to elicit prejudiced thoughts or feelings, the relative reluc-
tance of individuals with fixed views of prejudice to engage in
activities related to race and diversity might extend not only to highly
threatening activities but also to activities that at first glance may not
appear very threatening, such as learning facts about African Amer-
ican history. Thus, we examined interest in highly threatening and
relatively safer race-related activities in Study 1a.
These studies also explored relationships between beliefs about
prejudice and other constructs. In Study 1b, we measured racial
attitudes and people’s theories about the malleability of personality in
general to examine whether more fixed prejudice beliefs predict lower
interest in interracial interactions, above and beyond these variables.
Study 1c examined motivation to respond with the Internal Motiva-
tion to Respond Without Prejudice Scale ([IMS]; because of personal
values that prejudice is wrong; e.g., “Because of my personal values,
IbelievethatusingstereotypesaboutBlackpeopleiswrong)and
with the External Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice Scale
([EMS]; because of self-presentational pressure from others; e.g., “I
try to hide any negative thoughts about Black people in order to avoid
negative reactions from others”; Plant & Devine, 1998). People’s
responses on the IMS and EMS have been found to have important
implications in the domain of intergroup relations and interracial
interactions (Butz & Plant, 2009; Plant & Devine, 1998): For exam-
ple, higher EMS scores predict greater avoidance of race-related
topics (Apfelbaum et al., 2008). We tested whether prejudice beliefs
predict interest in interracial interactions, above and beyond these
useful constructs. We did not expect beliefs about prejudice to be
redundant with IMS and EMS responses. Just as we did not expect
beliefs about the malleability of prejudice to be associated with
people’s prejudice, we also did not expect them to be associated with
the belief that prejudice is wrong (as assessed by IMS): Both those
who do and do not believe prejudice is unchangeable may believe it
is wrong. In addition, as we noted, a fixed belief about prejudice
should heighten concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself and
others (a mechanism we explore in Study 4). If one believes prejudice
cannot be changed, not only acting in a way that could be labeled as
prejudiced but also having a thought that reflects “unchangeable”
prejudice may be worrisome. Thus, fixed prejudice beliefs may not
necessarily correspond with higher EMS scores, because expressing
agreement with EMS items can involve admitting (to oneself and
perhaps the experimenter) that one possesses prejudice or harbors
negative thoughts about certain racial groups (e.g., “I try to hide any
negative thoughts about Black people”)—an act that may be aversive
to those with fixed prejudice beliefs. Further, EMS taps felt self-
presentational pressure from others to behave in unprejudiced ways
and does not capture worries about revealing prejudice to oneself.
Thus, we did not expect a fixed belief about prejudice to be redundant
with external motivation to respond without prejudice.
We also sought to further clarify beliefs about the malleability
of prejudice. One possibility is that those who express more
agreement with fixed views of prejudice aren’t expressing their
own beliefs about prejudice but just perceptions of most people’s
beliefs. Those who endorse a fixed view of prejudice may thus be
less interested in interracial interactions chiefly because they be-
lieve others hold a fixed view of prejudice and might judge them
as permanently prejudiced. Study 1c tested whether people’s own
beliefs—rather than their perception of most people’s beliefs—
predict interest in interracial interactions. In addition, it is possible
that White Americans hold different views about the malleability
of their own versus other racial groups’ prejudice and avoid
interracial interactions chiefly because they believe others’ preju-
dice against them cannot be changed. Study 1d explored relation-
ships between beliefs about one’s own group’s and other groups’
prejudice and interest in interracial interactions.
Studies 1a–1d thus seek to establish a new measure of beliefs
about the malleability of prejudice, examine its relationships with
interest in interracial interactions and race-related activities, and
distinguish it from previously researched variables.
Method
Participants. Forty-three (26 female, 17 male), 25 (13 fe-
male, 12 male), 33 (22 female, 11 male), and 28 (17 female, 11
male) White individuals (ages 18 –26 years) participated in Studies
1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d, respectively. They received either partial course
credit or a $5 gift card.
Procedure. In all studies, participants participated in two
sessions. First, in a mass survey session, participants completed the
Theories of Prejudice Scale (described in detail below; Studies
1a–1d), measures of racial attitudes (Study 1b), measures of the
malleability of personality in general (Study 1b), measures of
conceptions of most people’s beliefs about prejudice (Study 1c),
IMS and EMS scales (Study 1c), and measures of beliefs about
their own group’s and other groups’ prejudice (Study 1d). Partic-
ipants also reported demographic information (age and gender).
One to 4 weeks later, participants completed another set of sur-
veys, which contained our target dependent measures—interest in
interracial interactions (Studies 1a–1d) and interest in activities
related to race and diversity (Study 1a)—randomly embedded
among a number of unrelated surveys.
Predictor measures.
Theories of Prejudice Scale. We assessed participants’ views
about the malleability and fixedness of prejudice in Studies 1a–1d
with a six-item measure that we developed—the Theories of Preju-
4CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
dice Scale (see Appendix). Participants rated their agreement on a
6-point scale (ranging from very strongly disagree to very strongly
agree)withsixstatements,fourofwhichexpressedafixedviewof
prejudice (e.g., “People have a certain amount of prejudice and they
can’t really change that”) and two of which (reverse-coded) expressed
amalleableviewofprejudice(e.g.,“Nomatterwhosomebodyis,
they can always become a lot less prejudiced”). We included more
fixed than malleable items in the scale as the malleable view may be
seen as more socially desirable and may bias individuals to respond in
more malleable terms, suppressing variability in the measure (Dweck,
1999). A pilot study with 40 White students confirmed the scale was
internally reliable (!".94; M"3.01; SD "0.89). All six items
loaded onto a single factor (which explained 76.6% of the variance),
and removal of any item from the scale did not improve internal
reliability.
Other measures. In Study 1b, we assessed racial attitudes
with two different measures: the Modern Racism Scale (MRS;
McConahay, 1986; e.g., “Discrimination against Blacks is no
longer a problem in the United States”; !".81)
1
and the Sym-
bolic Racism 2000 Scale (SR2K; Henry & Sears, 2002; summed as
described in Sears & Henry, 2005; e.g., “Irish, Italian, Jewish and
many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way
up. Blacks should do the same”; !".86). We selected these
measures because they are commonly used to assess racial atti-
tudes (Olson, 2009). We also measured beliefs about the mallea-
bility of personality in general in Study 1b with the Implicit Person
Theories Scale (Dweck et al., 1995; e.g., “People can do things
differently, but the important parts of who they are can’t really be
changed”; !".92).
In Study 1c, we modified the Theories of Prejudice Scale to tap
participants’ perceptions of most people’s beliefs about prejudice
(e.g., “Most people believe that people have a certain amount of
prejudice and that people can’t really change that”; !".89). We
also administered measures of internal and external motivation to
respond without prejudice (IMS and EMS; Plant & Devine, 1998;
!s".80 and .82, respectively).
In Study 1d, we modified the Theories of Prejudice Scale to
assess beliefs about the malleability of prejudice held by members
of participants’ own racial group and by members of other racial
groups, such as African Americans (e.g., “People of my/another
racial group have a certain amount of prejudice and they can’t
really change that”; !s".89 and .90, respectively).
Dependent measures.
Interest in interracial interactions. In Studies 1a–1d, we
assessed interest in interracial interactions with the six-item Out-
group Orientation Scale (Phinney, 1992; !".78). Participants
rated their agreement on a 7-point scale (ranging from strongly
disagree to strongly agree) with statements like “I like meeting
and getting to know people from ethnic groups other than my
own.” Ethnic groups was defined to participants as “groups such as
African Americans.”
Interest in activities related to race and diversity. In Study
1a, we gauged participants’ interest on a 7-point scale (ranging
from not at all interested to very interested) in participating in 12
psychology studies. Participants were informed that they would be
offered the opportunity to participate in the studies in which they
had indicated interest during the next quarter.
Of the 12 studies, six were race-related and six were race-
unrelated. Three of the race-related studies were more threatening
in that they could easily diagnose prejudice (e.g., “You will take
the Implicit Association Test which will assess your unconscious
racial prejudices and will learn about your unconscious prejudice”;
!".78), while three were less threatening (e.g., “You will be
presented facts about the history of African Americans and be
tested on your memory for these historical facts”; !".79). As
with the race-related studies, three of the race-unrelated studies
were more threatening (e.g., “Your ability on a difficult math test
like the SAT or GRE will be assessed and you will receive
feedback on your weaknesses”; !".80) and three were less so
(e.g., “You will be presented with several faces of other people and
your memory for these faces will be assessed”; !".78). The latter
studies were included to clarify that those with fixed views of
prejudice were not less interested in all activities (including threat-
ening ones) in general.
Apilotstudywith22participantsdrawnfromthesamesampleas
was used in Study 1a confirmed our classification of studies as
relatively more and less threatening. Participants were given the same
list of studies that participants in Study 1a received, and they rated on
a7-pointscalehow“stressfulandanxiety-provoking”theywouldfind
each to be. For both the race-related and race-unrelated studies,
participants reported finding the more threatening studies more stress-
ful and anxiety-provoking (M
race-related
"4.64; M
race-unrelated
"4.50)
than were the less threatening studies (M
race-related
"2.30;
M
race-unrelated
"2.19; paired-samples ts#10.42, ps$.001). The
ratings of the race-related and race-unrelated studies did not differ
(ts$1).
Results
Preliminary analyses. In Studies 1a–1d and all following
studies, regressions revealed that scores on predictors and dependent
measures did not vary by gender and that gender did not moderate any
of the reported associations between predictors and dependent mea-
sures (ts$1.20).
Interest in interracial interactions. As hypothesized, those
with a more fixed rather than malleable view of prejudice were less
interested in engaging in interracial interactions (M
range
"5.24 –
5.87, SD
range
"0.67– 0.81), an effect that consistently emerged in
Studies 1a–1d (rs"–.35 to –.46, ps$.048; see Table 1). This
association persisted while controlling for participants’ beliefs
about the malleability of personality (M"3.12, SD "0.92),
r(22) "–.47, p".021; their racial attitudes assessed by the MRS
(M"2.12, SD "0.66), r(22) "–.47, p".020, and SR2K (M"
17.21, SD "3.68), r(16) "–.50, p".034; and their motivation
to respond without prejudice for internal reasons (IMS; M"4.42,
SD "1.31), r(29) "–.37, p".041, and external reasons (EMS;
M"3.85, SD "1.29), r(29) "–.36, p".050.
2
In Study 1c, conceptions of most people’s beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice (M"3.63, SD "0.78), though associ-
ated with participants’ own beliefs about the malleability of prej-
udice, r(31) ".40, p".020, did not predict interest in interracial
1
One item from the original MRS pertaining to attitudes toward school
desegregation was excluded as it was likely not meaningful to our partic-
ipants.
2
In Study 1a, two participants did not complete the interest in interracial
interactions measure. In Study 1b, four participants did not receive the
SR2K due to a printing error.
5
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
interactions, r(31) "–.18, p".33. Thus it seems that people’s
own beliefs about the malleability of prejudice and not their
perceptions of others’ beliefs are importantly linked to interest in
interracial interactions.
3
In Study 1d, beliefs about the fixedness of
one’s own racial group’s prejudice (M"3.04, SD "0.79) and
other racial groups’ prejudice (M"3.07, SD "0.76) were highly
correlated, r(26) ".91, p$.001, and each scale correlated highly
with the general Theories of Prejudice Scale (rs#.86, ps$.002).
In this study, more fixed beliefs about the malleability of one’s
own group’s prejudice predicted significantly less interest in in-
terracial interactions, r(26) "–.40, p".033. More fixed beliefs
about the malleability of other groups’ prejudice also tended to
predict less interest in these interactions, though this effect was
only marginally significant, r(26) "–.32, p".094. These results
further clarify that for White individuals the effects of beliefs
about prejudice may importantly be due to beliefs about the self
and one’s own group’s racial prejudice and not simply due to
beliefs about others’ prejudice against them.
Did the other measured predictor variables predict interest in
interracial interactions? In Study 1b, participants’ more general
theories about the malleability of personality were unassociated
with interest in interracial interactions, r(23) "–.15, p".49.
Increased prejudice as measured by the MRS and SR2K tended
to be associated with less interest in interracial interactions,
though these effects were not significant, r(23) "–.33, p".11,
and, r(17) "–.34, p".16, respectively. In Study 1c, IMS and
EMS scores were not associated with interest in interracial
interactions (rs"–.10 and –.14, ps".57 and .43, respec-
tively). In addition, regressions revealed that none of the other
predictor variables— beliefs about the malleability of personal-
ity, MRS, SR2K, IMS, and EMS—moderated the relationship
between beliefs about the malleability of prejudice and interest
in interracial interactions (ts$1).
4
Interest in race-related activities. In Study 1a, we also
examined interest in more threatening and less threatening race-
related activities. Lending further support to our classification of
activities as relatively high or low threat, a repeated-measures
analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed that participants were
more interested in the less threatening studies (race-related: M"
4.53, SD "0.59; race-unrelated: M"4.58, SD "0.71) than the
more threatening ones (race-related: M"4.04, SD "0.60; race-
unrelated: M"3.53, SD "0.70), F(1, 42) "52.00, p$.001. This
effect held for both the race-related and the race-unrelated studies
(ts#3.60, ps$.001).
As predicted, a more fixed view of prejudice was associated
with less interest in race-related activities, for both the highly
threatening ones, r(41) "–.36, p".018, and the less threatening
ones, r(41) "–.31, p".044. Beliefs about prejudice were
uncorrelated with interest in either the high- or low-threat race-
unrelated studies, r(41) "–.21, p".16, and, r(41) ".11, p".50,
respectively. Since the correlation patterns did not differ by level
of threat, we calculated participants’ interest in all race-related
studies (!".79) and all race-unrelated studies (!".80). Again,
prejudice beliefs were uncorrelated with interest in race-unrelated
studies but correlated with interest in race-related studies (see
Table 1), even after controlling for interest in race-unrelated stud-
ies, r(40) "–.31, p".045.
Other relevant associations. Beliefs about prejudice were
positively associated with beliefs about the malleability of person-
ality in general, r(23) ".65, p$.001, and unassociated with
MRS, SR2K, IMS, and EMS scores (rs"–.11 to .16, ps#.35).
Discussion
The findings of Studies 1a–1d are the first to show that people’s
beliefs about the malleability of prejudice can have important impli-
cations for intergroup relations. A more fixed belief about prejudice
was associated with less interest in engaging in interactions across
racial lines and less interest in studies that touched on race, diversity,
or learning about prejudice. The effects on interracial interactions
emerged even while controlling for racial attitudes (Study 1b), moti-
vation to respond without prejudice (Study 1c), and beliefs about the
malleability of personality in general (Study 1b). These studies also
reveal the importance of the self— of one’s own beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice and beliefs about one’s own groups’ preju-
dice—in the effects of the beliefs about prejudice (Studies 1c and 1d).
Further, Study 1b also found that beliefs about prejudice were uncor-
related with racial attitudes, highlighting that a fixed view of prejudice
may lead people to behave in seemingly prejudiced ways—to avoid
contact with members of other races— even in the absence of racial
animus.
3
That conceptions of most people’s beliefs about prejudice do not seem
to drive the association of prejudice beliefs with interest in interracial
interactions is consistent with the hypothesis that prejudice beliefs would
not be redundant with EMS—which assesses motivation to suppress prej-
udice for self-presentational reasons.
4
Some of these associations might have reached statistical significance
with a larger sample. In addition, a larger sample with more variability in
measures like IMS and EMS may find that these variables moderate the
effects of beliefs about the malleability of prejudice on interracial interac-
tions. Future research with larger and more variable samples might explore
whether those who are unworried about revealing prejudice to others (low
EMS) and do not subscribe to a belief that prejudice is wrong (low IMS)
are unworried about interracial interactions even when they believe prej-
udice is fixed. Nonetheless, the key finding of this series of studies is that,
in these samples, beliefs about prejudice predict interest in interracial
interactions, above and beyond these other measured variables.
Table 1
Studies 1a–1d: Correlation Between Beliefs About the
Malleability of Prejudice and Dependent Measures Assessing
Interest in Interracial Interactions and Race-Related Activities
Measure Study
Fixed prejudice
beliefs
Interest in interracial interactions Study 1a –.37
!
Study 1b –.46
!
Study 1c –.35
!
Study 1d –.39
!
Interest in race-related activities Study 1a –.37
!
Note. Higher numbers indicate more fixed prejudice beliefs. Beliefs
about the malleability of prejudice were uncorrelated with racial attitudes
as measured by the Modern Racism Scale and the Symbolic Racism 2000
Scale and with motivation to respond without prejudice as measured by the
Internal Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice Scale and External
Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice Scale.
!
p$.05.
6CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
Interestingly, in Study 1a, more fixed beliefs about prejudice were
associated with less interest in race- and diversity-related studies, even
when such studies were not apparently highly threatening. We were
not surprised by this pattern of results, because even less threatening
situations that involve race or diversity are not risk free and can carry
the possibility of revealing prejudice to oneself or others. For instance,
aprejudicedthoughtmaycometoonesmindevenwhileoneis
engaged in an activity that at first glance may not seem very threat-
ening, such as reading about African American history. Of course, in
situations that involve almost no possibility of uncovering prejudice,
those with more fixed versus malleable beliefs about prejudice may
not differ. Nonetheless, this study demonstrates the potentially per-
vasive effects of beliefs about the malleability of prejudice across a
variety of intergroup situations.
Study 2: Do Beliefs About Prejudice Predict Negative
Reactions to Upcoming Interracial Interactions?
Studies 1a–1d investigated self-reported interest in interracial
interactions and race-related activities. However, given that self-
reported intent does not always map onto behavior (e.g., LaPiere,
1934), it is important to examine behavior when people are actu-
ally faced with an interracial interaction. In Study 2, White par-
ticipants expected to interact with either a Black or a White
individual. We examined the effects of beliefs about prejudice on
participants’ behavioral avoidance of (i.e., their desire to shorten
the interaction) and their physical distancing in interracial versus
same-race interactions. Increased interpersonal distancing from
cross-race partners is a behavioral outcome that has been used to
index discomfort and anxiety about interracial interactions in re-
cent research (e.g., Goff et al., 2008), but that is also a negative
behavior that is often seen as reflecting prejudice (e.g., Dovidio et
al., 2002; Word et al., 1974).
To further support the hypothesis that the effects are driven by
beliefs about prejudice, independent of underlying prejudice, we also
assessed participants’ implicit attitudes toward Black individuals with
the Race Implicit Association Test (IAT-Race; Greenwald, McGhee,
&Schwartz,1998).ThoughStudy1bfoundthatprejudicebeliefsdo
not correlate with racial prejudice as assessed by the MRS and SR2K,
it is possible that those with more fixed beliefs about prejudice
intentionally portrayed themselves as unbiased on these explicit mea-
sures. Thus, Study 2 used an implicit measure of racial bias to
examine whether the effects of prejudice beliefs would arise above
and beyond the effects of implicit racial associations.
Method
Participants. Eighty-seven White individuals (55 female, 32
male; ages 18 –24) participated. They received either partial course
credit or $10.
Procedure and manipulation of race of the interaction part-
ner. One participant arrived for each experimental session and
met another individual (actually a confederate), purportedly par-
ticipating in the same session. Participants were randomly assigned
to participate with either a Black or a White female confederate,
who were matched, through pretesting of their photographs with
25 students, for perceived attractiveness (M
Black
"7.30 and
M
White
"7.12 on a 10-point scale). The participant and confed-
erate signed consent forms in the same room and were told by the
experimenter (who was Asian) that they would be completing
several measures and tasks related to attitudes and cognitions.
They were then told that each of them would complete the first few
tasks in separate rooms, and the experimenter escorted the con-
federate to a neighboring room to complete her tasks. Participants
did not encounter the confederate again.
Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires of “demo-
graphic information we collect for all research in our lab.” They
received a packet of seven questionnaires, including the Theories
of Prejudice Scale. Next, they completed the IAT-Race (described
below), a measure of implicit racial associations. Then, partici-
pants were escorted into a new room for an interaction with the
confederate, in which we measured interpersonal distancing (de-
scribed below). Last, they were given a final questionnaire that
assessed avoidance by asking them how much time they would
like to spend in their upcoming interaction and were probed for
suspicion. No participant suspected the purpose of the study in this
study or any following studies. The experimenters and confeder-
ates were blind to hypotheses in this study and all following
studies.
Measures.
Measure of implicit racial attitudes. The IAT-Race is a
measure of automatic associations between Black and White faces
and positive and negative words (Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald,
2002). The task was described to participants as a task “assessing
your cognitions about various concepts” and was administered on
a computer through DirectRT (Jarvis, 2008). For 160 trials (in-
cluding practice and test trials), participants categorized Black
faces, White faces, positive words, and negative words by pressing
one of two marked keys as quickly and as accurately as possible.
In one test block, White faces and positive words shared a key, and
Black faces and negative words shared a key. In another, the
opposite pairings shared a key. The order of these blocks was
counterbalanced across participants. Time taken to categorize the
words and faces was recorded, and the difference in reaction times
to these blocks served as an index of implicit racial attitudes:
Taking longer to categorize in the Black-Positive/White-Negative
block as compared to the Black-Negative/White-Positive block
indicates increased implicit bias against Black targets relative to
White targets (Greenwald, Nosek, & Banaji, 2003).
Dependent measures. After completing the IAT-Race, par-
ticipants proceeded to the “attitudes part of the study,” which
involved conversing with the other participant about their thoughts
and attitudes about diversity, “including racial, age, political, in-
come, or gender diversity, or diversity of majors” at their school.
We described the conversation as involving race-unrelated and
race-related topics, because past work on interracial interactions
typically involved such conversations (e.g., Richeson & Trawalter,
2005). After being escorted to a new room, participants were asked
to pull up two chairs (which were positioned against the far wall in
the room) and arrange them facing each other for their interaction
while the experimenter checked on the other participant. The
experimenter left, returned 1 min later, and informed the partici-
pant that the “other participant was still finishing up.” In the
meantime, the participant was asked to return to the first room to
fill out “some questions I forgot to give you earlier.” Participants
were given a final questionnaire that assessed the time they desired
to spend in the interaction. They indicated in minutes how much
time they would want to spend in their upcoming conversation
7
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
if they had unlimited free time that day. While participants did so,
the experimenter measured the distance between the two chairs
(placed by the participant) to arrive at participants’ interpersonal
distancing from the interaction partner.
Results
Preliminary analyses. Beliefs about the malleability of prej-
udice did not differ by the race of the confederate that participants
expected to interact with (t$1.37).
Interpersonal distancing from the interaction partner. We
hypothesized that believing prejudice is fixed would be associated
with increased distancing from a Black but not White interaction
partner. In a regression analyzing interpersonal distancing from the
interaction partner, only a significant interaction between prejudice
beliefs and race of the confederate (coded White "0, Black "1)
emerged (%".31), t(83) "2.06, p".042. As predicted, simple
slope analyses (estimated with prejudice beliefs at –1 SD and &1
SD from the mean, representing a more malleable and fixed belief
about prejudice, respectively) revealed that believing prejudice is
relatively fixed was associated with increased distancing from the
Black interaction partner (%".40), t(83) "2.70, p".009, but
beliefs about prejudice were unassociated with distancing from the
White interaction partner (t$1). As shown in Figure 1, those with
a more fixed belief about prejudice (at 1 SD above the mean) sat
about 9 in. further away from the black interaction partner than did
those with a more malleable belief (at 1 SD below the mean).
IAT-Race scores were calculated using established procedures
and a 600-ms penalty for incorrect categorizations (Greenwald et
al., 2003). Higher scores indicate greater preference for White over
Black individuals. Consistent with the findings of Study 1b, IAT-
Race scores (M"0.54, SD "0.65) were uncorrelated with
people’s beliefs about prejudice, r(84) "–.07, p".52.
5
Impor-
tantly, in a regression the Prejudice Beliefs 'Confederate Race
interaction was significant even while controlling for IAT-Race
scores (%".35), t(81) "2.35, p".021. Additionally, even with
IAT-Race scores as a covariate, believing prejudice is relatively
fixed rather than malleable predicted increased physical distancing
from the Black interaction partner, t(81) "2.75, p".007, but not
from the White interaction partner (t$1). A regression revealed
that IAT-Race scores did not moderate effects (ts$1).
Time desired in the interaction. We predicted that a more
fixed view of prejudice would be associated with decreased time
desired in an interaction with a Black but not White interaction
partner. The responses for time desired in interaction with the
partner were positively skewed (z"2.62, p$.05). A square-root
transformation reduced the skew to nonsignificance (z$1). A
regression revealed a significant interaction of only beliefs about
the malleability of prejudice with the race of the confederate on
desired time in the interaction (%"–.12), t(83) "2.11, p".038.
As predicted, a more fixed view of prejudice was linked with
wanting to spend less time with a Black interaction partner (%"
–.50), t(83) "3.46, p".001, but was unassociated with time
desired with a White partner (t$1). As shown in Figure 2 (with
the untransformed variable for intuitive clarity), those with a more
fixed belief about prejudice (at 1 SD above the mean) wanted
almost 25 min less face time with a Black individual than did those
with a more malleable belief (at 1 SD below the mean).
Controlling for IAT-Race scores, the reported interaction re-
mained significant (%"–.33), t(80) "2.27, p".026, and
prejudice beliefs remained associated with time desired in an
interaction with a Black interaction partner, t(80) "3.46, p"
.011, and unassociated with time desired in an interaction with a
5
Degrees of freedom vary slightly, as some participants did not com-
plete all measures and the IAT-Race data of one participant was lost due to
a technical error.
Figure 1. Study 2: Participants’ interpersonal distancing from the interaction partner (in inches) as a function
of beliefs about the malleability of prejudice (at (1SD) and race of the interaction partner.
8CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
White partner (t$1). IAT-Race scores did not moderate effects
(ts$1).
6
Discussion
Study 2 extends our findings in important ways. It takes them
beyond self-reported interest in future interactions to behavioral out-
comes and to imminent interactions. Those with a more fixed rather
than malleable view of prejudice placed their seats farther away from
their partner and desired shorter interactions when expecting to
interact with a Black individual. Demonstrating that the effects
are not due to increased social anxiety or general avoidance of
others among those with a fixed view of prejudice, beliefs about
the malleability of prejudice were unassociated with distancing
from and desired interaction time with a White individual.
Study 2, consistent with the findings of Study 1b, also demonstrates
that beliefs about prejudice are distinct from and independent of
attitudinal prejudice— even implicit prejudice. Those with a more
fixed rather than malleable belief about prejudice were no more
implicitly prejudiced. In addition, the effects of prejudice beliefs on
behavior emerged above and beyond the effects of participants’ level
of implicit racial bias. Thus, it appears that, regardless of people’s
actual level of prejudice, a fixed view of prejudice may lead people to
act in more avoidant, uncomfortable, and seemingly prejudiced
ways—to distance themselves from and seek to end interactions with
amemberofadifferentrace.Study2suggeststhatnegativeinter-
group behaviors may not always arise from negative intergroup atti-
tudes but arise instead from cognitions and beliefs about prejudice.
The reader may also notice in Figures 1 and 2 an interesting
pattern among those with more malleable views about prejudice:
Those who believe prejudice is malleable tended to sit closer to
and desired more time in an interaction with a Black than a White
partner (ps".140 and .032, respectively). While these findings
are not conclusive and warrant further investigation, it is interest-
ing to consider why such effects may emerge. Interracial inter-
actions provide an important opportunity to learn—about one-
self, about other groups, and about prejudice. Those who
believe prejudice is malleable, given their increased focus on
learning, may therefore be more interested and engaged in
interracial interactions compared with same-race ones, which
might not provide as rich a learning opportunity. We further
explore the effects of beliefs about the malleability of prejudice
on interest in learning in Study 3.
Study 3: Do Beliefs About Prejudice Predict Interest
in Reducing One’s Prejudice?
Past work investigating fixed and malleable theories of intelli-
gence has found that individuals with a fixed view not only avoid
situations and experience anxiety in settings in which their intel-
ligence could be challenged but also may not even take advantage
of relatively unchallenging learning opportunities that, though they
might involve confronting their weaknesses, could help them im-
prove their ability (e.g., Hong et al., 1999; Nussbaum & Dweck,
2008). In Study 3, we investigated whether people’s beliefs about
prejudice similarly influence their interest in participating in ac-
tivities designed to reduce their prejudice.
6
IAT-Race scores were uncorrelated with distancing from the Black
partner, r(40) "–.14, p".38 (see also Goff et al., 2008), but were
correlated with distancing from the White partner, r(42) "–.32, p".04.
Those with increased preference for White over Black individuals wished
to sit closer to the White partner. IAT-Race scores were also uncorrelated
with time desired in an interaction with the Black partner, r(42) ".15, p"
.35, and White partner, r(43) ".19, p".22.
Figure 2. Study 2: Participants’ reported time desired in the interaction (in minutes) as a function of beliefs
about the malleability of prejudice (at (1SD) and race of the interaction partner. Though the time desired in
the interaction was skewed and statistical analyses use a transformed variable, desired time is represented in the
original metric in this figure for intuitive clarity.
9
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
In this experiment, we manipulated feedback given to participants
about their level of prejudice by telling them that they were either
relatively low in prejudice or moderately high in prejudice. We then
offered them potentially nonchallenging ways to understand and
lower their prejudice via information or a tutorial, neither of which
involved interacting with anyone of a different race. It is possible that
those with a more fixed view of prejudice might not be interested in
reducing their prejudice after they’ve been told they are relatively
high in prejudice (a highly threatening situation since they must
confront their high level of prejudice) but might work toward reduc-
ing their prejudice when told their prejudice was relatively low (a less
threatening situation that might alleviate their concerns about having
prejudice). This would be similar to findings by Nussbaum and
Dweck (2008), in which those taught that intelligence is fixed exam-
ined problem-solving strategies of better performing students only
when told that they themselves had already done well and not when
told they had done poorly.
However, there is another possibility. We already found in
Study 1a that more fixed beliefs about prejudice are associated
with people’s choices in both threatening and seemingly safe
situations. In the present experiment as well, it may be that those
with a more fixed view of prejudice, compared with those with a
more malleable view, would be less interested in activities de-
signed to help them reduce their prejudice, even when given
feedback that they have low prejudice. Even when prejudice is
low, participants may have to encounter some of their prejudice,
which may still be distressing when it is seen as unchangeable.
Results consistent with this possibility would indicate that fixed
beliefs about prejudice may suppress desire to engage in prejudice
reduction across a variety of situations—threatening and safer—
and that beliefs about prejudice may need to be addressed to
effectively increase motivation to reduce prejudice.
Method
Participants. Forty-nine White individuals (28 female, 21
male; ages 18 –34) participated. They received either partial course
credit or $7.
Procedure. Participants arrived for a study on “attitudes and
interests.” They first completed a packet of seven questionnaires
that they were told we collected for all studies in our lab. This
packet contained the Theories of Prejudice Scale. Next, partici-
pants completed a shortened IAT-Race task (designed solely as a
basis for giving them feedback about their prejudice), received
feedback about their level of prejudice, and completed a final
questionnaire assessing interest in reducing prejudice. When
probed for suspicion, one participant suspected the prejudice feed-
back he received was false and was excluded from analysis.
Measures.
Prejudice feedback manipulation. The shortened IAT-Race
was presented to participants as a task that examined “their atti-
tudes and their unconscious racial biases.” It was identical to the
full IAT-Race described above in what it required participants to
do (categorize Black faces, White faces, positive words, and neg-
ative words) but presented them with fewer trials (60 instead of
160). At the end of this task, the computer spent 1 min “process-
ing” the data and then presented participants with “personalized”
feedback about their prejudice.
Through random assignment, participants were told that they
scored either “low in prejudice” compared with their peers (scor-
ing at the 9th percentile) or “moderate to moderately high in
prejudice” compared with their peers (scoring at the 61st percen-
tile). Participants saw an image of a scale labeled YOUR LEVEL
OF ANTI-BLACK PREJUDICE, which extended from the 1st
percentile (labeled very low) to the 100th percentile (labeled very
high). A red arrow indicated participants’ purported percentile.
The feedback explained that the test had been administered to over
1,000 students at their university and that their score indicated that
they had either “less prejudice than 91%” or “more prejudice than
61%” of people at their university. We chose these points—9th
percentile and 61st percentile—to increase plausibility for partic-
ipants: If we chose more extreme points (e.g., telling participants
their prejudice was at the 1st percentile or the 99th percentile), we
risked arousing suspicion, especially because participants have
some access to the level of difficulty they experience on the
IAT-Race (Brendl, Markman, & Messner, 2001).
To confirm that the low-prejudice feedback condition was less
threatening than the high-prejudice feedback condition, in a pilot
study we asked 44 White students to imagine participating in either
the low- or high-prejudice feedback condition in Study 3. They
read detailed descriptions of the procedure of Study 3 (through the
point of receiving feedback about their prejudice) and saw images
of the feedback given in the low- or high-prejudice feedback
condition. Confirming the validity of our manipulation, those who
imagined participating in the low-prejudice feedback condition
reported that they would feel less threatened, less worried, less
nervous, less concerned, safer, more comfortable, more secure, and
more relaxed following the feedback than would those who imag-
ined participating in the high-prejudice feedback condition (ts#
2.75, ps$.01).
Dependent measures. After they received feedback, partici-
pants were asked to rate their interest on a 7-point scale (ranging
from not at all interested to very interested) in various tasks that
were available for them to engage in for the remainder of the study.
All tasks were presented as taking 15–20 min to complete, and
participants were told that they would be assigned a task they
found interesting. Two of these tasks involved working toward
reducing their prejudice. One consisted of going through a “spe-
cialized computer analysis of your IAT score” and then learning
about the “nature and source of your prejudice and strategies to
reduce it.” The other involved engaging in a computer-
administered tutorial that had been shown to “help some individ-
uals reduce their unconscious racial biases.” Four other tasks were
completely unrelated to prejudice, diversity, or race (e.g., reporting
attitudes on academic programs).
Results
The two items assessing interest in undertaking efforts to reduce
prejudice correlated, r(46) ".32, p".029, and were averaged. A
regression revealed that those with a more fixed belief about
prejudice were less interested in undertaking efforts to reduce their
prejudice (%"–.50), t(47) "3.97, p".011. Interestingly, this
effect of prejudice beliefs on interest in prejudice-reducing activ-
ities was not moderated by the feedback participants received
about their level of prejudice (t$1) and was significant in both
prejudice feedback conditions (%s"–.55 to –.46, ts#2.66, ps$
10 CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
.02). In fact, there was no effect of the prejudice feedback manip-
ulation on interest in reducing prejudice (t$1). In addition,
neither beliefs about prejudice, nor the prejudice feedback, nor
their interaction affected interest in activities unrelated to race,
prejudice, or diversity (ts$1). Controlling for interest in these
unrelated tasks, none of the reported relationships changed.
Discussion
Who is willing to work toward reducing his or her prejudice?
Study 3 finds that those who hold more fixed views of prejudice
are less interested than those with more malleable views in activ-
ities designed to help them reduce their prejudice. This was true
both when participants were told they had moderately high levels
of prejudice—and therefore much room for improvement—and
when participants were reassured they had low levels of preju-
dice—and were thus in a relatively safer situation. Because of the
ambiguity surrounding the topic of prejudice and strong cultural
pressure for many White individuals to be or appear nonprejudiced
(e.g., Crandall et al., 2002), even seemingly safe situations might
not be safe enough for those with fixed theories of prejudice. One
might imagine that if participants could be convinced that they had
no prejudice at all and no risk of uncovering prejudice, effects of
prejudice beliefs might weaken. Nonetheless, the present results
again highlight the powerful effects of beliefs about prejudice
across widely varying situations. They suggest that to drive people
to take action to reduce their prejudice it might be necessary to
address their beliefs about the malleability of prejudice.
Study 4: Does Changing Beliefs About Prejudice
Change Concerns About Revealing Prejudice and
Interest in Interracial Interactions?
Studies 1–3 have demonstrated that people’s measured beliefs
about prejudice—above and beyond the effects of people’s preju-
dice (Studies 1b and 2), their beliefs about the malleability of
personality (Study 1b), and their internal and external motivation
to respond without prejudice (Study 1c)—are linked to important
variables that may shape intergroup relations. Nonetheless, be-
cause we have focused on measured beliefs about prejudice thus
far, these effects remain correlational. An open and important
question is whether people’s beliefs about prejudice can be
changed and how such manipulated beliefs may shape reactions to
interracial interactions. In Study 4, we developed a method to
change people’s beliefs about the malleability of prejudice and
measured its effects on interest in interracial interactions.
In addition, we examined how beliefs about prejudice have their
effects. We have suggested that those who believe prejudice is
unchangeable should experience heightened worries about reveal-
ing “fixed” prejudice to themselves or others. For these individu-
als, the prospect of having a prejudiced thought come to mind or
of doing something that might seem racist as they interact with
someone of another race may be quite worrisome. They might
therefore avoid situations—such as interracial interactions—that
carry the risk of evoking such thoughts or behaviors. Study 4
examines whether concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself
and others mediate the relationship between a fixed belief about
prejudice and decreased interest in interracial interactions.
Results from this experiment could indicate that theories of
prejudice play a causal role in shaping the nature of intergroup
relations. They could also suggest a new pathway— changing
beliefs about the malleability of prejudice and worries about prej-
udice—to improving interracial interactions and relations.
Method
Participants. Thirty-nine White individuals (23 female, 16
male; ages 18 –26) participated. They received $10.
Procedure. Participants were told that they would be partic-
ipating in two separate experiments (run by different researchers).
They were informed that the first experiment examined coverage
of psychological findings by the news media. Participants then
read three news articles. The second of these articles (described in
detail below) contained our manipulation of beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice. The other two articles were adapted from
real news articles about research on sleep deprivation and lan-
guage’s influence on thought. After reading each article, partici-
pants summarized it in one to three sentences and rated how
interesting, useful, and easy to understand they found it on a
7-point scale (ranging from not at all to very much).
Participants then proceeded to the second study, described to
them as a study validating “several psychological measures.” They
completed 16 brief surveys, 14 of which were on various unrelated
topics (e.g., need for cognition; Cacioppo & Petty, 1982). The
sixth survey assessed participants’ concerns about revealing prej-
udice to themselves and others (described below). The 13th survey
contained our target dependent measure assessing interest in in-
terracial interactions, as in Studies 1a–1d. To confirm that our
manipulation was effective, participants’ beliefs about the malle-
ability of prejudice were assessed after they completed the surveys
using the Theories of Prejudice Scale. Finally, participants re-
ported demographic information (age and gender) and were probed
for suspicion.
Measure.
Manipulation of beliefs about prejudice. Past research has
used articles presenting scientific evidence to change people’s
beliefs about the malleability of personality (e.g., Chiu, Dweck, et
al., 1997; Rattan & Dweck, 2010). We modeled our articles about
the nature of prejudice on these articles. The articles we used to
manipulate malleability beliefs did not mention interracial inter-
actions and made no claims about the importance of such interac-
tions.
In the fixed condition, participants were presented with an article
ostensibly from Psychology Today entitled “Prejudice, Like Plas-
ter, Is Pretty Stable Over Time.” This article began with an
anecdotal story about a person whose prejudice “had not much
changed” over 10 years. It then described a 10-year longitudinal
study conducted at a prestigious university, whose authors found
that though “some people did change in their prejudice . . . preju-
dice, once acquired, is relatively fixed and stable over time.” Last,
the article presented some findings highlighting the difficulty of
changing some people’s prejudice even with training.
In the malleable condition, the article was entitled “Prejudice Is
Changeable and Can Be Reduced.” The article was similar to the
article in the fixed condition and presented the same research but
differed in the key results presented and conclusions reached. The
anecdote described a man whose prejudice had changed over a
11
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
10-year period. The longitudinal study concluded that “many peo-
ple’s prejudice changed” over time and that prejudice “can be
unlearned.” Finally, the article reported findings that “with effort
and the right experiences” prejudice can be reduced. (Materials are
available upon request.)
Measure of concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself and
others. To measure these concerns, we developed a 10-item
scale (modeled in part on Dunton and Fazio’s, 1997, scale assess-
ing motivation to control prejudiced reactions) that tapped indi-
viduals’ worries about having prejudiced thoughts and acting in
ways that could be judged as prejudiced in intergroup situations.
This scale simultaneously assessed worries about revealing preju-
dice to oneself (by having prejudiced thoughts and feelings come
to mind) and worries about revealing prejudice to others (by
behaving in ways that could be seen as prejudiced).
Participants rated their agreement on a 7-point scale (ranging
from strongly disagree to strongly agree) with five statements that
assessed their worries about having private prejudiced thoughts
(e.g., “I am concerned that I might find myself thinking or feeling
in a racially prejudiced way around people of other races” and
“When I think about things like race and diversity, I am worried
that I might have inappropriate thoughts or feelings”) and five
statements about acting in ways that might be seen as prejudiced
by others (e.g., “When talking about things like race and diversity,
I am worried that I might say something that would make me look
prejudiced” and “I am very concerned that something I say or do
while interacting with a person of another race might be consid-
ered prejudiced”). All items loaded onto a single factor (which
explained 63.41% of the variance), and the scale had good reli-
ability (!".93). Items were combined and averaged to create a
measure assessing concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself
and others.
Results
Preliminary analyses. Participants in the fixed and malleable
conditions did not differ in how interesting, useful, and easy to
understand they found the articles that contained the manipulation
(ts$1).
Manipulation check. The manipulation successfully
changed people’s beliefs about the malleability of prejudice. Those
in the fixed condition endorsed a more fixed view of prejudice
(M"3.62) than did those in the malleable condition (M"2.54),
t(37) "4.50, p$.001, d"1.49.
Interest in interracial interactions. As predicted, partici-
pants in the fixed condition were significantly less interested in
engaging in interracial interactions (M"5.38) than were those in
the malleable condition (M"6.21), t(37) "3.79, p".001, d"
1.26.
Concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself and others.
As hypothesized, participants in the fixed condition were more
worried about revealing prejudice to themselves and others (M"
3.41) than were those in the malleable condition (M"2.41),
t(37) "2.91, p".006, d"0.96.
Though all items assessing concerns about revealing prejudice
loaded onto a single factor and are combined for primary analyses,
for further insight, we also examined the items that assessed
concerns about revealing prejudice to the self and the items that
assessed concerns about revealing prejudice to others in separate
analyses. Compared with those in the malleable condition, partic-
ipants in the fixed condition were more concerned about revealing
prejudice to themselves (M
fixed
"3.30 and M
malleable
"2.24),
t(37) "2.90, p".006, d"0.96, and also tended to be more
concerned about revealing prejudice to others (M
fixed
"3.42 and
M
malleable
"2.74), t(37) "1.83, p".076, d"0.61.
Mediation. The effect of prejudice belief condition on inter-
est in interracial interactions was significantly mediated by con-
cerns about revealing prejudice. As described above, those in the
fixed condition (coded as 1) compared with those in the malleable
condition (coded as 0) were less interested in interracial interac-
tions (%"–.53), t(37) "3.79, p".001, and more worried about
revealing prejudice (%".43), t(37) "2.91, p".006. In a
simultaneous regression, increased concerns about revealing prej-
udice predicted decreased interest in interracial interactions (%"
–.39), t(36) "2.69, p".011, and so did prejudice belief condition
(%"–.36), t(36) "2.53, p".016 (see Figure 3). The reduction
of the effect of condition on interest in interracial interactions was
significant as assessed by the asymmetric distribution of products
test (95% confidence interval [0.13, 0.39], p$.05; MacKinnon,
Lockwood, Hoffman, West, & Sheets, 2002). Thus, heightened
worries about revealing prejudice to oneself or others created by
fixed prejudice beliefs partially but significantly mediated the
effect of the manipulation of beliefs about prejudice on interest in
interracial interactions.
7
Discussion
Study 4 demonstrates that people’s theories of prejudice are
changeable. In addition, this experiment supports a causal pathway
between beliefs about the malleability of prejudice and interest in
engaging in interracial interactions. White individuals who were
led to hold a more malleable view of prejudice were more inter-
ested in engaging in interactions with members of other races than
were those who were led to see prejudice as something they could
not change. The manipulation of beliefs about prejudice, which did
not target people’s prejudice or racial attitudes, nonetheless created
changes in self-reported intergroup behaviors—interest in having
contact with members of other racial groups. It did so, in part, by
influencing majority-group members’ worries about revealing
prejudice to themselves and others. A belief that prejudice is
unchangeable depressed interest in engaging in intergroup encoun-
ters by increasing worries about having prejudiced thoughts or
behaving in potentially prejudiced ways in those encounters. As
discussed earlier, such concerns about prejudice fueled by a fixed
view of prejudice are similar to the focus on and worry about
performance fostered by a belief that intelligence is fixed.
While Study 4 examines interest in interracial interactions, we
acknowledge that for improved intergroup relations there must be
not only increased interest in and frequency of contact but also
high-quality and positive contact (Tropp & Pettigrew, 2005).
Study 5 addresses the quality of contact, examining how manipu-
lated beliefs about prejudice affect behavioral and physiological
indices of anxiety during an interracial interaction.
7
Mediation analyses with only the items assessing concerns about
revealing prejudice to oneself and those with only the items assessing
concerns about revealing prejudice to others showed the same pattern of
relationships and effects as did those using the composite measure.
12 CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
Study 5: Does Changing Beliefs About Prejudice
Change Behavioral and Physiological Anxiety and
Friendliness in Interracial Interactions?
Much past research has found that interracial interactions (com-
pared with same-race ones) are stressful and negative experiences
for many White Americans, producing increased cardiovascular
and physiological reactivity, behavioral anxiety, and unfriendli-
ness during the course of the interaction (e.g., Dovidio et al., 2002;
Mendes et al., 2002; Vorauer & Turpie, 2004). In addition, it has
been suggested and found that such anxiety and negative outcomes
can arise from individuals’ prejudice (e.g., Dovidio et al., 2002;
McConnell & Leibold, 2001).
The results of Studies 1b and 2 have indicated that those with a
more fixed view of prejudice are no more prejudiced (explicitly or
implicitly) than those with a more malleable view. Thus, it is possible
that those with a fixed compared with malleable view of prejudice
(though they might be apprehensive about future interactions) would
be no more anxious and unfriendly in the midst of an interaction. The
question of whether beliefs about prejudice influence anxiety and
behavior during the course of an interracial interaction remains un-
explored. Study 5 addresses this question by manipulating prejudice
beliefs and examining White individuals’ anxiety— expressed behav-
iorally and physiologically—as they engage in an interaction with a
different-race or same-race individual. It also examines whether those
taught a more fixed rather than malleable belief about prejudice act in
awaythatappearsmoreprejudiced,communicatingmoreunfriend-
liness, while in an interracial as opposed to same-race interaction.
Method
Participants. Sixty-three White individuals (40 female, 23
male; ages 18 –23) participated. They received either partial course
credit or $10.
Procedure. Participants came in individually and were led to
believe they were participating in two separate experiments— one
on “psychology in the news” and one on “personal communica-
tions.” The psychology in the news study contained the manipu-
lation of beliefs about prejudice, and the personal communications
study allowed us to measure anxiety and friendliness in an inter-
action with a same-race or different-race partner.
Measures.
Manipulation of beliefs about prejudice: Psychology in the
news study. Participants were randomly assigned to be in either
the fixed or the malleable condition as in Study 4. When partici-
pants arrived, they were met and greeted by an experimenter (E1)
and signed a consent form for the psychology in the news study.
One of two female researchers— one White and one Asian—
served as E1. (The race of E1 did not moderate any of the reported
effects, Fs$1.) As in Study 4, participants were informed that the
study investigated media coverage of psychological findings. They
were also told that the experimenters were interested in their
thoughts about the article findings after “you’ve had some time
away from them,” and so they would go on to a second study after
reading the articles. Participants read two news articles: The first
reported on the effects of sleep deprivation (as in Study 4), and the
second contained the manipulation of beliefs about prejudice (also
as in Study 4). Participants summarized each article and rated how
interesting, useful, and easy to understand they found it on 7-point
scales (ranging from not at all to very much). They also reported
demographic information (gender and age).
Next, E1 informed the participant that the other experimenter
was still setting up the next experiment and that she would be
“helping her out” by taking an initial “baseline physiological
reading” that was needed in that experiment. E1 attached a cuff
(Omron HEM-712C) to the participant’s arm and recorded his or
her heart rate. This measure was taken to give us a baseline
measure of heart rate and to ensure that the prejudice beliefs
manipulation did not differentially impact heart rate. E1 then
escorted the participant to a new room for the next experiment.
Interaction: Personal communications study. Participants
were randomly assigned to interact with either a Black or a White
female experimenter (equated for attractiveness as in Study 2;
M
Black
"7.42 and M
White
"7.36) who would interview them for
this second study.
8
E2 greeted the participant. Participants signed
a new consent form and were informed that the second study
investigated “spontaneous and unprepared conversations people
have about personal and self-relevant topics.” They were told that
the experimenter would ask them four questions about themselves
and that they would respond to these questions for a set period of
time. They were also informed that their physiological data would
be recorded occasionally to see how they were “feeling about these
conversations.” The interaction was videotaped from the perspec-
tive of E2.
8
Though we matched experimenters on attractiveness and trained them
to act equally friendly, future research might use multiple experimenters of
each race to ensure generalizability.
Figure 3. Study 4: The effect of the fixed prejudice belief condition on interest in interracial interactions,
mediated by concerns about revealing prejudice to oneself and others.
!
p$.05.
!!
p$.01.
13
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
E2 and the participant sat facing each other, and E2 asked
participants four questions. She asked them to (1) introduce them-
selves—who they were and where they were from—for 30 s, (2)
describe a few of their friends in detail for 2 min, (3) share what
would be important for her to know about the participant if they
were to become close friends (Aron, Melinat, Aron, Vallone, &
Bator, 1997) for 2 min, and (4) give their thoughts on the state of
and efforts to improve diversity at their university for 2 min. To
assess physiological reactivity during the interaction, participants’
heart rate was taken at two midpoints in the interaction—after they
had finished responding to Question 2 and to Question 3.
Experimenters serving as E2 were extensively trained to react to
participants in a highly standardized but mildly friendly manner
that minimized their input to the conversation and maintained
consistency regardless of the participant’s response. Specifically,
E2 behaved in a “natural” and slightly affirming manner during the
interaction: She responded to the participant by nodding and
slightly smiling as the participant spoke. When the participant
stopped speaking before the allotted time was up, E2 said, “You
can continue. We have X minutes left.” E2 did not otherwise
verbally or nonverbally respond to participants’ answers.
At the end of the interview interaction, participants completed
the Theories of Prejudice Scale and were probed for suspicion. Our
primary dependent measures were the expression of behavioral
anxiety, the friendliness of behavior, and physiological reactivity
during the interaction. The first two measures were coded by
trained observers (described below).
Coding of the interaction. Past research has identified sev-
eral markers of behavioral anxiety in interactions, such as
lowered eye contact, decreased smiling, increased nervous
laughter (i.e., laughter without a joke or appropriate funny
prompt), body rigidity/frozenness, and increased speech dysflu-
ency (i.e., speech hesitations, speech errors, and long pauses;
e.g., Dovidio et al., 2002; McConnell & Leibold, 2001; Scherer,
1986; Shelton, 2003).
Observers were trained to code participants’ answers to each
question on each of these dimensions on a scale of 1 (none/very
low)to3(high/very high). In addition, observers made global
judgments of level of behavioral anxiety expressed in the answer
to each question on a scale of 1 (very low)to4(very high) and of
how friendly they thought the participant had been on a scale of 1
(not friendly)to3(very friendly). On all dimensions, observers
could use half-point ratings (e.g., 1.5). Two observers watched the
videos without sound and made judgments about nonverbal be-
havior— eye contact, body rigidity, and smiling—and their overall
impression of participants’ anxiety. Another two observers
watched the videos with sound and made judgments about speech
dysfluency, nervous laughter, and their overall impression of the
friendliness of the participant. The videos showed only the partic-
ipants and not E2.
Observers were blind to hypotheses, participants’ condition, and
race of E2. For all dimensions, the observers reached good reli-
ability (!s#.84), and their ratings were averaged.
Results
Preliminary analyses. Participants in the fixed and malleable
conditions did not differ in how interesting, useful, and easy to
understand they found the manipulation-containing articles (ts$
1). In addition, those in the fixed and malleable conditions did not
differ on the baseline heart-rate measure taken right after they read
the articles but before meeting E2 (t$1).
Manipulation check. As in Study 4, those in the fixed
condition endorsed a more fixed theory of prejudice (M"3.45)
than did those in the malleable condition (M"2.75), t(61) "
3.10, p".003, d"0.79. This effect did not interact with the
race of E2 (F$1).
Behavioral anxiety and friendliness during the interaction.
None of the effects on the global ratings of participants’ behavior
or the ratings of particular behaviors (e.g., eye contact) were
moderated by the questions participants answered (Fs$1). This
was also true when comparing just the fourth question (which
involved discussing diversity) to the first three questions (which
involved no such discussion, Fs$1). Thus, we collapsed and
averaged observers’ ratings on each dimension across the four
questions participants answered.
First, coders’ overall ratings of participants’ behavioral anxiety
were examined. A 2 (prejudice belief condition: malleable or
fixed) '2 (race of interviewer: White or Black) ANOVA revealed
main effects of prejudice belief condition, F(1, 59) "13.76, p$
.001, and race of the interviewer, F(1, 59) "12.49, p$.001,
which were qualified by the predicted interaction, F(1, 59) "
20.28, p$.001, )
p
2
".26 (see Figure 4a).
When interacting with a Black interviewer, participants who had
been taught a fixed view of prejudice were more anxious (M"
2.44 on a 4-point scale) than were those taught a malleable view
(M"1.46), t(59) "5.86, p$.001. Indeed, those in the fixed
condition who interacted with a Black individual were perceived to
be the most anxious. In addition to the findings reported above,
they were more anxious than those who interacted with a White
individual in the fixed or malleable conditions (Ms"1.48 and
1.57, respectively), t(59) "5.73, p$.001, and, t(59) "5.08, p$
.001, respectively. Meanwhile, those in the malleable condition
who interacted with a Black individual were no more anxious than
were participants who interacted with White individuals (ts$1).
And, when interacting with a White interviewer, those in the fixed
and malleable conditions did not differ (ts$1).
The same pattern of statistical interaction emerged for all the
specific anxious behaviors that were coded (Fs#17.40, ps$
.001, )
p
2
s#.23). Participants who had been taught that prejudice
is fixed and interacted with a Black individual made less eye
contact, smiled less, nervously laughed more, sat in a more rigid or
frozen manner, and exhibited more speech dysfluency than did
participants in any other condition (ts#3.15, ps$.003). In
contrast, those who had been given a malleable view and interacted
with a Black individual did not differ from those who interacted
with a White individual in any condition (ts$1.50; see Table 2 for
means).
In parallel, on overall ratings of participants’ friendliness, the
ANOVA revealed main effects of prejudice belief condition, F(1,
59) "14.73, p$.001, and race of the interviewer, F(1, 59) "
23.75, p".001, which were qualified by the hypothesized inter-
action, F(1, 59) "35.52, p$.001, )
p
2
".38 (see Figure 4b). In
interactions with a Black interviewer, participants in the fixed
condition were judged to be less friendly (M"2.04 on a 3-point
scale) than were those in the malleable condition (M"2.74),
t(59) "7.03, p$.001. Further, participants in the fixed condition
interacting with a Black interviewer were perceived to be less
14 CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
friendly than were those who interacted with a White interviewer
in either the fixed or malleable conditions (Ms"2.81 and 2.67,
respectively), t(59) "6.02, p$.001. The other groups of partic-
ipants did not significantly differ from each other in friendliness
(ts$1).
Physiological reactivity during the interaction. Partici-
pants’ heart-rate measurements taken after they answered Question 2
and Question 3 were highly correlated, r(61) ".95, p$.001, and
were averaged to form a composite measure of physiological reactiv-
ity during the course of the interaction. Suggesting that the heart-rate
measure was in fact indexing stress and anxiety, participants’ heart
rate during the interaction was positively correlated with the observ-
ers’ ratings of overall behavioral anxiety, r(61) ".42, p".001.
A 2 (prejudice belief condition: malleable or fixed) '2 (race of
interviewer: White or Black) analysis of covariance, controlling
for participants’ baseline heart rate, found a main effect of preju-
dice belief condition, F(1, 58) "5.58, p".022, and the predicted
interaction, F(1, 58) "5.29, p".025, )
p
2
".08 (see Figure 4c).
While interacting with a Black individual, participants in the fixed
condition had a higher heart rate (M
adj
"68.97 beats per minute
[bpm]) than did those in the malleable condition (M
adj
"63.87
bpm), t(58) "3.33, p$.002. In interactions with a White
individual, heart rate did not differ between the fixed (M
adj
"
66.02 bpm) and malleable (M
adj
"65.96 bpm) conditions (t$1).
In addition, while participants in the fixed condition who interacted
with a Black individual tended to show more physiological reac-
tivity than did those interacting with White individuals in the fixed
and malleable conditions, t(58) "1.89, p".065, and, t(58) "
1.94, p".058, respectively, those in the malleable condition who
interacted with a Black individual did not exhibit more physiolog-
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
Malleable Condition Fixed Condition
a
Anxiety
1
1.5
2
2.5
3
Malleable Condition Fixed Condition
White Interviewer Black Interviewer
b
Friendliness
58
60
62
64
66
68
70
72
Malleable Condition Fixed Condition
c
Heart Rate
Figure 4. Study 5: (a) Trained observers’ ratings of participants’ behavioral anxiety, (b) trained observers’
ratings of participants’ friendliness, and (c) participants’ physiological anxiety (indexed by their heart rate in
beats per minute [bpm] during the interaction, controlling for their baseline heart rate [bpm]) in the malleable
and fixed prejudice belief conditions as a function of the race of the interviewer participants interacted with. Error
bars represent (1SE.
Table 2
Study 5: Mean Levels of Behavioral Anxiety Indicators as a
Function of Prejudice Beliefs Condition and Race of the
Interviewer Participants Interacted With
Behavioral anxiety
indicator
White interviewer Black interviewer
Malleable
condition
Fixed
condition
Malleable
condition
Fixed
condition
Eye contact 2.48
a
2.65
a
2.63
a
1.97
b
Smiling 2.47
a
2.55
a
2.62
a
1.92
b
Nervous laughter 1.18
a
1.08
a
1.06
a
1.43
b
Body rigidity 1.29
a
1.20
a
1.19
a
1.88
b
Speech dysfluency 1.45
a
1.34
a
1.38
a
1.99
b
Note. All behavioral anxiety indicators were rated on 3-point scales. For
each behavioral anxiety indicator, means marked with different subscripts
are significantly different from each other at the p$.05 level. Means
marked with the same subscript are not significantly different from each
other. Analyses do not compare means across indicators.
15
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
ical reactivity than did those who interacted with White individuals
(in fact, they tended to have less reactivity; ts$1.38).
Discussion
Study 5 examined whether beliefs about the malleability of
prejudice can shape anxiety and friendliness during the course of
an interracial interaction. Fixed beliefs about prejudice, compared
with malleable ones, caused individuals to exhibit more behavioral
and physiological anxiety—to make less eye contact, to smile less,
to laugh nervously, to take on a rigid and tense body posture, to
speak less fluidly, and to have an increased heart rate—when
interacting with a Black (but not White) individual. Importantly,
those taught that prejudice is immutable, compared with those
taught it is changeable, were perceived to behave in a more
anxious and much less friendly manner toward a Black compared
with a White interaction partner. This means not just that they were
personally less comfortable but also that their personal discomfort
communicated less friendliness. This is a powerful demonstration
that believing in fixed prejudice can translate directly into the
traditional hallmarks of prejudiced behavior—more negative and
less friendly interracial interactions. Notably, those who had been
taught that prejudice is malleable were equally relaxed and
friendly in interactions with a Black or a White individual.
General Discussion
Across eight studies, we found that majority-group members’
beliefs about the malleability of prejudice are an important force in
shaping behaviors that can appear prejudiced, even among those
who do not possess attitudinal prejudice. White Americans who
viewed prejudice in relatively more fixed terms were less inter-
ested in engaging in interactions with members of other racial
groups (Studies 1a–1d) and in activities that dealt with race,
diversity, or prejudice— even when they were seemingly safe and
involved tasks such as learning about African American history
(Study 1a). In addition, a fixed theory of prejudice was associated
with greater discomfort and avoidance in interracial interactions:
Those with a more fixed view of prejudice put more distance
between themselves and a Black (but not White) interaction part-
ner and wanted to spend less time interacting with a Black (but not
White) interaction partner (Study 2). Further, a more fixed view of
prejudice was linked with lower interest in working to reduce
one’s prejudice, regardless of how much prejudice participants had
been led to believe they had (Study 3). We also manipulated
people’s beliefs about the malleability of prejudice and found that
those led to have more of a fixed as opposed to a malleable view
of prejudice were less interested in engaging in interracial inter-
actions (Study 4), became more anxious when interacting with a
Black (compared with White) individual—as evidenced by their
behavioral and physiological reactions—(Study 5), and behaved in
a more unfriendly manner when interacting with a Black (com-
pared with White) individual (Study 5). The data show that the
effects of beliefs about the malleability of prejudice are powerful,
spanning both highly threatening and relatively safe situations
(Studies 1a and 3, respectively) and arising above and beyond the
effects of people’s beliefs about the malleability of personality in
general (Study 1b), their motivation to respond without prejudice
(Study 1c), and their prejudicial attitudes, measured explicitly
(Study 1b) and implicitly (Study 2). The studies also importantly
highlight that White individuals with a more fixed rather than
malleable view of prejudice acted in such negative ways in inter-
group situations not because they were more prejudiced (Studies
1b and 2). Instead, a fixed view of prejudice produced behavior
that on the surface may appear prejudiced by heightening individ-
uals’ concerns about revealing prejudice—to themselves and oth-
ers (Study 4).
This research has important theoretical implications. It identifies
a new, previously unexplored variable— beliefs about the mallea-
bility of prejudice—that can act to shape White Americans’ inter-
group behaviors. Importantly, it dovetails with recent research that
finds that to understand people’s behaviors in a domain, one must
expand one’s focus beyond people’s traits or qualities, to people’s
beliefs and theories about traits or qualities. For example, research
on the beliefs about the malleability of intelligence has found that
these beliefs can predict individuals’ learning behaviors and aca-
demic performance, even among those who are at the same level
of intelligence or prior academic achievement (Blackwell et al.,
2007; Cury et al., 2006). In addition, research has found that
whether people become ego-depleted by arduous work is shaped
by their theory of ego depletion, by whether they believe will-
power is a scarce or abundant resource (Job, Dweck, & Walton,
2010). Similarly, the present research finds that seemingly preju-
diced behaviors— behaviors that may have many negative conse-
quences for members of minority groups and be detrimental to
intergroup relations— can arise from people’s beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice, above and beyond the effects of racial
attitudes. Our findings suggest that to understand behavior that
appears prejudiced, looking beyond people’s traits and qualities—
their attitudinal prejudice—to people’s beliefs and concerns about
prejudice may yield important insights (e.g., Butz & Plant, 2009;
Richeson & Trawalter, 2005; Shelton, 2003; Vorauer et al., 1998).
The current findings also have important implications for efforts to
improve intergroup relations and reduce White Americans’ prejudiced
behavior. Research has found that a pathway to improving intergroup
relations is through increased positive intergroup contact (e.g., Page-
Gould, Mendoza-Denton, & Tropp, 2008; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006;
Tropp & Pettigrew, 2005). However, our findings indicate that fixed
beliefs about prejudice, by heightening White individuals’ worries
about uncovering and revealing their prejudice, may deter people
from having those contacts or may mar intergroup contacts when they
occur. In a similar vein, though methods have been developed to
reduce majority-group members’ prejudiced attitudes and behavior
(e.g., Kawakami, Dovidio, & van Kamp, 2007; Kawakami, Phills, et
al., 2007; Olson & Fazio, 2006), fixed beliefs about prejudice may
lower people’s motivation to engage in these efforts. Thus, interven-
tions designed to improve intergroup relations or reduce prejudice
may not be maximally effective if they address only prejudice without
also addressing beliefs about the malleability of prejudice. Moreover,
our current findings suggest that even if these interventions succeed in
fostering more positive racial attitudes, they may not increase desired
interracial behaviors for people who hold a more fixed theory of
prejudice. For this reason, as well, addressing beliefs about the mal-
leability of prejudice should be part of any intervention. Indeed, it
would be interesting to test whether adding a prejudice beliefs com-
ponent to existing interventions aimed at improving intergroup rela-
tions would boost their effectiveness.
16 CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
How might one go about changing beliefs about the malleability of
prejudice? Of course, it would be problematic to teach people preju-
dice is malleable if in fact it were not. However, much research has
found that racial prejudice— both explicit and implicit—is amenable
to change (e.g., Blair, 2002; Kawakami, Dovidio, & van Kamp, 2007;
Olson & Fazio, 2006; Page-Gould, Mendoza-Denton, Alegre, & Siy,
2010; Wittenbrink et al., 2001). In the present research, we tempo-
rarily changed people’s views about prejudice with an article present-
ing scientific evidence about the malleability of prejudice (Studies 4
and 5). To create lasting change in beliefs about the malleability of
prejudice, interventions can be modeled on past interventions that
have had long-term impact on beliefs about the malleability of intel-
ligence (e.g., Aronson et al., 2002; Blackwell et al., 2007). Such
interventions may present scientific evidence over several sessions
highlighting the malleability of prejudice, use impressive exemplars
of people who changed, and ask participants to tutor others in a
malleable theory of prejudice. Future research might assess the impact
of such interventions on people’s interest in and behavior in interracial
interactions over the long term.
Although in this research we have focused on majority-group
members, interracial interactions do not involve solely majority-
group members. The present research opens the door to consider-
ing the influence prejudice beliefs may have on minority-group
members’ interest in and experiences in interracial interactions.
Past research has found that these interactions can be negative
experiences for members of minority groups (Crocker, Major, &
Steele, 1998; Mendoza-Denton, Downey, Purdie, Davis, & Pi-
etrzak, 2002). However, given the history of race relations in the
United States, there is not as strong a normative imperative for
racial minorities to be unprejudiced against White individuals. So,
if members of minority groups do not have the same concern about
being prejudiced or revealing prejudice, would beliefs about the
malleability of prejudice still affect their interracial contact? We
think they might. Concerns about being the target of prejudice are
salient for many members of minority groups (Mendoza-Denton et
al., 2002; Pinel, 1999; Shelton, 2003; Shelton & Richeson, 2006).
For this reason, minority individuals’ prejudice beliefs, especially
their beliefs about the malleability of other groups’ racial preju-
dice, may shape their experiences in intergroup situations (see
Rattan & Dweck, 2010). Members of a stereotyped minority group
who think that prejudice (especially others’ prejudice against
them) is relatively unchangeable may avoid interactions with
majority-group members because they have had past negative
interactions and believe future ones will also be negative. In
addition, some might be more anxious in interracial interactions,
especially in important and ongoing situations such as workplaces,
because of worries that they will be subjected to unchangeable
prejudice. Thus, beliefs about the malleability of prejudice may
shape people’s experiences on both sides of an interracial interac-
tion. As this research continues, it will be important to investigate
how both majority-group and minority-group members’ beliefs
interact to influence the outcome of interracial interactions.
Conclusion
Majority-group members’ fixed beliefs about prejudice can have
many negative consequences for minority-group members. If
bosses avoid and become anxious in interactions with minority
employees, they may unfairly rob them of opportunities afforded
to White employees. If teachers are anxious and seem unfriendly
when interacting with minority students and are hesitant to discuss
their group’s history, these students may reasonably come to feel
a lack of belonging and perform more poorly in school (Walton &
Cohen, 2007). Our research shows that such seemingly prejudiced
behavior may arise even among White Americans low in preju-
dice. It highlights the need to alter the public discourse about the
nature of prejudice and suggests that to eradicate prejudiced be-
havior, to increase equity, and to create a more positive climate for
intergroup relations, one must look not just to changing White
individuals’ prejudice but also to changing their understanding of
prejudice as fixed rather than malleable.
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(Appendix follows)
19
BELIEFS ABOUT THE MALLEABILITY OF PREJUDICE
Appendix
Theories of Prejudice Scale
The following questions ask you about prejudice, for example racial prejudice. How much do you agree or disagree with the following
thoughts? Please circle your response.
1. People have a certain amount of prejudice and they can’t really change that.
123456
very strongly disagree strongly disagree disagree disagree strongly disagree very strongly disagree
2. People’s level of prejudice is something very basic about them that they can’t change very much.
123456
very strongly disagree strongly disagree disagree disagree strongly disagree very strongly disagree
3. No matter who somebody is, they can always become a lot less prejudiced.
123456
very strongly disagree strongly disagree disagree disagree strongly disagree very strongly disagree
4. People can change their level of prejudice a great deal.
123456
very strongly disagree strongly disagree disagree disagree strongly disagree very strongly disagree
5. People can learn how to act like they’re not prejudiced, but they can’t really change their prejudice deep down.
123456
very strongly disagree strongly disagree disagree disagree strongly disagree very strongly disagree
6. As much as I hate to admit it, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. People can’t really change how prejudiced they are.
123456
very strongly disagree strongly disagree disagree disagree strongly disagree very strongly disagree
Received January 26, 2011
Revision received March 23, 2012
Accepted March 26, 2012 "
20 CARR, DWECK, AND PAUKER
... Mindsets, or lay theories, describe people's beliefs about whether human characteristics (e.g., intelligence, personality, prejudice) are fixed or malleable (Dweck, 2013). In the context of bias and prejudice, an individual who views prejudice as a malleable trait that can change with intention and effort would be considered to hold a relatively growth mindset; by contrast, an individual who views prejudice to be a fixed characteristic, that does not meaningfully change, would be considered to hold a relatively fixed mindset (Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012). Decades of research establishing the study of lay theories about malleability has focused on how an individual's fixed versus growth mindset shapes their goals, emotions, persistence, and performance (for reviews, see Dweck & Yeager, 2019;Rattan & Ozgumus, 2019). ...
... Our work is the first, to our knowledge, to test whether a specific behavioral trigger (i.e., confrontation) creates perceptions of another's mindset beliefs. Second, we advance the study of mindsets in two nascent areas of mindset research-extending work on mindsets about prejudice and bias (Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012; also see Hennes et al., 2018;Simon et al., 2019) as well as the study of mindsets and confrontation (Rattan & Dweck, 2010. Third, we shift our focus away from studying how perceiving others' mindsets shapes self-relevant outcomes (e.g., one's own feelings and behaviors). ...
... Likewise, people who endorse more growth (vs. fixed) mindset beliefs are more likely to engage in potentially uncomfortable discussions about racial issues (Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012). This suggests that people who hold growth mindsets are often motivated to engage with someone else's bias, or issues of bias more generally. ...
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We report the first investigation of whether observers draw information about mindsets from behavior, specifically prejudice confrontation. We tested two questions across 10 studies (N = 3,168). First, would people who observe someone confront a biased comment (vs. remain silent) see them as endorsing more growth (vs. fixed) mindsets about prejudice and bias? If so, would the growth mindset perceptions that arise from confrontation (vs. remaining silent) attenuate the backlash that observers exhibit against confronters? We investigated these questions using scenarios (Studies 1, 2a-b, 4, 5a-d), naturalistic confrontations of national, race, and gender stereotypes reported retrospectively (Study 3), and an in-person laboratory experiment of actual confrontations of racial bias (Study 6). Correlational and experimental methods yielded support for our core hypotheses: People spontaneously imbue someone who confronts a biased comment with more growth mindset beliefs about prejudice and bias (Studies 1, 2a-b, 4, 6), regardless of whether participants observe the confrontation (Studies 1, 2a-b, 5a-d) or are being confronted themselves (Studies 2a-4, 6). The growth mindset perceptions arising from these confrontations suppress backlash, assessed by classic interpersonal perceptions (Studies 4-5) and judgments of interpersonal warmth and willingness to interact again in the future (Study 6), both when the confronter was a target of the biased behavior (Studies 1-5), and when they were an ally (Study 6), in both correlational studies (Study 3-4) and when growth mindset (about personality, Study 5; about prejudice, Study 6) was manipulated, confirming causality. We discuss implications for the study of mindsets, confrontation, and intergroup relations.
... In the present research, we examined how a perpetrator's response to confrontation shapes other people's impressions of the perpetrator's character. The current experiments integrate research examining how confrontation affects evaluations of a perpetrator's character (e.g., Boysen, 2013;Dickter, Kittel, & Gyurovski, 2012;Martinez, Hebl, Smith, & Sabat, 2017;Rasinski & Czopp, 2010;Vaccarino & Kawakami, 2020) with research examining how motivational mindsets affect intergroup relations (e.g., Carr, Dweck, & Pauker, 2012;Murphy, Richeson, & Molden, 2011;Neel & Shapiro, 2012;Rattan & Dweck, 2010;Rattan & Dweck, 2018;Simon, Shaffer, Neel, & Shapiro, 2019). We propose that a perpetrator's response to confrontation signals something meaningful about their motivational approach to prejudice and intergroup relations. ...
... The goals that people from high status groups adopt when trying to regulate their prejudice can be influenced by their mindset, or implicit theory of prejudice (Carr et al., 2012;Murphy et al., 2011;Neel & Shapiro, 2012). While some people have growth mindsets and view prejudice as a malleable trait that is changeable, other people have fixed mindsets and view prejudice as a stable trait that is fixed (Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012;Rattan & Dweck, 2010;Rattan & Dweck, 2018). ...
... The goals that people from high status groups adopt when trying to regulate their prejudice can be influenced by their mindset, or implicit theory of prejudice (Carr et al., 2012;Murphy et al., 2011;Neel & Shapiro, 2012). While some people have growth mindsets and view prejudice as a malleable trait that is changeable, other people have fixed mindsets and view prejudice as a stable trait that is fixed (Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012;Rattan & Dweck, 2010;Rattan & Dweck, 2018). When people view a trait as relatively malleable, they are more likely to adopt learning goals whereas when they view a trait as relatively fixed they tend to adopt performance goals (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). ...
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What do people think of those who respond to confrontation by acknowledging personally prejudiced behavior? In six experiments (N = 3344), people judged a man who made a prejudiced comment and responded to confrontation by acknowledging, denying, or, in some cases, saying nothing about his prejudice. Participants consistently evaluated someone who acknowledged prejudice as warmer, more moral, and ironically, less prejudiced than someone who denied. People also perceived acknowledging as more appropriate and less typical than denying regardless of whether the prejudice was racism or sexism. Moreover, men and women, White, Black, and Asian people alike evaluated acknowledgements more positively than denials. Evidence from multiple experiments suggests that people form more positive impressions of those who acknowledge than deny because acknowledgment signals more of a learning orientation to prejudice and intergroup relations. Although people frequently respond to confrontation by denying prejudiced behavior, there appears to be an upside to acknowledging.
... • Prejudice is malleable and capable of changing or is fixed and cannot be changed (Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012) • May have stronger intentions to confront if view prejudice as malleable (Rattan & Dweck, 2010) • Perpetrators may have more interest in learning to reduce their prejudice (Neel & Shapiro, 2012) and be less defensive to prejudice confrontations if they view prejudice as malleable ...
... Research specifically on prejudice malleability beliefs (e.g., "People have a certain amount of prejudice, and they can't really change") has found that lay theories of prejudice malleability are predictors of intergroup relationships and prejudice related behaviors. 3 For example, believing that prejudice is fixed is associated with less interest in interracial interactions and learning about prejudice (Carr et al., 2012). Moreover, when White Americans engaged in interracial interactions, a belief that prejudice is fixed was associated with more performance-oriented strategies (e.g., overcompensating), while a belief that prejudice is malleable was associated with learning-oriented strategies (e.g., trying to learn why an interaction was challenging; Neel & Shapiro, 2012). ...
... Whereas believing that prejudice is learned or due to ignorance (Hodson & Esses, 2005) may lead to the view that prejudice is unintentional, believing that prejudice originates in malice (Apfelbaum et al., 2017) may lead to the view that prejudice is intentional. Relatedly, people hold lay theories that prejudice is a fixed or malleable characteristic (Carr et al., 2012) and rare (Bonilla-Silva, 2017) or widespread (Cipollina et al., 2022). These lay theories may impact the frequency and style of prejudice confrontations, as well as the degree to which confrontations result in positive outcomes for perpetrators and confronters. ...
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The formative framework in prejudice confrontations research has focused on the utility of confrontations to activate one's self-regulation strategies to interrupt unintentional prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping. As this framework remains dominant in the literature, little research has examined everyday people's theories about prejudice that diverge from this framework and accounted for these theories in investigating confrontation rates and outcomes. In this paper, we review key lay theories of prejudice and discuss the ways in which they may influence prejudice confrontations. First, we summarize lay theories regarding the prevalence, origins, and controllability of prejudice. Next, we consider how lay theories of prejudice may factor into the circumstances under which people confront prejudice, goals that people may hold when confronting, and outcomes of confronting for confronters and perpetrators. Throughout, we highlight fundamental research questions and hypotheses that integrate lay theories of prejudice and prejudice confrontations. We propose that better understanding lay theories of prejudice and how they influence prejudice confrontations may help to advance translational and theoretical research in social psychology.
... Past research has predominantly relied on retrospective surveys for assessing the quality and quantity of children's interracial relationships, and has focused on overcoming negative racial attitudes and prejudice in order to increase positive interracial interactions (Aboud et al., 2012). Here, we focus on the importance of children's prejudice theories: their conception of prejudice itself as a quality of individuals that is fixed versus malleable (Carr et al., 2012). We propose that, at around 10 years of age, fixed versus malleable beliefs regarding prejudice become an important factor shaping children's desire to engage in interracial interactions, for White and racial minority children alike. ...
... One possibility, therefore, is that the documented decline in interracial relationships corresponds with a deeper understanding among majority and minority children of the "stakes" of interracial interactions-a social setting laden with the risks of expressing or experiencing prejudice. Effectively intervening may thus involve altering children's perception of those risks (e.g., via their construal of prejudice itself ;Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012). Specifically, this suggests that portraying prejudice as a malleable attribute that can be overcome (vs. a fixed one that cannot) may increase children's desire to engage in interracial interaction. ...
... • a malleable-prejudice theory may constructively reframe both racial majority and racial minority group members' approach to interracial interaction • increased engagement (or disengagement) in interracial interaction can arise developmentally from pathways independent of prejudiced attitudes Previous research has shown that individuals with relatively fixed beliefs are more likely to disengage from challenging situations in which they have the potential to fail, such as interracial interactions, because they risk being labeled by themselves or others (e.g., as prejudiced; Blackwell et al., 2007;Carr et al., 2012). Conversely, individuals with relatively more malleable beliefs are more likely to engage with challenging situations because they focus on learning and improving knowledge and skills (Blackwell et al., 2007;Carr et al., 2012;Neel & Shapiro, 2012). ...
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Children begin interacting less across racial lines around middle childhood, but it remains unclear why. We examine the novel possibility that, at that time, children's prejudice theories—their understanding of prejudice as a fixed or malleable attribute—begin to influence their desire for interracial affiliation. We devise immersive behavioral experiences to evaluate when and how prejudice theories affect interracial affiliation. Study 1 measured prejudice theories among 8-13-year-olds (N = 152; 76 White, 76 racial minority) and observed children in a newly-developed social interaction task. In line with our hypothesis, children older than 10 years with stronger malleable-prejudice theories exhibited more interest and affiliation in a simulated cross- (versus same-race) interaction, regardless of their preexisting prejudice level. Study 2 randomly assigned children to listen to a fixed- or malleable-prejudice theory story before engaging in a real, first-time interaction with a same- or cross-race partner at a different school via live video-stream (N = 150; 96 White, 54 racial minority). The malleable theory increased children's interest in further interaction with their cross-race partner. These findings highlight the promise of malleable-prejudice theories for sustaining positive interracial relationships during a critical developmental window—when the frequency of cross-race friendships typically declines. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Interventions conducted by Carnes et al. (2015) confirmed this. It's also supported by Carr et al. (2012), namely, being taught that prejudices were "malleable" lead to more positive interracial interaction compared to being taught that they were "fixed." ...
... Secondly, the source of anxiety must be identified. For marginalized groups, it comes from stereotype threat (Derks et al., 2008) or tokenism (Cundiff et al., 2018), but for privileged groups, it is unintentional expressions of stereotypes (Shelton et al., 2010;Carr et al., 2012). ...
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This paper conducted a preliminary study of reviewing and exploring bias strategies using a framework of a different discipline: change management. The hypothesis here is: If the major problem of implicit bias strategies is that they do not translate into actual changes in behaviors, then it could be helpful to learn from studies that have contributed to successful change interventions such as reward management, social neuroscience, health behavioral change, and cognitive behavioral therapy. The result of this integrated approach is: (1) current bias strategies can be improved and new ones can be developed with insight from adjunct study fields in change management; (2) it could be more sustainable to invest in a holistic and proactive bias strategy approach that targets the social environment, eliminating the very condition under which biases arise; and (3) while implicit biases are automatic, future studies should invest more on strategies that empower people as “change agents” who can act proactively to regulate the very environment that gives rise to their biased thoughts and behaviors.
... In the achievement domain, challenging tasks are those that enable diagnosis of one's abilities and include the potential for poor performance; for example, a math examination or other difficult tasks (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007). In the social domain, challenging situations are social interactions in which people's social capacities are tested (e.g., empathy; Schumann et al., 2014) and their limited social skills (e.g., shyness; Beer, 2002) or unfavorable social attitudes (e.g., prejudice against outgroups; Carr, Dweck, & Pauker, 2012) may be revealed. In the domain of humanrobot interaction, robots with mental capacities may represent a challenge to humanity. ...
... This pattern of results held regardless of whether the level of robot minds was made salient through a within-subjects design (Studies 3-4) or less salient through a betweensubjects design (Study 5). These findings are consistent with abundant previous research suggesting that motivational beliefs are most effective when a challenge is present (e.g., Blackwell et al., 2007;Carr et al., 2012). ...
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Perceiving minds in technology agents, for example, robots designed with artificial intelligence (AI), is common and crucial in modern life. However, past studies have revealed that robots with a high level of minds elicit polarized responses. From a human-robot interaction perspective, we proposed that people’ responses to robots, in part, originate from differences between fixed and growth mindsets about human minds—the beliefs regarding whether humans' mental capacities are fixed or incremental. We conducted five studies to test this assumption. A growth mindset about human minds was associated with or led to lower levels of negative feelings about robots (Study 1), more perceptions of robots as allies versus enemies (Study 2), more support for robotic research (Studies 3 and 4), and greater willingness to interact with robots (Study 5). Furthermore, the effect of a growth mindset about human minds on favorable responses to robots was more pronounced when robots were perceived as having high (versus low) levels of minds (Studies 3–5) and mediated by decreased concerns about robots (Study 5). By emphasizing the nuanced role of mindset beliefs about human minds in responses to intelligent technology, this research provides not only a new perspective on research into minds but also important implications for human-technology relationships.
... Individual belief about the nature of a relationship impacts choices made regarding commitment and conflict (Knee et al., 2004), with a fixed mindset reacting to adverse relational events with disengagement and withdrawal, and someone with a growth mindset seeks to develop and maintain (Knee, 1998). Beliefs can develop into ongoing patterns that form prejudicial perceptions and beliefs (Carr et al., 2012). ...
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