Feb 17

Call 911! Not Me Though, Someone Else!

Many people, including myself, have heard of the bystander effect. This is a very common term/theory in psychology that directly relate to applied social psychology. Millions of situations arise each day where someone needs help but those who jump to action are few and far between. I have recently finished watching a show on NBC titled Law & Order: SVU. Though the accounts on this show are fictional (as mentioned at the beginning and end of each episode) they hold some truth to them. I often find myself when watching feeling disgusted with the situation and how no one has been scripted to help the victim. How could you watch someone be raped in the street? How could you watch people beat up a person in a park? The answer is simple, yet complicated; The bystander effect.

Day and Marion define the bystander effect as “people are less likely to help in an emergency situation when other people are present” (2012). In other words, the more people around, the less help you will be likely to receive. How is this even possible? You would assume that with more people around there will be someone to help you. The word to pay most attention to is to ‘assume’. You as the victim assume that someone or anyone will help you but those people are also assuming that someone else will help. This is also known in psychology as diffusion of responsibility. So the more people that are around the less people feel responsible for that is happening.

An article published by Kendra Cherry (2016) states we act in ways “…to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways. When other observers fail to react, individuals often take this as a signal that a response is not needed or not appropriate” (Cherry, 2016). Why is it so important for us to act in accordance with society and what other people are doing? One idea is that it in ingrained in our brain through years of evolution. It is important to be a part of something bigger than yourself and you want to be like everyone else. It is not common for someone to want to stand out and be different. Many may wonder how the bystander effect can be a biological occurrence.

Take for example, this study done by Maria Plötner of the Max Planck conducted a study on 60 5-year-old children were told to color a picture while an adult painted a cardboard wall. Sometimes the kid was alone with the painting adult, and sometimes there were a couple of other kids painting with them who were actually confederates of the experimenter but they’d been told not to talk or to reveal anything about the role they were playing. After the coloring session started, the experimenter knocked over a cup, spilling colored water on her table, and made a series of carefully timed pleas (to make sure the experiment was similar during each run-through) to try to attract the kid’s attention and get him or her to help by bringing over some paper towels. As theory would predict, the children coloring alone were most likely to help the adult (almost all did) but with other children in the room only half made an effort to help (Singal, 2015).

Though there is no concrete evidence as to why the bystander effect occurs or where it begins, many believe that in a large group people assume that someone else is better suited to help rather than them. Therefore, no one makes the effort to help. But there is something you can do to help. As much as we would all like to say ‘if someone were in trouble I would help no matter what’ this is untrue. Most people would not help though they claimed they would. As a victim you can deliberate responsibility by giving direct orders to specific people. You can do this by saying their name followed by what you need them to do or even identify an article of their clothing. Even maintain eye contact with one person can make them feel more a part of the situation than they are and lessen the likelihood they will diffuse responsibility. Kendra Cherry finishes her article by saying “By personalizing and individualizing your request, it becomes much harder for people to turn you down” (Cherry, 2016).




Cherry, K. (2016, October 04). The Bystander Effect: Why Bystanders Sometimes Fail to Help. Retrieved from VeryWell: https://www.verywell.com/the-bystander-effect-2795899

Day, D. M., & Marion, S. B. (2012). Applying Social Psychology To The Criminal Justice System. In F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts, Applied Social Psychology (pp. 245-272). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Inc.

Singal, J. (2015, April 13). Researchers Found the ‘Bystander Effect’ in 5-Year-Olds. Retrieved from NYmag: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/04/bystander-effect-in-5-year-olds.html



Feb 17

Cohesive Roots in the Chicago Blackhawks

My journey down to Wrigley Field holding a mock Stanley Cup on the night of the 2015 Blackhawks victory.

Lia Stoffle, February 28, 2017

As a Chicago native, hockey has always been a huge part of my life. I had an uncle who worked in the Blackhawk’s locker room, my dad worked on Stan Mikita’s house, I met Chris Chelios briefly and we reminisced about my uncle, and even the little one I provide childcare for plays on a travel hockey team. Now, those names may not mean much to those who are not interested in hockey, or are not from Chicago, but if you google them you’ll see what I’m talking about. The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010, which has made living near Wrigleyville, the sports center of Chicago, incredibly exciting. I will never forget being out at my favorite local dive with my boyfriend, surrounded by friends. We were all screaming at the televisions, our hearts racing as we watched the final seconds of the game. The clock ran out of time, and champagne showered over us. We had all paid out our tabs before the end of the game, and subsequently ran down to Wrigley Field to fill the intersection of Clark and Addison. It is probably my single favorite memory of living in the city so far.

Continue reading →

Feb 17

Homogeneity Breeds Prejudice

Growing up, I was constantly being introduced to different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. I remember being fascinated at the vast amount of cultural traditions and nuances, and I craved to meet new people, people with different stories. In Damascus, Syria, attending an International High School quenched my thirst for meeting different people, as the student making up the school were mostly children of diplomats who were stationed in Damascus. I had friends from all four corners of the world – from Buenos Aires, to Ghana, to Amsterdam. For me it felt natural being in a diverse environment, and I wouldn’t know any other way of interacting.

That was until I move to Yerevan, Armenia around four years ago. During the first few months, it was both comforting yet strange to be in a country where everyone is of the same ethnicity, of the same nationality, and of the same religion – everyone is Armenian, following the Apostolic church. It first felt comforting because I felt like I was ‘home’, being in my own country with ‘my’ people. But it was also strange at the same time because I was not used to the homogeneity. It was when I enrolled at the American University of Armenia that I began to notice the prejudice that existed here.

There was only one international student in the freshman class, and he was from India. I will not disclose any names for the protection of this individual’s privacy. I first was oblivious to it, since I had never witnessed first hand people exhibited prejudice towards another person. Slowly but surely, I noticed the whispers when this student walked into a class; I noticed how everyone else created a bubble around if as if he were contagious. This student was picked on, laughed at, and publicly humiliated on many occasions. I was ashamed and appalled at my peers’ behavior, and the first thing I did was blame it on their characters – believing that they were a bunch of disrespectful bullies, who are also immature for exhibiting this type of behavior – ultimately falling prey to the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error underlies that we find it easier to explain other people’s behavior in terms of personal dispositions, rather than thinking about situational factors that could have played in a role in their actions (Schneider et al., 2012). The more people I saw exhibiting prejudiced behavior towards another, the more people I ended up attributing being disrespectful and horrible to.

It was not until much later that year on a day that I was reminiscing my high school days when I had an epiphany. I was introduced to diverse environment growing, but Armenians who were born and raised in Armenia here never had. There is little to no diversity in Armenia, so how could these people ever be accustomed to a diverse environment when they have never been in one? Their entire lives has been underlined by the similar-to-me effect – since everyone around them is similar to them, they have been accustomed to perceiving others who are like themselves more favorably than others (Schneider et al., 2012).

This is fortunately taking a turn for the better in Armenia. Tourism has seen a boost in recent years, which means locals are being introduced more and more to individuals of different ethnicities and backgrounds. A lot of citizens of neighboring countries have also come to Armenia to start business, and there has been a huge influx of Syrian Armenians (due to the civil unrest in Syria). I am noticing how the dynamic has changed between local Armenians and an individual who is not from here – and it is definitely a great aspect to witness. Gordon Allport introduced the contact hypothesis, which “assumes that positive contact with members of an out-group could decrease negative stereotyping of the out-group by the in-group and lead to improved intergroup relations” (pg. 343, Schneider et al., 2012. I definitely see a link between this hypothesis and what I have experienced throughout my four years here by observing in-groups (Armenians) contact with out-groups. The more that Armenians had contact with anybody who is different than they are, the more they are not only developing acceptance, but also realizing the great outcomes of meeting diverse individuals.

Thank you for reading,

Hilda Yacoubian



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Feb 17

My Employer Did What?!

Communication is such an important part of everyday life. Whether we are communicating on a personal, social, or business level, there are different things that we need to keep in mind to maintain a healthy balance of communication. Organizations, in particular, value the type of people they choose to represent their businesses. In this week’s lesson, we assessed how overconfidence in e-mail communication is centered around egocentrism and producing messages that have meanings interpreted differently between the sender and receiver. When working in a business environment, we can see why this is an important factor to consider. We do not want to send out messages to coworkers or media to the community that could negatively affect the vision of the business.

Were you are that 93% of hiring managers screen their potential employee options via social media (Davidson, 2017). It is even stated that 55% of the time, candidates are reconsidered based on information that they find (Davidson, 2017). Although most of the time these screenings are done looking for references to drugs and other illegal activities, employers can use your social media postings to their advantage. This helps them to see what type of writing you do and over what interests you do them on. Davidson (2017) states, “66% of hiring managers said they would hold poor spelling and grammar against candidates” ().

If hiring managers look at what you write and how you write it, then you must really consider the different attribute biases that could go into play as well. When all we have are words to communicate, is there emptiness to them? Are we really saying what we mean? According to Ritter (2017), “Without any information other than words—typically, very few words—the meaning we make out of the cryptic electronic messages we receive is necessarily shaped by our own feelings and expectations. Consequently, what we believe is being said may have very little  to do with what the author wishes to communicate” (). Sometimes the way we take in information isn’t the same as others. What we say may have an entirely different inflection on another individual.

Overall, we need to be aware of what we write and how we write it. Different individuals can take things different ways. I’m not saying we need to be overly defensive about the types of things that we write, but we need to understand that everything we say can have a bigger meaning and larger implications than we think. Can you think of a time when you may have fallen into any of these categories?



Davidson, J. (2017). The 7 social media mistakes most likely to cost you a job. Retrieved from http://time.com/money/3510967/jobvite-social-media-profiles-job-applicants/

Ritter M. (2017). Why is there so much miscommunication via email and text? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201502/why-is-there-so-much-miscommunication-email-and

Feb 17

Team Dynamics and Power


Relationships at work are very important for the effective functioning of an organization/team. But a successful organization usually involves some very strong personalities who may be the leaders or the subordinates. So, what are the different developmental stages of groups? What are the possible motivators to gain power? How do these strong personalities work together in an organization?


Let’s consider the example of one of the organizations that I was a part of in my sophomore year in college. I was the President of Multicultural club- a group whose sole focus was to educate the locals about diversity and introduce them to new cultures. I had 3 other students working directly under me on my executive board, I had an advisor, and I also had about 15-20 students as members of the club. The club was a success overall since we managed to pull off 2 major events, one of which was a completely new event and both of which were featured in local newspapers. Through this club, I also started a campaign to build a meditation room on-campus, made the administrators become aware of the urgent need of this room.


According to Tukman, there is a cycle that dictates the different aspects of group formation which include, forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The group first entered the norming stage by the exec board first having a meeting and then having an ice breaker activity during our general body meeting. In the storming stage, we finalized our roles in the group and faced our first few conflicts. Even though everyone was determined to perform their jobs according to their roles, we did have some conflicts when it came time to prepare for various events. As we entered the norming stage, we stayed with our original roles. We also solidified some of the norms of the group, such as meeting in the afternoons to work on event prep or for me and my vice-president to have meetings in our free time to discuss event planning details. In the performing stage, we successfully pulled off the event and reached our goals. We also entered the adjourning stage by restarting this cycle once the first project was completed.


Power was a phenomenon that was helpful in some ways while stressful in others. A struggle for power occurred between me and my advisor. While I was the clear and elected leader of the group, my advisor wanted to treat me as a subordinate and so the power struggle began. My advisor had expert power, so I was influenced by her knowledge and was forced to follow her lead in some aspects. However, I had legitimate power, which is given through an official title. As a result, there were frequent cases of conflict between my advisor and I. I believe my advisor had a need for power, or a desire to influence others. I do not believe that she wanted personalized power but was rather more focused on socialized power since I do believe that she wanted the group to prosper at the end of the day.


While the struggle for power was definitely a cause for concern for me, it did not hinder our progress as a group. The team continued to progress through all of Tukman’s developmental stages for groups. In the end, we were able to pull off two of the largest on-campus events while starting a new campaign for the future of the campus.



Nelson, A. (2017). Organizational Life and Teams. Retrieved February 27, 2017, from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834710/modules/items/21736677



Feb 17

Lesson 7 – Miscommunication?!

Good Evening Everyone!

Lesson 7 – We are moving along this semester!

This week I wanted to share what we discussed about communication this week! We have focused on Tuckman’s theories which I believe apply to mostly any team or group. These are certainly the stages that teams go through on their way to performing and success (1977). In fact, I believe it is a great foundation to follow in understanding emotions and communication when working in teams. Reading Tuckman’s (1965) developmental stages, proves the obstacles that individuals display on a daily basis when working with teams. Whether it be work, school or play; it appears that we follow this same pattern on Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and even at times Adjourning.

Another point that I absolutely related to was our second essay topic regarding a study on emails, egocentrism and miscommunication. The results of the studies were not too surprising to me but the fact that we as humans are quick to judge others and not ourselves in the same manner, is a pattern that has been continuous throughout history. It appears that with this mindset, unfortunately, we set up destruction in our relationship and communication with others.

The points of fundamental attribution error and the actor-observer difference both interact with communication behavior. The fundamental attribution error, per Schneider et al., states that we underestimate the influence of external and situational factors when judging the behavior of others but overestimate these factors when viewing our personal behaviors (2012).

Likewise, the actor-observer difference is a bias where we see ourselves as being influenced by external factors but when viewing others, we seem to believe they are being influenced by their own personal factors instead (Schneider et al., 2012, pg. 224).

Why are humans so quick to critique others but not themselves? I suppose it is easier to point out the flaws of others but more hurtful to point out those of ourselves. Perhaps because we may not have to deal directly with the faults of others, making it easier on ourselves to critique them. We need to realize though, we are all human and have faults.

A part of effective communication whether via email, text or social media, is not just thinking of our self and our feelings, but also taking the listener and receiver into consideration. Of course, no system is perfect but try to be sure that what your encoding, is decoded properly. How will the person on the receiving end interpret you message, words and view?

Thank you everyone 🙂

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A. & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA SAGE Productions, Inc.

Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin63 (6). 384–399. doi:10.1037/h0022100

Tuckman, B. & Jensen, M.A. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group Organization Management, 2. 419-427

Feb 17

Are you “hearing” what I’m typing?

One of the aspects discussed in our lesson this week on Organizational Life and Teams was effective communication through the channel of email. I am going to expand this conversation to include the channels of text messages and any type of social media that has consumed individuals and businesses all around the world today such as Facebook, Instagram and twitter.

How many times have you texted a friend, or put out a tweet where you didn’t get the response you were looking for? We’ve all been there. Confused you wonder how that message was misconstrued. These were your friends after all and they should have been able to “pick up what you were laying down”. Well according to the studies conducted in the article by Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J., & Ng, Z. (2005) Egocentrism over e-mail: Can we communicate as well as we think?, this is not the case. The studies showed evidence that it did not matter whether you were friends or strangers there would still be a disconnect between the way the message was encoded, how it was constructed by the sender and transmitted, and decoded or perceived by the receiver.

Just imagine, if your own friends could mistake something you typed to them, how many strangers or coworkers have you possibly offended! I thought this was an interesting development. Most people would assume that the people that know you the best would be able to properly interpret the things you say via computer-moderated communication. Knowing this is not necessarily true, it gives you something to think about. Anytime you sit down to your computer or pick up your cell phone, whether it be to type up an email, send a text or post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you better think about what your about to say and how you want to come across without having paralinguistic ques to help carry your message.
Is the receiver going to be able to “hear” what you’re typing?

-Shea Hubler

Kruger, J., Epley, N., Parker, J., & Ng, Z. (2005). Egocentrism over e-mail: Can we communicate as well as we think? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 925-936. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.925

Feb 17

Attributing Blame By: Kristen Jezek

Attributing Blame
By: Kristen Jezek

I used to think I was a pretty great judge of character. In fact, when I saw someone cut a person off in the middle of the road, I thought I could make a pretty sound judgement on the type of person they were. After all, we all hate it when we’re cut off in traffic, it’s dangerous for goodness sake! Spending time in New York City could make you think it was almost your birthright to put judgments on the people you drove by on the street. However, fundamental attribution error and actor-observer difference suggest that our judgments about ourselves, others and motivations for behavior may not be so accurate after all.
The fundamental attribution error states that when judging other people’s behavior, we will tend to overestimate their behavior caused by their personal qualities or demeanor, and underestimate the influence of external factors on their actions (Schneider et all, 2012). Furthermore, the actor-observer difference explains our personal bias in ranking our own behavior due to external circumstances, rather than a judgement of our personal character (Schneider et all, 2012). These two theories and explanations of human behavior have a humbling effect on the girl who used to think she could judge a book by its cover.

“OH MY GOSH WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!”, I screamed as I slammed on my brakes while moving out of my New York City apartment. Immediately I went on a tirade of how bad New York drivers were and how inconsiderate they could be for drivers like me on the road. Not even five minutes later, as my navigation system chimed “Turn left NOW” did I find myself swerving in a manner so characteristic of the person I just yelled over, I could have been doing a re-enactment of the previous scene. Multiple cars honked at me and I winced as I merged onto the freeway on-ramp, only to sit there in more traffic, surrounded by the very cars I had just cut off. “I can’t believe they’re looking at me like this, the navigation system didn’t even tell me to turn until the last second and I have no idea where I’m going—they should cut me some slack”. There I was, living proof of both the theories I just explained. When the car in front of me first cut me off I was sure it was a testament to his poor driving skills and the lack of consideration of “New Yorkers” (which, by the way, I also was). I made the fundamental attribution error on my fellow-driver and assumed that he knew where he was going and he purposefully cut me off, regardless of circumstance. Not even five minutes later, when I made my own driving snafu, I was quick to attribute my actions to outside circumstances, effectively rendering myself innocent, a la the actor-observer difference. I knew my circumstances were innocent enough, and I did not want to label myself a bad or inconsiderate driver. After all, the roads in New York are often one-way and if you miss your exit, you could be stuck in traffic for another hour trying to get back to it!

What were the implications of this experience? The humility that comes with the knowledge that you are not perfect and that other people may not be either. Life is a complicated series of moving parts and often there is more to it than meets the eye. This experience, the knowledge of the fundamental attribution error, and the actor-observer difference keeps me on my mental toes when anything doesn’t go as planned or people do not behave as I expect them to. This change affects how I treat myself and others on the road, in the doctor’s office, and in basically every human interaction. After all, surprises can happen anywhere.

The fundamental attribution error suggests that perhaps in our finite wisdom, we often place others on a higher standard than we place ourselves and attribute their misgivings to their personal faults rather than their outside environment. However, the actor-observer bias is an effect of us cutting ourselves slack, or perhaps innocently, just seeing more of the picture and attributing mistakes to outside forces beyond our personal integrity. The awareness of these two theories can be a powerful and humbling weapon in underestimating your fellow-man and overestimating your own circumstances. Perhaps if more people understood this, the world could be a kinder, more forgiving place.

1) Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

Feb 17


In this week’s discussion I wrote about my job as a children’s domestic violence counselor. I also mentioned that three employees have resigned since I’ve been on maternity leave (since the end of December). As my return to work looms closer, I have been fighting an internal conflict about whether or not I want to go back. Obviously the main issue is the fact that I want to stay home with my baby, but there are other, work-related issues that make it difficult to want to return. However, the same aspects that made me question my job are the same things that convinced me to stay.

The exodus of my co-workers (and friends) from my small office encouraged me to take a hard look at what I want out of my job. What I like about the job is clear—a two minute drive to work, great hours, no weekends or holidays. I’m sure many of you can agree, though, that we did not attend Penn State University so we don’t have to work weekends. Clearly the perks are not enough for me to be satisfied.

Our text mentions that the most important aspects of a satisfied employee are being challenged, being rewarded, and working within a supportive system with supportive coworkers (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). Typically I feel somewhat challenged at work, but not always because of my assigned duties. I am rewarded with a paycheck, but anyone who works in social work knows that it doesn’t pay well, and the benefit package is less than stellar. My biggest qualm is that our office environment is terrible, and although some of my coworkers are helpful, some are not, and are in fact “out to get me” (and others as well). It seems as though I should get out soon, but I won’t.

It’s not my main job function, or really anything I was hired to do, but I enjoy working with my boss to figure out the best way to “get along.” We’ve planned get-togethers and other things we can do as a group to get to know each other better, to learn the strengths of others, and how we can be more supportive as employees. Although the work I do on paper isn’t extremely challenging, my “other” duties help me feel challenged.  I believe I have a relatively high growth need strength, in that I look for challenges in my job to help me grow within my career (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012), so I know that I am being primed for a management position in the future.

Absenteeism is a red flag for unhappiness in a job (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012) so if I notice myself slipping I will definitely reevaluate my priorities. I might not be head-over-heels for my job, but it does not mean that I am not satisfied—for now.




Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Feb 17

“I’m not racist, but…”

We have all heard someone utter these words, followed by an obviously racist statement.  It may seem clear to those around them that they are behaving in a racist manner, but that individual may truly be unaware of his or her biases.  The following is an extreme example of such racism:

Prior to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, it was not unheard of for the Ku Klux Klan (often referred to as the KKK) to hold rallies while clothed in white hooded robes, where they publicly condemned and intimidated minorities (History.com, 2009).  During a time when public spaces were still segregated and African Americans did not have equal voting rights, the presence of the KKK was not as widely condemned by society as it is today.  Though their numbers have dwindled in recent decades, the KKK is still operating in the United States.  In fact, they are actively recruiting members.

This week, the Press Enterprise newspaper printed an article about the Ku Klux Klan distributing flyers in the quiet town of Berwick Pennsylvania with the intention of recruiting new members (Wemple, 2017).  The newspaper reprinted the flyers in full in their newspaper (widely regarded as severely poor judgment), which encouraged white people to be proud of their race.  A direct quote from the Ku Klux Klan’s flyer reads, “I’m proud to be white!  There is no need to feel guilty about the past!  If that offends you your racist!”  The flyer also included a section about White History Month, to protest the perceived inequity of having a national celebration of Black History Month but no officially recognized equivalent for white people.  The Ku Klux Klan claims that their words are not racist, yet they are so offended by African Americans showing pride for their heritage that they feel the need to invent a similar holiday of their own.  They are upset by the inequality when, for many years, they have advocated for the exact opposite.  While they are not blatantly intimidating minorities by burning crosses on their lawns or encouraging violence against them, this behavior fits the description of a subtler form of racism: aversive racism.

Aversive racism can be defined as exhibiting racist tendencies while denying that those thoughts, behaviors, and motives are racist (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012).  People who are aversive racists believe that they support egalitarian principles, or equal rights for all, though this is at odds with their clear racial biases.  Their racism is subconscious.  While it is arguable that the KKK organization is actually unaware of their own racist tendencies, their recruitment flyers seem to suggest that they do not view themselves as racists.  How is it possible that these individuals hold racist beliefs while maintaining that they are not racists, and how may applied social psychology help to remedy this?

Hing, Li, and Zanna (2002) found that exposing individuals to their own hypocrisy was an effective way of reducing prejudice.  Participants completed a questionnaire to assess their levels of racist attitudes towards Asians.  Students whose questionnaires revealed high levels of racist attitudes toward Asians advanced to the next phase where they spent at least five minutes interacting with an Asian experimenter with whom they completed a word association task.  Interaction with the Asian experimenter was intended to prime participants to potentially reveal positive or negative attitudes about Asians based on the words that they chose.  Afterward, participants in the hypocrisy-inducing condition were asked to write an essay advocating fair treatment of Asian students that would potentially be featured in a school pamphlet.  This exercise was intended to induce negative feelings of guilt in participants who exhibited racist attitudes.  A follow-up questionnaire assessed how they were feeling after writing the essays.  Finally, participants were asked to fill out anonymous ballots about whether budget cuts should be made to the Asian Students’ Association.  A scenario was presented to make it seem as though there were legitimate reasons to cut the budget, and the exercise was intended to measure subtle discrimination against Asians.  The results showed that participants who showed strong racist tendencies and were exposed to hypocrisy-inducing conditions showed a reduction in prejudice toward Asians.  In fact, they seemed to attempt to make up for their prejudicial behaviors by refusing to cut the budget to the Asian Students’ Association and some even proposed awarding additional funds.

This study by Hing and colleagues suggests that making aversive racists aware of the fact that their words and actions are at odds with their egalitarian beliefs may create dissonance.  This dissonance may make an aversive racist uncomfortable enough to change their ways in order to resolve these negative feelings.

The next time you hear the words, “I’m not racist, but…” followed by a racist statement, it may be helpful to gently make the individual aware of the racist implications of his or her comments.  While they may not respond well to sound reasoning, their own discomfort may be enough to cause them to change their ways.

History.com Staff. (2009). Ku Klux Klan. Retrieved February 24, 2017, from http://www.history.com/topics/ku-klux-klan
Wemple, J. (2017, February 21). Woman decries KKK leaflets. Press Enterprise. Retrieved February 24, 2017, from http://www.pressenterpriseonline.com/daily/022117/page/1/story/woman-decries-kkk-leaflets
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

Hing, L. S. S., Li, W., & Zanna, M. P. (2002). Inducing hypocrisy to reduce prejudicial responses among aversive racists. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38(1), 71-78.

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