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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Mar;82(3):359-78.

Social norms and the expression and suppression of prejudice: the struggle for internalization.

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Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence 66045, USA.


The authors studied social norms and prejudice using M. Sherif and C. W. Sherif's (1953) group norm theory of attitudes. In 7 studies (N = 1,504), social norms were measured and manipulated to examine their effects on prejudice; both normatively proscribed and normatively prescribed forms of prejudice were included. The public expression of prejudice toward 105 social groups was very highly correlated with social approval of that expression. Participants closely adhere to social norms when expressing prejudice, evaluating scenarios of discrimination, and reacting to hostile jokes. The authors reconceptualized the source of motivation to suppress prejudice in terms of identifying with new reference groups and adapting oneself to fit new norms. Suppression scales seem to measure patterns of concern about group norms rather than personal commitments to reducing prejudice; high suppressors are strong norm followers. Compared with low suppressors, high suppressors follow normative rules more closely and are more strongly influenced by shifts in local social norms. There is much value in continuing the study of normative influence and self-adaptation to social norms, particularly in terms of the group norm theory of attitudes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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