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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2006 Jan;32(1):66-77.

"Keep your eyes on the prize": reference points and racial differences in assessing progress toward equality.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8205, USA.


White Americans tend to perceive greater progress toward racial equality than do ethnic minorities. Correlational evidence (Study 1) and two experimental manipulations of framing (Studies 2 and 3) supported the hypothesis that this perception gap is associated with different reference points the two groups spontaneously use to assess progress, with Whites anchoring on comparisons with the past and ethnic minorities anchoring on ideal standards. Consistent with the hypothesis that the groups anchor on different reference points, the gap in perceptions of progress was affected by the time participants spent deliberating about the topic (Study 4). Implications for survey methods and political conflict are discussed.

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