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J Exp Soc Psychol. 2016 Jan 1;62:75-88.

Suspicion of Motives Predicts Minorities' Responses to Positive Feedback in Interracial Interactions.

Author information

1
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California Santa Barbara.
2
Department of Psychology, Miami University of Ohio.
3
Department of Psychology, New York University.
4
Department of Management and Organization, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California.
5
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco.

Abstract

Strong social and legal norms in the United States discourage the overt expression of bias against ethnic and racial minorities, increasing the attributional ambiguity of Whites' positive behavior to ethnic minorities. Minorities who suspect that Whites' positive overtures toward minorities are motivated more by their fear of appearing racist than by egalitarian attitudes may regard positive feedback they receive from Whites as disingenuous. This may lead them to react to such feedback with feelings of uncertainty and threat. Three studies examined how suspicion of motives relates to ethnic minorities' responses to receiving positive feedback from a White peer or same-ethnicity peer (Experiment 1), to receiving feedback from a White peer that was positive or negative (Experiment 2), and to receiving positive feedback from a White peer who did or did not know their ethnicity (Experiment 3). As predicted, the more suspicious Latinas were of Whites' motives for behaving positively toward minorities in general, the more they regarded positive feedback from a White peer who knew their ethnicity as disingenuous and the more they reacted with cardiovascular reactivity characteristic of threat/avoidance, increased feelings of stress, heightened uncertainty, and decreased self-esteem. We discuss the implications for intergroup interactions of perceptions of Whites' motives for nonprejudiced behavior.

KEYWORDS:

attributional ambiguity; intergroup interactions; political correctness; prejudice; prejudice concerns; stigma; trust

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