Perceptions of intergroup bias : the roles of social projection and meta-stereotypes
MacInnis, Cara C.
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Underlying intergroup perceptions include processes of social projection (perceiving personal traitslbeliefs in others, see Krueger 1998) and meta-stereotyping (thinking about other groups' perceptions of one's own group, see Vorauer et aI., 1998). Two studies were conducted to investigate social projection and meta-stereotypes in the domain of White-Black racial relations. Study 1, a correlational study, examined the social projection of prejudice and 'prejudiced' meta-stereotypes among Whites. Results revealed that (a) Whites socially projected their intergroup attitudes onto other Whites (and Blacks) [i.e., Whites higher in prejudice against Blacks believed a large percentage of Whites (Blacks) are prejudiced against Blacks (Whites), whereas Whites low in prejudice believed a smaller percentage of Whites (Blacks) are prejudiced]; (b) Whites held the meta:..stereotype that their group (Whites) is viewed by Blacks to be prejudiced; and (c) prejudiced meta-stereotypes may be formed through the social projection of intergroup attitudes (result of path-model tests). Further, several correlates of social projection and meta-stereotypes were identified, including the finding that feeling negatively stereotyped by an outgroup predicted outgroup avoidance through heightened intergroup anxiety. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings, investigating the social projection of ingroup favouritism and meta- and other-stereotypes about ingroup favouritism. These processes were examined experimentally using an anticipated intergroup contact paradigm. The goal was to understand the experimental conditions under which people would display the strongest social projection of intergroup attitudes, and when experimentally induced meta-stereotypes (vs. other-stereotypes; beliefs about the group 11 preferences of one's outgroup) would be most damaging to intergroup contact. White participants were randomly assigned to one of six conditions and received (alleged) feedback from a previously completed computer-based test. Depending on condition, this information suggested that: (a) the participant favoured Whites over Blacks; (b) previous White participants favoured Whites over Blacks; (c) the participant's Black partner favoured Blacks over Whites; (d) previous Black participants favoured Blacks over Whites; (e) the participant's Black partner viewed the participant to favour Whites over Blacks; or (£) Black participants previously participating viewed Whites to favour Whites over Blacks. In a defensive reaction, Whites exhibited enhanced social projection of personal intergroup attitudes onto their ingroup under experimental manipulations characterized by self-concept threat (i.e., when the computer revealed that the participant favoured the ingroup or was viewed to favour the ingroup). Manipulated meta- and otherstereotype information that introduced intergroup contact threat, on the other hand, each exerted a strong negative impact on intergroup contact expectations (e.g., anxiety). Personal meta-stereotype manipulations (i.e., when the participant was informed that her/ his partner thinks s/he favours the ingroup) exerted an especially negative impact on intergroup behaviour, evidenced by increased avoidance of the upcoming interracial interaction. In contrast, personal self-stereotype manipulations (i.e., computer revealed that one favoured the ingroup) ironically improved upcoming intergroup contact expectations and intentions, likely due to an attempt to reduce the discomfort of holding negative intergroup attitudes. Implications and directions for future research are considered.