Making sense of ourselves
Making sense of ourselves

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Making sense of ourselves

1.1 Explicit and implicit prejudice

Some research evidence suggests that levels of racial prejudice are changing in modern, Western societies. Consider, for example, Figure 1 below, which presents evidence on white Americans’ levels of agreement with negative stereotypes about black Americans at three points in time. What does this figure show? What kind of historical changes does it convey?

Described image
(Dovidio and Gaertner, 1986, pp. 91-125)
Figure 1 Historical shifts in whites’ racial stereotypes towards blacks

This figure can be interpreted in a number of ways. First, it shows that white Americans agree with some racial stereotypes (e.g. that black Americans are ‘unambitious’) more than others (e.g. that black Americans are ‘less intelligent’). It also shows that stereotyping has decreased over time across all four stereotype measures. For example, in 1963 about 30 % of white Americans felt that black Americans were ‘inferior’, but by 1978 roughly half as many held this stereotype.

One interpretation of this evidence is that it proves that Americans are becoming more racially tolerant. The fact that a decline is evidenced on all of the stereotype scales in Figure 1 is grounds for optimism.

Many psychologists, however, are cautious about jumping to this conclusion. Among other reservations, they have highlighted the limitations of the self-report measures of prejudice used here, i.e. measures in which people are asked to report on their own negative beliefs about members of other groups.

Should they be cautious? What are the potential limitations of this kind of measure of prejudice?


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371