The spontaneous suppression of racial stereotypes

Natalie A. Wyer, Jeffrey W. Sherman, Steven J. Stroessner

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Attempts to suppress social stereotypes often lead to an increase in the accessibility of those stereotypes, thereby increasing stereotypic influences on subsequent social judgments. The present research sought to determine whether such suppression effects occur in relatively naturalistic situations. Participants in Experiment 1 wrote a story about a typical day in the life of an African-American target person after receiving one of two sets of instructions. Participants in the control condition were simply told to write whatever they wanted. Participants in the spontaneous suppression condition were informed that the study was being conducted by an African-American political group. The results indicated that participants in the spontaneous suppression condition wrote less stereotypic stories than did those in the control condition. Participants in Experiment 2 first rated their attitudes toward African Americans under one of three conditions: a directed suppression condition, a spontaneous suppression condition, and a no suppression-control condition. In a subsequent task, participants formed an impression of a target person who behaved in an ambiguously hostile manner. The results indicated that participants in both the directed suppression and the spontaneous suppression conditions judged the target person to be significantly more hostile (i.e., stereotypic of African Americans) than did participants in the control condition. These results indicate that there are situational factors which motivate spontaneous stereotype-suppression attempts, leading to later increases in stereotype use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-352
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Event68th Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association - Chicago, United States
Duration: 3 May 1996 → …

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