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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Dissertation Abstract

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Dr. Slocum's Dissertation Abstract

Abstract for Fred Slocum's Ph.D. dissertation, "Images in Black and White: Measuring Racial Prejudice and its Consequences."  Department of Political Science, University of Iowa, 1997.

Past studies measuring Americans’ attitudes toward blacks have used primarily survey items, most obvious and direct.  However, survey measures of racial attitudes have numerous weaknesses that compromise their validity.  In an effort to develop more reliable and valid measures of racial prejudice, this study uses several novel methodologies: presentation of pictorial stimuli, response time measurements, and magnitude scaling.  A warm and fast response should indicate social attraction with a stimulus person.  Likewise, cold and fast responses indicate social repulsion.  These phenomena are of great importance in shaping the development or non-development of human social communities.

Undergraduate subjects (n=100) gave a warm or cold response to each of 89 pictures displayed for one-half second each on the computer screen, in random order.  The computer collected response times unobtrusively.  Respondents drew lines to indicate the intensity of their responses.  Subjects then completed an extensive questionnaire, also on the computer.  Questionnaire items included thermometer ratings of groups, measures of racial prejudice, demographic characteristics and political ideology, and agreement with traditional values and negative stereotypes about blacks. 

Consistent with expectations, responses to pictures of blacks were related to thermometer difference scores between whites and blacks.  Subject ideology conditioned the incidence of social attraction and repulsion responses: liberals gave more warm and fast responses to black than white pictures, while conservatives gave more cold and fast responses to black than white pictures.  Facial expression, age, and picture size all impacted responses to pictures: children, people with smiling expressions and larger pictures drew warmer responses.  Responses to Middle Easterners were uniquely negative, but less so among liberals.  Affect toward welfare recipients, thermometer ratings of whites and blacks, and agreement with anti-black stereotypes shaped responses to black, but not white, pictures.  Concern for social desirability did not affect the racial difference in response to pictures.

The three measures of racial affect used here tapped distinct dimensions of the concept.  The present results suggest that warmth and coldness of response are best conceived along separate dimensions.  Response time and other methods used here show considerable promise of distinguishing affective from cognitive responses.