Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: August 2010

15 - Exploring the Discrepancy Between Implicit and Explicit Prejudice: A Test of Aversive Racism Theory



Many have argued that over recent decades the nature of prejudice has become more subtle, less negative, and less hateful (Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986; Katz & Hass, 1988; McConahay, 1986). It is therefore difficult to reconcile such reports of lessened prejudice with the racial discrimination found in laboratory and field studies, as well as labor statistics (Human Resources Development Canada, 2001; Landau, 1995; Rudman & Glick, 1999; Sackett & DuBois, 1991; Sinclair & Kunda, 1999). One possible reason for the inconsistency between lessened prejudice, on the one hand, and continuing discrimination, on the other hand, is that the apparent decline in prejudice is illusory. It is possible that as societal norms have become more egalitarian, people report less prejudiced attitudes due to internal or external motivations (Crandall, O'Brien, & Eshleman, 2002; Devine, Brodish, & Vance, this volume; Plant & Devine, 1998). A second possible reason for the apparent inconsistency is that discrimination is due to prejudices that people are unaware they hold. If individuals are not consciously aware of their racism, they will honestly report low-prejudiced attitudes. Yet, such unconscious prejudice may result in discriminatory behavior.

The theory of aversive racism (Gaertner & Dovidio, 1986) deals specifically with individuals who are presumed to be consciously egalitarian yet unconsciously prejudiced.

Aronson, E. (1999). Dissonance, hypocrisy, and the self concept. In E. Harmon-Jones & J. Mills (Eds.), Cognitive dissonance: Progress on a pivotal theory in social psychology (pp. 103–126). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association
Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical consideration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182
Chung-Yan, G. A., Son Hing, L. S., & Zanna, M. P. (submitted for publication). The role of aversive racism in discriminatory selection decisions. Manuscript
Crandall, C. S., O'Brien, L. T., & Eshleman, A. (2002). Adapting the self to local group norms: Internalizing the suppression of prejudice. In J. P. Forgas & K. D. Williams (Eds.), The social self: Cognitive, interpersonal, and intergroup perspectives (pp. 293–308). New York: Psychology Press
Darley, J. M., & Latané, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 377–383
Devine, P. G., Monteith, M. J., Zuwerink, J. R., & Elliot, A. J. (1991). Prejudice with and without compunction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 817–830
Dovidio, J. F. (2001). On the nature of contemporary prejudice: The third wave. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 829–849
Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2000). Aversive racism and selection decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11, 315–319
Dovidio, J. F., Gaertner, S. L., Anastasio, P. A., & Sanitioso, R. (1992). Cognitive and motivational bases of bias: The implications of aversive racism for attitudes toward Hispanics. In S. Knouse, P. Rosenfeld, & A. Culbertson (Eds.), Hispanics in the workplace (pp. 75–106). Newbury Park, CA: Sage
Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., & Gaertner, S. L. (2000). Reducing contemporary prejudice: Combating explicit and implicit bias at the individual and intergroup level. In S. Oskamp (Ed.), The Claremont symposium on applied social psychology: Reducing prejudice and discrimination (pp. 137–163). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum
Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Implicit and explicit prejudice and interracial interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 62–68
Dovidio, J. F., Kawakami, K., Johnson, C., Johnson, B., & Howard, A. (1997). On the nature of prejudice: Automatic and controlled processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 33, 510–540
Fazio, R. H. (1990). Multiple processes by which attitudes guide behavior: The MODE model as an integrative framework. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 23, pp. 75–109). San Diego, CA: Academic Press
Fazio, R. H., Jackson, J. R., Dunton, B. C., & Williams, C. J. (1995). Variability in automatic activation as an unobtrusive measure of racial attitudes: A bona fide pipeline?Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1013–1027
Fazio, R. H., & Olson, M. A. (2003). Implicit measures in social cognition research: Their meaning and use. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 297–327
Florak, A., Scarabis, M., & Bless, H. (2001). When do associations matter?: The use of implicit associations toward ethnic groups in person judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 518–524
Gaertner, S. L., & Dovidio, J. F. (1986). The aversive form of racism. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 61–86). Orlando, FL: Academic Press
Gilbert, D. T., & Hixon, G. H. (1991). The trouble of thinking: Activation and application of stereotypic beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 509–517
Goodman, L. A. (1960). On the exact variance of products. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 55, 708–713
Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102, 4–27
Greenwald, A. G., McGee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1464–1480
Hodson, G., Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2002). Processes in racial discrimination: Differential weighing of conflicting information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 460–471
Human Resources Development Canada. (2001). 2001 Employment equity annual report, members of visible minorities. Retrieved January 14, 2003, from
Katz, I., & Hass, R. G. (1988). Racial ambivalence and American value conflict: Correlational and priming studies of dual cognitive structures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 893–905
Landau, J. (1995). The relationship of race and gender to managers' ratings of promotion potential. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 16, 391–400
McConahay, J. B. (1986). Modern racism, ambivalence, and the modern racism scale. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 91–125). Orlando, FL: Academic Press
McConnell, A. R., & Leibold, J. M. (2001). Relations between the Implicit Association Test, explicit racial attitudes, and discriminatory behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 435–442
Monteith, M. J. (1996). Affective reactions to prejudice-related discrepant responses: The impact of standard salience. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 48–59
Monteith, M. J., Devine, P. G., & Zuwerink, J. R. (1993). Self-directed versus other-directed affect as a consequence of prejudice-related discrepancies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 198–210
Plant, E. A., & Devine, P. G. (1998). Internal and external motivation to respond without prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 811–832
Rosenthal, R., Rosnow, R. L., & Rubin, D. B. (2000). Contrasts and effect sizes in behavioral research: A correlational approach. New York: Cambridge University Press
Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (1999). Feminized management and backlash toward agentic women: The hidden costs to women of a kinder, gentler image of middle managers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1004–1010
Rudman, L. A., Greenwald, A. G., Mellott, D. S., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1999). Measuring the automatic components of prejudice: Flexibility and generality of the Implicit Association Test. Social Cognition, 17, 437–465
Sackett, P. R., & DuBois, C. L. Z. (1991). Rater-ratee effects on performance evaluation: Challenging meta-analytic conclusions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 873–877
Sinclair, L., & Kunda, Z. (1999). Reactions to a Black professional: Motivated inhibition and activation of conflicting stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 885–904
Son Hing, L. S., Li, W., & Zanna, M. P. (2002). Inducing hypocrisy to reduce prejudicial responses among aversive racists. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 71–78
Stone, J., Aronson, E., Crain, A. L., Winslow, M. P., & Fried, C. B. (1994). Inducing hypocrisy as a means of encouraging young adults to use condoms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 116–128
Vance, K. M., & Devine, P. G. (1999, May). How self-affirmations influence the motivation and behaviors associated with prejudice reduction. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago
Wilson, T. D., Lindsey, S., & Schooler, T. Y. (2000). A model of dual attitudes. Psychological Review, 107, 101–126
Wittenbrink, B., Judd, C. M., & Park, B. (1997). Evidence for racial prejudice at the implicit level and its relationship with questionnaire measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 262–274