Members of stigmatized groups frequently find themselves as targets of interpersonal discrimination (e.g., Swim, Hyers, Cohen, & Ferguson, 2001; Swim, Hyers, Cohen, Fitzgerald, & Bylsma, 2003; Swim, Pearson, & Johnston, 2007). Interpersonal discrimination is defined as unfair or derogatory treatment based on social group membership (e.g., sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or disability) that emerges within interpersonal contexts. It includes overtly hostile acts, covert acts designed to hide prejudices, and more subtle acts based upon, for example, habitual or normative behavior (Benokraitis & Feagin, 1986). For instance, the stigmatized may experience poor service in public establishments, be the target of racist jokes, experience sexually objectifying street comments, or assumptions of heterosexuality. Perhaps not surprisingly, targets of discrimination and bystanders often feel a desire to confront interpersonal discrimination, and one primary goal of such confrontation is to reduce prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (Feagin & Sikes, 1994; Hyers, 2007). However, the extent to which confronters are successful may depend upon factors that are related to attitude and behavior changes more generally.
The purpose of this chapter is to consider ways that individuals can strategically manage interpersonal confrontations of discrimination to reduce prejudice. We define confrontation as any behavior or verbalization that indicates disagreement with another's behavior or comments. We focus on prejudice reduction, rather than other possible social goals (e.g., enhance personal control) because it acknowledges the agency that confronters can have in reducing prejudice (Swim, Hyers, & Cohen, 1998).