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Reducing defensive responding to implicit bias feedback: On the role of perceived moral threat and efficacy to change
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology  (IF3.603),  Pub Date : 2021-05-29, DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2021.104165
Joseph A. Vitriol, Gordon B. Moskowitz

The last decade has seen a rush to address the causes and consequences of bias in applied contexts across the world. When and why might these initiatives promote attitudes and behavior that align with egalitarian goals? A common assumption is that increasing awareness of bias can motivate control over prejudiced responding. However, learning that one's actions are biased is threatening, and often motivates a range of self-protective responses to buffer that threat. In the current research, we tested a strategy for reducing such defensive responding and increasing the kind of awareness central to contemporary theories of prejudice regulation and egalitarian behavior. Four experiments (N > 2500) and a mini meta-analysis demonstrate that interventions that (a) decrease perceived moral blameworthiness for having bias and (b) increase the perceived ability to control bias, can reduce defensive responding and increase awareness both in the short-term and approximately 6 months later. Interventions that minimize threat and facilitate efficacy can motivate increased bias awareness and commitment to egalitarian values.