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Attitude and action - explicit and implicit attitudes towards race vis-ŗ vis different regulatory dynamics of cognitive, affective and behavioural attitude components of white Europeans towards Black Europeans

Anna Chybicka

My research interests refer to the reasons of incompatibility between explicit and implicit attitudes of power groups towards representatives of minorities or supressed groups. I have already conducted few reseach projects on implicit and explicit attitudes, unconsciousness stereotyping and hidden discrimination. In most cases the explicit attitude is incompatibile with the implicit (f.e. Polish white men state possitive attitude towards Black Europeans, whereas implicit attitude is negative).
Such an approach which explores both implicit and explicit attitudes gives the possibility to study hidden discrimination and racism. Black Europeans are situated within a context dominated by white discourses and practices so white stereotypes and images strongly influence Black Europeans identity and inlfuence Black identity development.

From the psychological point of view, one of the major factors responsible for differences in people’s functioning is their attitude towards themselves, their own group of reference and so called “others” meaning the other group of reference. The way people perceive themselves and other representatives of their own versus the opposite (other) group directly influences both: emotions and behaviour. These attitudes are shaped by many different factors including cultural ones. The reason why it is important to study this problem is that attitudes toward race affect so many opinions and behaviours. It has been demonstrated that attitude toward one’s own race affects the way people interpret facts and are responsible for differences in the way social and personal events are evaluated.
The purpose of this project is to confront naÔve opinions concerning attitudes towards race with scientific evidence. Several different aspects of the attitudes towards race will be studied and the dynamics of the three components of these attitudes (cognitive, emotional and behavioural) will be determined and explained. Both conscious and unconscious attitudes will be studied. Two hundred men and women from Poland will be tested in order to determine the cognitive and affective mechanisms underlying the relatedness of some attitude components and the orthogonality of other components. The study allows to determine the degree to which various factors contribute to the different attitude components. Differences in the regulative mechanisms of the two forms of attitudes (implicit and explicit) may be the reason. An advantage of this study is that it measures all three aspects of attitudes towards race of the same people.

This research project is an innovative effort to study all three components of attitudes towards race and to capture the various mechanisms responsible for their various aspects. Current theory defines attitude, whatever its object (e.g., an inanimate object, an idea, a social group), as a relatively stable propensity to relate positively or negatively to that object (Wojciszke, 2000). Attitudes have three important components: cognitive (beliefs concerning the object), behavioural (the tendency to behave positively or negatively with respect to the object) and affective (how one relates emotionally to the object). It is now possible to study the affective component thanks to the development of special tests, such as for example the Implicit Association Test (IAT - Greenwald, McGhee & Schwartz, 1998). A few attempts have been made to predict behaviour (the behavioural component) on the basis of measures of the affective and cognitive components (e.g., Maison, 1999). However, the three-component approach to the study of race attitudes suggested in this project is still rarely reported in the psychological literature.

All the experimental measures of the affective and behavioural components of attitudes towards race proposed in the project were developed by the present author. A new method has been developed to measure the behavioural component. This method involves registration of the type of stimulus selected and the reaction time. The method allows the researcher to diagnose type and strength of attitude towards race and allows him or her to detect ambivalent attitudes, i.e., cases when subjects manifest positive and negative behaviour towards the object of the attitude at one and the same time. This method is completely novel in that it gives the researcher much wider measurement opportunities than methods used so far. The method is presented in detail in the section on Research Method.


Explicit attitudes – cognitive component

Two methods will be used to measure explicit attitudes towards race, rating scales and a computerised method. The five-point ratings scales were anchored at (1) – like very much and (5) dislike very much. Subjects were asked to rate several objects representing their own race (e.g., white woman, white man, etc.) and several objects representing other races (e.g., Black man, Arabic husband, etc.). Such method allowed to capture not only explicit attitude toward own race but also toward Black people in comparision with attitudes towards other races.

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