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When feeling good is bad: The detrimental effect of self -affirmation on prejudice

Luis M Rivera, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the present set of studies, I examine the hypothesis that situations that affirm a valued self-relevant attribute may, under certain conditions, lead to increased prejudice because such situations activate the motivation to preserve a positive self-image. Consistent with this prediction, Experiments 1 and 2 showed that men whose masculinity was affirmed expressed stronger implicit and explicit prejudice against gay men than others who did not receive such an affirmation. Furthermore, Experiment 2 found that affirmation functioned in a manner similar to self-threat such that both affirmation and threat led to similar increases in implicit and explicit prejudice against gay men, but did not affect attitudes toward lesbians or heterosexual women (groups that are not stereotypically related to the affirmed attribute). Finally, as partial support of the prediction that affirmation of an ingroup attribute increases prejudice in order to protect one's bolstered self-image, Experiment 3 demonstrated that among affirmed men, the more they expressed implicit prejudice against a relevant group (gay men), the higher was their subsequent implicit self-esteem. However, self-affirmation did not have any effect on the relation between implicit attitudes toward a less relevant group (African-Americans) and self-esteem. ^

Subject Area

Social psychology|Personality psychology|Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Rivera, Luis M, "When feeling good is bad: The detrimental effect of self -affirmation on prejudice" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242383.