Shooting the Messenger to Spite the Message: Exploring Reactions to Claims of Racial Discrimination.
Abstract: Two experiments explored the potential for evaluative backlash
toward minorities who make claims of racial discrimination. Guided by the literature on
attitudes and persuasion, I examined three factors that are likely to be important in
influencing individuals' reactions when evaluating individuals who present claims of
discrimination: characteristics of the messenger, characteristics ... read moreof the message, and
characteristics of the recipient. In Experiment 1, participants evaluated a White or Black
confederate who gave a speech expressing no claim, a weak claim, or a strong claim of
racial discrimination. As predicted, results indicated evaluative backlash: participants
gave more negative ratings to Black compared to White claimants only when the claim was
strong. Experiment 2 further explored evaluative backlash by considering the role of
message quality and the message recipient's meritocracy beliefs. As predicted, participants
rated Black claimants more negatively than Whites when they used low quality arguments; but
this backlash was eliminated when Black claimants used high quality arguments. Furthermore,
recipients' meritocracy ideologies significantly moderated the interaction between the
claimant's race and quality of the claim. Participants with relatively strong meritocracy
beliefs were the source of evaluative backlash when hearing low quality arguments. Overall,
these findings suggest that an integrated approach that considers characteristics of the
messenger, the message, and the recipient can contribute to our understanding of how people
react to claims of discrimination and the consequences of such reactions for the
Thesis (M.S.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Psychology.
Advisor: Keith Maddox.
Committee: Samuel Sommers, and Nilanjana Dasgupta.
Keyword: Psychology.read less