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UVM Theses and Dissertations

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Format:
Online
Author:
McCleary-Gaddy, Asia
Dept./Program:
Department of Psychology
Year:
2018
Degree:
PhD
Abstract:
Past research indicates that having a similar life experience as another person leads to greater empathic concern towards that person. Two studies empirically investigated if similar experiences of race-based social identity threat can increase the empathic concern of White Americans toward African Americans. Study 1 revealed that White Americans randomly assigned to think about White privilege and then randomly assigned to read a passage about an African American whose accomplishments are attributed to Affirmative Action policies (versus an African American whose accomplishments are attributed to his hard work and merit) felt greater empathic concern toward the African American described in the passage. This effect was significantly mediated by stereotype threat feelings and moderated by group identity. Study 2 revealed that White Americans randomly assigned to think about how others think they have benefited from White privilege and then randomly assigned to read a passage about an African American whose accomplishments are attributed to Affirmative Action policies (versus an African American whose accomplishments are attributed to his hard work and merit) felt greater empathic concern toward the African American described in the passage only when mediated by stereotype threat feelings or stereotype threat cognitions. This mediated effect was moderated by merit identity. This suggests that White American participants do not see the literal similarities between the scenarios of race based social identity threat to merit but can see the similarities in internal feelings and cognitions that both experiences create. Collectively, these studies suggest a novel consideration of social identity and understanding of intergroup processes.