P SY CH OL OG I C AL S CIE N CE
Cognitive Costs of Exposure to Racial Prejudice
Jessica Salvatore and J. Nicole Shelton Princeton University
study examined how encountering racial prejudice affects cognitive functioning. We assessed performance on the Stroop task after subjects reviewed job ﬁles that suggested an evaluator had made nonprejudiced, ambiguously prejudiced, or blatantly prejudiced hiring recommendations. The cognitive impact of exposure to ambiguous versus blatant cues to prejudice depended on subjects’ racial group. Black subjects experienced the greatest impairment when they saw ambiguous evidence of prejudice, whereas White subjects experienced the greatest impairment when they saw blatant evidence of prejudice. Given the often ambiguous nature of contemporary expressions of prejudice, these results have important implications for the performance of ethnic minorities across many domains.
tion, designed to render an accurate causal assessment (e.g., Riley, 1998; Weary & Jacobson, 1997). Given that contemporary forms of prejudice are often subtle and ambiguous, targets of prejudice may experience cognitive impairment as they try to determine the cause underlying the negative events they encounter in their lives. In the research reported in this article, we addressed the extent to which exposure to prejudice affects individuals’ cognitive functioning. The relative cognitive costs of exposure to ambiguous versus blatant prejudice should be related to individuals’ prior experience with prejudice. As a result, we addressed this issue separately for ethnic minorities (Blacks) and Whites.
ETHNIC MINORITIES’ EXPERIENCES WITH PREJUDICE
Social and legal norms in the United States discourage the overt expression of many kinds of prejudice. Ethnic bias, in particular, is strongly sanctioned (Crandall, Eshleman, & O’Brien, 2002). Despite this, many ethnic minority groups continue to face discrimination, and even...