Prejudiced Personalities Revisited : On the Nature of (Generalized) Prejudice

Sammanfattning: In the media, one type of prejudice is often discussed as isolated from other types of prejudice. For example, after Breivik’s massacre, intolerance toward Muslims was intensely debated (for good reasons). However, his manifesto also disclosed extreme attitudes towards women and gays, a fact which passed without much notice. Still, in understanding why some individuals are so extremely intolerant compared to others, the psychological unity underlying different kinds of prejudice (e.g., racism, sexism) needs to be considered. This psychological unity, referred to as generalized prejudice, provided the starting point for personality theories on prejudice because it suggests that some people are simply more biased than other people in principle. Today it is well known that two basic personality characteristics, agreeableness and openness to new experiences, are powerful predictors of prejudice. However, more precisely what these variables can, versus cannot, explain has received little attention. Consequently, the aim of this thesis was to provide a more fine-grained analysis of generalized prejudice and its personality roots. Paper I demonstrated that personality mainly accounts for variance shared by several prejudice targets (generalized prejudice) whereas group membership mainly predicts unique variance in prejudice towards a particular target group. Thus, personality and group membership factors explain prejudice for different reason, and do not contradict each other. Paper II demonstrated, across three studies, that agreeableness and openness to experience are related to self-reported (explicit) prejudice, but not automatically expressed (implicit) biases. Personality seems informative about who chooses to express devaluing sentiments, but not who harbors spontaneous biases. Finally, Paper III examined the assumption that personality explains (explicit) generalized prejudice because some people simply favor their own group over all other groups (ethnocentrism). Providing the first direct test of this assumption, the results from three studies suggest that while agreeableness and openness to experience explain generalized prejudice, they do not account for purely ethnocentric attitudes. This indicates a fundamental difference between ethnocentrism and generalized prejudice. All in all, self-reported personality seems to have little to do with spontaneous group negativity or simple ingroup favoritism. However, personality strongly predicts deliberate and verbalized devaluation of disadvantaged groups.