Discrimination on Campus and the Role of Pluralistic Ignorance
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Research has suggested that when an individual acts in a manner inconsistent with his or her stated attitudes there is likely some form of "implicit attitude" driving the behavior. However, another possibility is that attitude-behavior discrepancies could arise from a misperception of normative pressures from the group. In other words, when viewed through the lens of pluralistic ignorance, it is possible that individual group members could hold non-prejudiced views but behave in a discriminatory manner because they believe their peers hold prejudiced views. The present study began testing this possibility by collecting self-reports from 120 Texas A&M University (TAMU) undergraduates on five attitudinal measures as well as their perceptions of the attitudes of the TAMU student body. The results indicated that people rated themselves as significantly more tolerant (less prejudiced) than their peers on all three measures that evaluated racial or gender equality. We argue that this supports the presence of a norm misperception concerning the degree of prejudice in the TAMU student body. We discuss in particular how the norm misperception with respect to prejudice lays the groundwork for further studies examining how such misperceptions may relate to discriminatory behavior, and how the eradication of these misperceptions may promote increased acceptance of diversity in the University population.
Middleton, Tyler J. (2010). Discrimination on Campus and the Role of Pluralistic Ignorance. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from