The (In)egalitarian Self: On the Motivated Rejection of Implicit Racial Bias

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The (In)egalitarian Self: On the Motivated Rejection of Implicit Racial Bias

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


White Americans widely endorse egalitarian values and strongly oppose hostile forms of racial prejudice, yet significant racial disparities persist in many important life domains. Unconscious, implicit forms of bias at the individual-level have been offered as one explanation for aggregate racial disparities. Research has identified strategies to increase prejudice-regulation and reduce implicit bias in applied contexts, but has neglected to consider various psychological obstacles to the successful implementation of these interventions. Across three studies in which I experimentally manipulated exposure to scientific information and personalized feedback about implicit bias, I examined one such obstacle: that evidence of implicit racial bias threatens individuals’ egalitarian self-concepts, and activates motivated reasoning processes that bolster the denial of implicit bias feedback and its influence on behavior. I also test several strategies to decrease defensive responding and attenuate motivated reasoning in this context. Results indicate that exposing White Americans to credible information on the science of implicit bias can increase awareness, but also risks backfire effects in the form of negative attitudes towards social science and increased racial stereotyping. Additionally, personalized implicit bias feedback reliably induced negative attitudes towards an instrument designed to measure implicit bias (i.e., IAT) and negative self-reported affect, but had no reliable influence on awareness. However, negative affect mediated the relationship between feedback and self-perceived bias, suggesting that personalized feedback can have indirect effects on awareness. Importantly, I also obtain robust evidence for the success of a simple pre-feedback intervention informing participants that implicit bias is common and fundamental to human cognition, but nonetheless malleable and subject to control. This collective bias intervention, when paired with personalized feedback, reliably increased self-perceived bias, belief in prejudice and discrimination, and more acceptance of and favorable attitudes towards the IAT. Across all studies, I find that the motivated rejection of implicit bias is consequential for prejudice-regulation, stereotyping, and public policy attitudes, and mediates the relationship between a broad range of individual differences (i.e., sociopolitical orientations, explicit racial attitudes, and egalitarian motivations) and these outcomes. Finally, defensive responding to implicit bias evidence and feedback was cognitively depleting, as indexed by the Stroop test, although impaired performance on this task was reduced among participants in the pre-feedback intervention. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of this evidence for anti-bias interventions, models of prejudice-regulation, impression management strategies in the context of intergroup relations, and the study of racial attitudes and prejudice. I also consider the application of my results to political and legal contexts, and identify future directions for additional research.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2016. Major: Psychology. Advisors: Eugene Borgida, Mark Snyder. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 276 pages.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Vitriol, Joseph. (2016). The (In)egalitarian Self: On the Motivated Rejection of Implicit Racial Bias. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.