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Relationship Between Racist Symbols and Prejudice

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Published: Wed, 28 Feb 2018

Pre-test measures

Image and question selection was twofold, primarily, the author identified possible images against three criteria — political, general and racial, selected from a general cross-section of images located on internet sites identified by the search ‘race hate groups’ ‘white supremacy’ and ‘political symbols’. Various Discussion groups were then facilitated, one prisoners and one civilian group[1]. The dual grouping was to negate any prisoner only bias. Twenty selected images were displayed in each of the three categories to each group separately. The means of display was in a room which had reduced lighting and the individual images being projected onto screen. A semi-structured discussion then followed with the facilitator noting each image, which appeared to raise awareness or interest within the group. The images selected for treatment use were seven racial, five political (with a balance between parties) and two general (see appendix A). Further discussion groups with different prisoners and civilians; incorporating a variety of closed and open-ended questions being tabled around a different selection of images, which were similar in design to those already selected for use in the experiment. The responses from within these groups were noted as to which questions appeared to raise awareness or interest from each pilot group. Thus the questions selected were:

Three scales were used as outcome measures in this experiment:

British Prejudice Scale: The British Prejudice Scale (BPS) (Lepore & Brown, 1997) is the amalgamation of several existing instruments: the Modern Racism Scale, the New Racism Scale and the Subtle and Blatant Prejudice Scale. The authors subtly altered these scales post-amalgamation to make them appropriate for white British respondents. The scale is designed as a general measure of anti-black prejudice. This scale was chosen because it contains a substantial component of anti-immigration, anti-foreigner sentiment. This sentiment closely approximates out-group hostility, distance and perceived worldview threats that are central to the theoretical argument being developed in this thesis. The internal consistency for this scale is high, Cronbach a=.92 (Lepore & Brown, 1997).The scale consists of 15 questions answered on a scale from 1 – 7 (strongly agree to strongly disagree) and are summed indicating a range from 15 (high prejudice) to 105 (low prejudice). Thus a respondent scoring lower on this scale will be deemed more racist than a person with a high score.

Social Dominance Orientation Scale: The Social Dominance Orientation Scale (SDO) (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth & Malle, 1994), measures individual differences in the extent to which respondents prefer inequality among social groups. There are four separate versions of this scale; the 16-item scale has been selected for use in these experiments to allow other measures to be included. According to the scale’s authors, SDO is not a direct measure of racial attitudes, but, like authoritarianism, is a focal part of social ideology that predicts a wide range of political and racial attitudes. The measure has strong internal consistency, Cronbach a= .84 (Pratto et al., 1994). SDO conceptualises the importance of racial and political attitudes and therefore will be a direct measure of racial attitudes. It is purported that a person high in SDO will quite probably develop a negative attitude towards some group that is low in status or prestige. Further indications are that for those respondents high in SDO display a tendency to favour hierarchical relationships within groups and suggest an alignment of ‘superior-inferior’ dimensions. According to the authors, individuals high in SDO accept ‘legitimising myths’ that include racial and ethnic prejudice, nationalism, patriotism, separation between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, sexism, meritocracy and political conservatism (Pratto et all., 1994). Scale items are scored on a 1-7 (very positive to very negative) scale and scores are averaged across items. Thus a respondent scoring higher on this scale would indicate a stronger social dominance orientation or more prone to racist thinking than a person with lower scores. Selection of this scale was important to the study because those high in SDO display out-group hostility or denigration and would therefore likely seek to ensure a greater social distance from members of those out-groups. In addition the scale has been designed to independently indicate racism as apart from traditional political ideology.

Social Distance Scale: The Social Distance Scale (SDS) (Bogardus, 1933) was designed to measure the extent to which people want to keep a distance and avoid intimate contact between themselves and people from different racial, ethnic, national or social groups. The scale has a high internal consistency, with Cronbach a greater than .90 (Kleg & Yamamoto, 1995, Mielenz, 1997, Osei-Kwame & Achola, 1981). The scale consists of measuring ‘first feeling’ reactions to a list of social, racial, ethnic and national groups ranging from regarding distant social contact (e.g., as visitors to one’s country) to the most intimate (e.g., as a family member by marriage). In Bogardus’s original scoring method (1933) a low score on this scale indicates the person is less inclusive or welcoming of out-group members than those respondents with a high score. Unlike the British Prejudice Scale and the Social Dominance Orientation Scales, which utilise closed-ended questions and Likert scales, the Social Distance Scale design is based on the uni dimensional Guttman-type scale. Clear written instructions on how to respond to the questionnaire and each scale were provided to all respondent prior to each scale.

The British Prejudice Scale and the Social Dominance Orientation Scales being of the closed question style were pre-coded and the response sets were in a Likert scale, this allowing for ease of analysis. The Social Distance Scale design is based on the uni-dimensional Guttman-type scale, with increasing levels of intimacy. Clear written instructions on how to respond to the questionnaire and each scale were provided to all respondent prior to each scale. The main body of the questionnaire, as previously noted, was pre-determined by the use of existing scales.

Consideration at this stage was given to a methodology of image presentation, due to the social undesirability of racial comments, and it was further considered unlikely that respondents would answers openly and honestly if they were fully aware that they were being questioned about racist attitudes. Furthermore, fully informed consent was not realistic prior to the experiment. The selected scales were already of a political nature by being measurements of political attitudes. The scales used dictated the information required, therefore consideration only had to be given to the construction, format ordering and ‘filler’ questions required to ensure the deception was successful.

The filler questions were selected by using a pre-general election governmental questionnaire[2] . It has been acknowledged that the style of question can influence the reported response, thus this method, by which elimination of any bias from the researcher is effected was deemed the most appropriate methodology. The questions were subsequently piloted,[3] with random introduction, the facilitator noting the level to which questions appeared to lead or invoke discussion or a better response from the group members. These questions were then used to fill the questionnaire and disguise the real intention of the measure.

The design of the questionnaire was against two specific criteria, simplicity of administration and level of cognition of intended recipients – prisoners. Instructions and layout were deliberately simple with additional concentration on ensuring the design was short, thus ensuring a minimisation of respondent fatigue and high response rate. The demographics were selected to identify length in prison, first or further prison sentence, number of previous prison sentences, age and level of education, thus allowing for statistical tests for possible influence or bias.

Post-test measures

The study investigated whether exposure to racist signs and symbols impacted participants’ scores on measures associated with hate and prejudice. The hypothesis was tested in seven different ways, firstly against the British Prejudice Scale, which was designed as a measure of anti-black prejudice; Secondly, against the Social Dominance Orientation Scale, the Social Dominance Orientation Scale conceptualising the importance of racial and political attitudes, therefore being a direct measure of racial attitudes. The next five tests of the hypothesis were sub-components of the Social Distance Scale which measures the extent by which people want to keep a distance and avoid increasing amounts of intimate contact between themselves and people from different racial, ethnic, national or social groups.

A Man-Whitney U[4] test was conducted to determine whether the experimental and the control groups were comparable, on the demographic information from the sample. The demographic variables used in this experiment were length in prison (time spent in present establishment), first time in prison (whether or not this was a first custodial sentence), previous times in prison (number of previous custodial sentences), length of sentence (length of present custodial sentence), age and education. Independent t-tests were also conducted using the British Prejudice Scale, and the various elements of the Social Distance Scale scores. In order to take into account multiple testing, a Bonferroni adjustment[5] was also calculated. Analyses of covariance[6] were considered but no variances in dependant variables were apparent.

Hypothesis

The primary hypothesis of this research is that viewing racist signs and symbols increases prejudice against out-groups and factors associated with racism and hate.

FINDINGS

British Prejudice Scale

On average, the control group scored significantly higher on the British Prejudice Scale (M= 64.67, SD= 16.41) than the experiment group (M= 36.68, SD= 18.46). The results of the test were significant (t(126) = 9.08, p=<0.001). A low score on this scale means high prejudice. Participants in the experiment group showed significantly more prejudice as measured by the British Prejudice Scale than the participants in the control group.

Social Dominance Orientation Scale

The control group also scored significantly lower on the Social Dominance Orientation Scale (M= 37.86, SD= 16.92) than the experiment group (M=75.14, SD= 26.26). This distance between the group means was also significant (t(131) =-9.95, p<0.001). A high score on this scale means high prejudice. This means, those participants in the experiment group showed significantly more prejudice than the participants in the control group.

Social Distance Scale ‘Black’

The third dependant variable in this study was the Social Distance Scale, which provides a measure of the degree to which people want to maintain social detachment from people from dissimilar social, racial, ethnic or national groups. The five minority groups used in this study were identified through the pilot group discussions. These appeared to be the most salient groups mentioned as targets of prejudice or hate. Separate analysis was conducted to see if any group stood out more than another. For all subscales independent t-tests were conducted to investigate if participants in the experimental group differed from the control group and the results are described in detail below.

On average the control group scored significantly higher on the Social Distance Scale ‘Black’ (M=5.90, SD= 1.89) than the experimental group (M= 3.15, SD= 2.37), (t(120) = 7.117, p<0.001). A low score on this scale means high segregation. This means, those participants in the experimental group showed significantly more segregation than the participants in the control group.

Social Distance Scale ‘Chinese’

On the Social Distance Scale ‘Chinese’, the control group also scored significantly higher (M=5.71, SD= 2.11) than the experimental group (M= 3.30, SD= 1.99), (t(117) = 2.216, p<0.029. As before, a low score on this scale means high segregation. This means, those participants in the experimental group showed significantly more segregation than the participants in the control group.

Social Distance Scale ‘Mixed’

The t-test on the on the Social Distance Scale ‘Mixed’ revealed further that on average the control group scored significantly higher on this scale, too, (M=5.66, SD= 2.08) than the experimental group (M= 3.15, SD= 2.62),t(123) = 7.562, p<0.001. 122) = 6.163. As low scores on this scale mean greater desire for social distance, those participants in the experimental group showed a higher proclivity toward segregation than the participants in the control group.

Social Distance Scale ‘Immigrant’

The control group also scored significantly higher on the Social Distance Scale ‘Immigrant’ (M=5.71, SD= 2.11) than the experimental group (M= 3.30, SD= 1.93), t(127) = 6.608, p<0.001. This means that participants in the experimental group showed significantly more segregation than the participants in the control group.

Social Distance Scale ‘Asian’

And finally, the control group also scored significantly higher on the Social Distance Scale ‘Asian’ (M=5.66, SD= 2.08) than the experimental group (M= 3.15, SD= 2.45), t(122) = 6.163, p<0.001, meaning that here too, those participants in the experimental group showed significantly more segregation than the participants in the control group.

These analyses have shown that for all seven dependent measures those participants that had been exposed to racist signs and symbol earlier showed greater prejudice.

In order to take into account multiple testing, a Bonferroni adjustment was calculated. After this correction, the p-value that the t-tests needed to show in order and count as significant was p<.0071 (alpha of .05 divided by 7 t-tests). In all but one of the scales (‘Chinese’) the p-values were smaller than this adjusted alpha level (see results above). Thus, all but one difference between the experimental and the control group remain significant even after Bonferroni adjustment. It is therefore possible to assume that these differences are not the result of chance.

Analysis of Findings

The information concerning the demographics of the sample will be presented first. Then a discussion is presented separately for each of the different prejudice scales that were used as dependent variables.

In order to determine whether the experimental and the control groups were comparable, Man-Whitney U tests were conducted on the demographic information on the sample. This test was used rather then the t-test because the demographic variables had been collected on ordinal level, not continuous level. An independent t-test was therefore not considered. The demographic variables used in this experiment were length in prison (time spent in present establishment), first time in prison (whether or not this was a first custodial sentence), previous times in prison (number of previous custodial sentences), length of sentence (length of present custodial sentence), age and education. No significant differences were found for first time in prison, previous times in prison, age and education. This means that on these variables the groups were comparable. However, there were significant differences found in length in prison and for length of sentence

The results of the test were significant, z= -3.10, p<.05. The control group had an average rank of 79.28, the experiment group had an average rank of 58.45, and thus participants in the control group had on average longer time in prison than the experimental group. (See table 1). The biggest group for the experimental group had been 7 to 12 months in prison and the biggest group of the control group had been 13 to 24 months in prisons.

Participants in the control group had on average also significantly longer sentences than the experimental group. E.g.: Up to 63% of participants in the control group had sentences between 4 and 10 years, while the lower 40.7% of participants in the experimental group had only sentences between 2 and 4 years. In the Man-Whitney test, the control group had an average rank of 83.62, the experimental group had an average rank of 50.98, and thus the control group had on average longer sentences than the experimental group z= -5.087, p=<.05.

In order to find out where the differences for length of the time spent in prison already were coming from the frequencies were examined. On closer examination of the frequencies of the different categories in each group, it appears that more people are having a longer length of sentence in the control group than in the experimental group.

For length of sentence, further examination was undertaken to try and establish where the significant differences were coming from. In order to do this, the frequencies were examined. On closer examination of the frequencies of the different categories in each group, it appears that more people are serving a sentence of 1 to 4 years in the experimental group than in the control group. It also appears there are more people with sentences of over 4 years but less than 10 years in the control group than in the experimental group.

Analyses of covariance were conducted to investigate if the differences remained once the differences in the length of sentence and time in prison were taken into account. For the British Prejudice Scale as the dependent variable, length of sentence and time in prison were entered as covariates, manipulation as the independent variable. After controlling for these covariates, which significantly predicted the prejudice scores (F(1,123)=6.01, p=.016 for length in prison, F(1,123)=10.77, p=.001 for length of sentence), group membership still significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,123)=63.64, MSE= 272.45 p=.000. This means that after controlling for differences in length of sentence and time in prison, the differences in the British Prejudice Scale between control group and experimental group were still significant.

For the Social Dominance Orientation Scale, an analysis of covariance was conducted to investigate if the differences remained once the differences in the length of sentence and time in prison were taken into account. Length of sentence and time in prison were entered as covariates, manipulation as the independent variable. After controlling for these covariates, length in prison did not significantly predict the prejudice score, (F(1,128)=.99, p=.33 but for the length of sentence variable it did significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,128)=7.26, p=.008), group membership still significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,128)=75.18, MSE= 433.82 p=.000. This means that after controlling for differences in length of sentence and time in prison, the differences in the Social Dominance Orientation between control group and experimental group were still significant.

For the Social Distance Scale ‘Black’, an analysis of covariance was conducted to investigate if the differences remained once the differences in the length of sentence and time in prison were taken into account. Length of sentence and time in prison were entered as covariates, manipulation as the independent variable. After controlling for these covariates, length in prison did not significantly predicted the prejudice score, (F(1,118)=1.28, p=.26, for length of sentence variable, however, it did significantly predict the prejudice score, F(1,118)=4.14, p=.04), group membership still significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,118)=36.69, MSE= 4.36 p=.000. This means that after controlling for differences in length of sentence and time in prison, the differences in the Social Distance Scale ‘Black’ between control group and experimental group were still significant.

An Analysis of covariance was conducted for the Social Distance Scale ‘Chinese’ to investigate if the differences remained once the differences in the length of sentence and time in prison were taken into account. Length of sentence and time in prison were entered as covariates, manipulation as the independent variable. After controlling for these covariates, neither significantly predicted the prejudice scores (F(1,115)=.55, p=.46 for length in prison, F(1,115)=1.82, p=.18 for length of sentence), group membership did not significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,115)=2.67, MSE= 3.77 p=.11. This means that after controlling for differences in length of sentence and time in prison, the differences in the Social Distance Scale ‘Chinese’ between control group and experimental group were not found to be significant.

For the Social Distance Scale ‘Mixed’ an analysis of covariance was conducted to investigate if the differences remained once the differences in the length of sentence and time in prison were taken into account. Length of sentence and time in prison were entered as covariates, manipulation as the independent variable. After controlling for these covariates, length in prison did not significantly predicted the prejudice score (F(1,121)=2.40, p=.12, but the length of sentence variable was significant in predicting the prejudice score, F(1,121)=8.69, p=.004), group membership still significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,121)=36.70, MSE= 4.11 p=.000. This means that after controlling for differences in length of sentence and time in prison, the differences in the Social Distance Scale ‘Mixed’ between control group and experimental group were still significant.

Using the Social Distance Scale ‘Immigrant’ an analysis of covariance was conducted to investigate if the differences remained once the differences in the length of sentence and time in prison were taken into account. Length of sentence and time in prison were entered as covariates, manipulation as the independent variable. After controlling for these covariates, which significantly predicted the prejudice scores (F(1,125)=7.67, p=.006 for length in prison, F(1,125)=8.87, p=.003 for length of sentence), group membership still significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,125)=32.94, MSE= 3.84 p=.000. This means that after controlling for differences in length of sentence and time in prison, the differences in the Social Distance Scale ‘Immigrant’ between control group and experimental group were still significant.

For the Social Distance Scale ‘Asian’ an analysis of covariance was conducted to investigate if the differences remained once the differences in the length of sentence and time in prison were taken into account. Length of sentence and time in prison were entered as covariates, manipulation as the independent variable. After controlling for these covariates, which significantly predicted the prejudice scores (F(1,120)=3.33, p=.07 for length in prison, F(1,120)=7.06, p=.009 for length of sentence), group membership still significantly predicted the prejudice score, F(1,120)=26.65, MSE= 4.80 p=.000. This means that after controlling for differences in length of sentence and time in prison, the differences in the Social Distance Scale ‘Asian’ between control group and experimental group were still significant.

In summary, this means indications are that although the groups are not perfectly similar, it is likely the results are due to the manipulation.

Discussion

The study investigated whether racist signs and symbols increase the salience of factors associated with hate crimes in self-reported levels of prejudice. The hypothesis was tested in seven different ways, firstly against the British Prejudice Scale, which was designed as a measure of anti-black prejudice; Secondly, against the Social Dominance Orientation Scale, the Social Dominance Orientation Scale conceptualising the importance of racial and political attitudes, therefore being a direct measure of racial attitudes. The next five tests of the hypothesis were sub-components of the Social Distance Scale which measures the extent by which people want to keep a distance and avoid increasing amounts of intimate contact between themselves and people from different racial, ethnic, national or social groups.

The experiment entailed two randomly assigned groups, one experimental and one control. The independent variable in the experiment being the viewing of certain visual cues and the dependant variable being the changes in salience of factors associated with hate crime, specifically scored on measures of racial prejudice. The experimental group was exposed to the racist signs and symbols, the control group was not. Afterwards both groups received the same questionnaire containing questions measuring their racial prejudice.

The sample was selected from a category C male training prison in England, two variables were used for selection, self-reported White-British and of single cell occupancy, control (n=100) and experiment (n=100).

The results of this study clearly indicate that those prisoners who received the additional material in the package, the symbols, self-reported higher levels of prejudice and segregation than those in the control group who did not. The analysis of the demographic variables revealed that although there were no significant differences between control and experimental group found for first time in prison, previous times in prison, age and education. Significant differences were found in length in prison and length of sentence. Participants in the control group had on average spent longer time in the prison and have significantly longer sentences than those in the experimental group. The findings for the demographic variable length of sentence do not to explain the differences in the reported scores for the prejudice scales, as it could normally be assumed that the longer a sentence the more racist a person would become within the prison environment. The findings for the demographic variable length in prison are conversely interesting. It can be seen that for the control group the higher grouping is thirteen to twenty four months, with the experiment group being seven to twelve months. Again this indicating that the control group have spent a longer time at the prison. These analysis revealed for the British Prejudice Scale that the difference between the experimental and the control group remained significant even after length in prison and of sentence had been included as covariates and were statistically controlled.

With the Social Dominance Orientation, the manipulation also remained significant after these two covariates were included, as was the case for all social distance scale variables except the Chinese subscale, for which none of the variables became significant once the covariates were included. This suggests that although there are limitations due to the imperfect randomisation, the manipulation rather than the demographic differences drove the differences in the prejudice scales.

It is argued therefore, that the non-conscious influence of the symbols has had effect on the experimental group at least on some measures.

The findings from the British Prejudice Scale indicate that the experimental group experimental group showed significantly more prejudice than the control group, with a low score indicating more prejudice. From this result, it is argued that those respondents in the experimental group not only demonstrated a higher degree of anti-black prejudice, but also demonstrated a higher degree of anti-immigration and anti-foreigner sentiment. These additional measures being an integral component of the British Prejudice scale, and incorporated when Lepore and Brown changes to original scale to suite white British respondents. According to Biernat and Crandall (1999) this scale offers an interesting conceptualisation of prejudice in cognitive terms. They support the argument that prejudice may be reflected in the strength of associations between social categories, in this case ‘Blacks’ and the mental linking of the category to the attributes of those within the specific category. Thus, the low score on this scale reflecting the negative attributes for highly prejudiced respondents. According to Devine (1989) 6, the fundamental concept is that everyone, whether blatantly bigoted or not, mechanically activates racial stereotypes. This she postulates is the automatic constituent of response. She argues that low-prejudice people consciously suppress or inhibit the stereotype once it has been activated, the controlled component. In this experiment the activation being the increase in salience of the signs and symbols, thus those in the experiment group were unable/ or unwilling to control or suppress their prejudice. This was captured in their self-reporting.

The findings from the Social Dominance Orientation Scale indicate that the control group scored significantly lower on the scale than those in the experiment group. High scoring on this scale indicates more prejudice indicating those in the experiment group were significantly more prejudice than those in the control group. Social Dominance Orientation can be understood as a point to which a person’s preference is measured concerning disparity inside social groups. According to Pratto et al., (1994) those who indicate towards the higher end of the Social Dominance Orientation Scale have a preference for hierarchical relations among groups, as apposed to equal relations among groups. They support a variety of ‘legitimising myths’ which alienate social groups on a superior-inferior dimension. Pratto et al., suggest these myths include racial and ethnic prejudice, nationalism, patriotism and separation between high and low culture.

The results from the Social Distance Scale are subdivided into five sections, Black, Chinese, Mixed, Immigrant and Asian. Lower scores on this scale indicate higher segregation. The experimental group scored significantly lower on all subsets than the control group, thus indicating a higher level of segregation. This scale being designed as a measure of how people want to maintain social distance and avoid increasing levels of intimate contact between themselves and members of different social, ethnic, racial or national groups. This measurement of out-group attitudes, it is argued, measures group likings and acceptance rather than group beliefs or cognitive representations. Stanger et al., (1991). According to Hartley (1946) who used the Social Distance Scale on groups to measure prejudice and narrow-mindedness, he found that a want for a high quantity of social distance from any one out-group was strongly positively correlated with preference for distance with virtually any other out-group.

According to Weisbuch-Remington et al, (2005) anthropological, sociological and psychological theories suggest that religious symbols should influence motivational processes during performance of goal-relevant tasks. Their study evolved around subjects viewing religious symbols, which were presented outside of the participants’ conscious awareness. Those who viewed the symbols were more affected than those in the control group. Jung (1964) argues that conscious awareness was not required for the symbol to have an influence. Similarly according to Blascovich and Mendes (2000) in Weisbuch-Remington et al, (2005) that affective symbols influence motivational states both consciously and unconsciously. As Geertz (1973, p. 90), stated, “Religion could be defined as a “system of symbols” which act to establish powerful, persuasive, and long lasting moods and motivations in people”. It is argued that this can also be said for racist signs and symbols thus establishing powerful and persuasive moods in people. It can also be further argued that the symbols are summarising symbols that has the purpose of making the defini


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