Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Victoria Esses


The current research examined reactions to subtle versus blatant expressions of prejudice. Across four studies, participants reported their recognition of prejudice, affective responses, and behavioural intentions resulting from expressions of subtle and blatant sexism and racism. In the first three studies, participants were presented with prototypical expressions of subtle and blatant prejudice that were not given any context. They were then asked to provide their reactions to these statements. Patterns of differential responding to subtle and blatant prejudice were observed, such that subtle prejudice was recognized as prejudice less than blatant prejudice, evoked less negative affect and less concern over discrimination potentially resulting, and participants had less intention to confront subtle prejudice than blatant prejudice. In the fourth study, subtle and blatant prejudice were used as explanations for a hiring decision. The same pattern of differential responding to subtle and blatant prejudice emerged, as hiring decisions based on subtle prejudice were viewed as more legitimate than hiring decisions based on blatant prejudice. Further, this differential pattern of responding was also observed for sexism compared to racism, with sexism less likely to be recognized than racism, and thus sexist hiring decisions perceived as more legitimate than racist hiring decisions. This research demonstrates that subtle expressions of prejudice, increasingly common in contemporary society, are likely to go unnoticed and therefore, unchallenged.