No benefit of the doubt: Intergroup bias in understanding causal explanation

  • Beal D
  • Ruscher J
  • Schnake S
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Conversational conventions predict that receivers weigh later information more heavily than earlier information because they presume that communicators add later information only when it is particularly relevant and important. Drawing on Pettigrew's observation of the ultimate attribution error, the present research predicted that intergroup bias could override this conversational convention when individuals received multiple explanations (one beneficial, one condemning) for acts committed by out-group members vs. in-group members. Specifically, subsequently presented mitigating explanations for negative acts should not temper impressions of out-group members, and subsequently presented crediting explanations for positive acts should not enhance impressions of out-group members. Results supported this pattern, and the discussion considers these findings in light of communication rules, and in-group/out-group definition.

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  • Daniel J. Beal

  • Janet B. Ruscher

  • Sherry B. Schnake

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