Modern racists are theorized to have negative affect and attitudes toward African Americans yet be motivated to avoid appearing prejudiced. Thus, they may behave toward African Americans in covert ways. This hypothesis was tested using both an overt and covert measure of aggression in a competitive reaction-time task. Experiment 1 found that high modern racists were more overtly and covertly aggressive than were low modern racists, regardless of competitor race. In addition, high modern racists displayed a pattern of increasing covert aggression toward African Americans, whereas low modern racists inhibited retaliation even under high levels of provocation. Experiment 2 replicated Experiment 1 and provided evidence suggesting that covert aggression is a strategic process that cannot be employed under conditions of reduced cognitive capacity. Covert aggression, along with other covert behaviors, is seen as highlighting differences between high and low modern racists.
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