The relationship between selective visual attention and the maintenance of anti-fat prejudice.
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This research examined the relationship between visual attention and maintenance of anti-fat prejudice. Previous research has found that prejudice might be maintained in part due to biased attentional allocation to stereotype-relevant information. Because anti-fat prejudice is commonplace in American society and is deemed to be socially acceptable, there is a great need to examine the relationship between attention and prejudice. Previous research on the subject has been mixed, with some researchers finding that high prejudiced persons further attended to stereotype-consistent information and others researchers finding a bias towards stereotype-inconsistent information. This study used a computer-based experiment to measure which kind of information was further attended to when forming an impression of a target person. The results of this study indicated that high levels of prejudice were associated with less attention being paid to stereotype relevant information; however, high levels of prejudice were also associated with better memory for stereotype-relevant information. This suggests that high-prejudiced individuals initially pay less attention to information because their stereotypes are already firmly in place, while they better remember that information due to the fact that it is relevant to their stereotypic schemas. Results also showed that low levels of prejudice were associated with greater memory for all descriptive information than those with high levels of prejudice. Overall, it seems as if visual attention may be an important mediator of stereotyping and prejudice, and this kind of research could perhaps be used in the future to develop interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of anti-fat prejudice.
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