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The Boston Globe


Uncommon knowledge

Believing in meritocracy is good for you

And more surprising insights from the social sciences.

Distrust dissolves prejudice

What does it take to overcome prejudice? Maybe, oddly, a little distrust. Psychologists in Germany found that stereotypes based on gender, ethnicity, and weight were reduced after people were put in a distrustful frame of mind, even via subliminal messages. Given that a distrustful frame of mind caused people to judge pairs of nonhuman objects as less similar, and that the distrust prompt had no effect when people were also put in a similarity-focused frame of mind, the psychologists theorize that distrust causes people to focus on dissimilarity—including how others may be dissimilar from their stereotypes.

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