Exposure to White Religious Iconography Influences Black Individuals’ Intragroup and Intergroup Attitudes

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Objective: Recent studies have found that exposure to White religious iconography via priming techniques can increase White individuals’ anti-Black attitudes. To date, however, no research has examined the influence of exposure to White religious iconography on Black individuals’ intragroup and intergroup attitudes. We hypothesized that exposure to White religious iconography would influence Black individuals’ intragroup attitudes negatively. Method: Black participants (N = 120) were either subliminally exposed to religious images (i.e., supernatural agents or concrete religious objects) or nonreligious images (i.e., nonsupernatural agents or nonreligious objects) before their intragroup/intergroup attitudes were assessed. Results: Exposure to images of White Jesus, but not exposure to images of generic White men, churches, or nonreligious objects increased Black individuals’ explicit pro-White attitudes. In addition, exposure to White Jesus also led to increased devaluation of the ingroup; data on implicit attitudes were more mixed. Conclusion: Although there are many contributing factors to explain why Black adults and children may internalize anti-Black attitudes, the potential role religion may play in such processes—specifically the exposure to White religious iconography—cannot be ignored.

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