The relationship between mental representations of welfare recipients and attitudes toward welfare
Number of pages
SourcePsychological Science, 28, 1, (2017), pp. 92-103
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI SCP
SubjectBehaviour Change and Well-being
Scholars have argued that opposition to welfare is, in part, driven by stereotypes of African Americans. This argument assumes that when individuals think about welfare, they spontaneously think about Black recipients. We investigated people's mental representations of welfare recipients. In Studies 1 and 2, we used a perceptual task to visually estimate participants' mental representations of welfare recipients. Compared with the average non-welfare-recipient image, the average welfare-recipient image was perceived (by a separate sample) as more African American and more representative of stereotypes associated with welfare recipients and African Americans. In Study 3, participants were asked to determine whether they supported giving welfare benefits to the people pictured in the average welfare-recipient and non-welfare-recipient images generated in Study 2. Participants were less supportive of giving welfare benefits to the person shown in the welfare-recipient image than to the person shown in the non-welfare-recipient image. The results suggest that mental images of welfare recipients may bias attitudes toward welfare policies.
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