The current work tested whether external motivation to respond without prejudice toward Blacks is associated with biased patterns of selective attention that reflect a threat response to Black individuals. In a dot-probe attentional bias paradigm, White participants with low and high external motivation to respond without prejudice toward Blacks (i.e., low-EM and high-EM individuals, respectively) were presented with pairs of White and Black male faces that bore either neutral or happy facial expressions; on each trial, the faces were displayed for either 30 ms or 450 ms. The findings were consistent with those of previous research on threat and attention: High-EM participants revealed an attentional bias toward neutral Black faces presented for 30 ms, but an attentional bias away from neutral Black faces presented for 450 ms. These attentional biases were eliminated, however, when the faces displayed happy expressions. These findings suggest that high levels of external motivation to avoid prejudice result in anxious arousal in response to Black individuals, and that this response affects even basic attentional processes.
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