This study examined how encountering racial prejudice affects cognitive functioning. We assessed performance on the Stroop task after subjects reviewed job files that suggested an evaluator had made nonprejudiced, ambiguously prejudiced, or blatantly prejudiced hiring recommendations. The cognitive impact of exposure to ambiguous versus blatant cues to prejudice depended on subjects' racial group. Black subjects experienced the greatest impairment when they saw ambiguous evidence of prejudice, whereas White subjects experienced the greatest impairment when they saw blatant evidence of prejudice. Given the often ambiguous nature of contemporary expressions of prejudice, these results have important implications for the performance of ethnic minorities across many domains.
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