The formation of attitudes toward new immigrant groups

Gregory R Maio, Victoria M Esses, David W Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People often receive information about new immigrant groups prior to any direct contact with group members. However, it is not clear how this information shapes attitudes toward the groups. To explore this issue, 204 subjects were told about an unknown immigrant group that was presented as high or low in personal relevance. Subjects were then given positive or negative consensus information about the emotions that group members elicit from others, group members' personality traits, and group members' values. As expected, results indicated that the presentation of positive information about emotional reactions, personality traits, and values caused attitudes to be more favorable than did the presentation of negative information. Importantly, however, the combined impact of the emotion and personality trait information depended on whether the group was perceived to be of high or low personal relevance. Specifically, when the information about emotions and personality traits was similarly valanced (i.e., both were positive or both were negative), attitudes toward the group tended to be less favorable in the high personal relevance condition than in the low personal relevance condition. In contrast, when mixed information was presented (i.e., positive emotions and negative personality traits or negative emotions and positive personality traits), attitudes tended to be more favorable in the high personal relevance condition. In addition, attitudes, once formed, predicted further perceptions of the group and behavioral intentions toward group members. The implications of the findings for the reduction of prejudice toward new immigrant groups are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1762-1776
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1994


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