Testing the limits of tolerance: How inter-group anxiety amplifies negative and offensive responses to out-group-initiated contact

M. van Zomeren, A. Fischer, R. Spears

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    Abstract

    Three studies examine the amplifying effects of intergroup anxiety on individuals' negative and offensive responses to out-group-initiated contact. Because intergroup anxiety typically results in avoidance of the initiation of intergroup contact, these studies explored how intergroup anxiety affected individuals' interpretation of and responses to out-group-initiated contact. The authors hypothesized that intergroup anxiety amplifies individuals' threat appraisal of out-group-initiated contact as well as their feelings of anger and offensive action tendencies toward the out-group. Results showed consistent support for these hypotheses by demonstrating that intergroup anxiety amplified individuals' threat appraisal (Studies 2 and 3), anger (Studies 1-3), and offensive action tendencies toward the out-group (Study 2). Anger consistently predicted offensive action tendencies (Studies 2-3). Thus, intergroup anxiety decreased individuals' limits of tolerance by increasing their threat appraisal of out-group-initiated contact. The results are discussed in relation to theories of threat, emotion, and tolerance. © 2007 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1686-1699
    JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
    Volume33
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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