Old Wines in New Bottles? Modern Racism, Inter-Group Attributions and Indigenous Australian Race Relations

Dr Andrew M. Guilfoyle
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Pettigrew (1979) identified the Ultimate Attribution Error (UAE) as the tendency for in-group actors to provide dispositional attributions for negative behaviours of an out-group actor; and, to explain away positive actions of out-group actor via situational attributions. Literature on inter-group attributions has yet to complete one of Pettigrew’s essential postulates – that these attributions are more likely for racially prejudiced individuals.

This paper extends inter-group attribution research by testing this postulate. A sub hypothesis in the present social climate was that, modern racists would fulfil the latter part of the UAE; but should not provide dispositional attributions for the out-groups actor’s negative interpersonal behaviour. This pattern would rather characterise them as old fashioned than modern, racists. Sixty two non-Indigenous (Anglo Australian) participants completed a modern racism scale (Augoustinos, Ahrens & Innes, 1994) followed by attributions to a video taped interaction involving an Indigenous Australian actor; in the context of an antisocial and positive social event.

Those who scored high on modern racism supported the postulate of the UAE; attributing to explain away the positive event associated with the Indigenous out-group actor. Interestingly, those who scored high on modern racism also evidenced racial prejudice akin to an old fashioned form, by assigning more dispositional attributions to the Indigenous out-group actor’s antisocial behaviour, than those low on modern racism. These findings are discussed in light of Indigenous Australian race relations theoretical distinctions between old fashioned and modern racism and, extensions to inter-group attribution research.

Keywords: Ultimate Attribution Error, Inter-Group Attributions, Modern Racism, Indigenous Australians
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and the Behavioural Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: New Racism and Inter-group Attributions within a Contemporary Indigenous Australian Context

Dr Andrew M. Guilfoyle

Senior Research Consultant, Centre for Social Research/Centre for Psychological Research, Edith Cowan University
Joondalup, WA, Australia

Ref: I06P0169