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The “Obama Effect”? Priming Contemporary Racial Milestones Increases Implicit Racial Bias among Whites

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.2016.34.6.544

This research was designed to test if priming the election of President Obama as a contemporary racial milestone would increase implicit racial bias among White Americans. Participants (N = 202) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a power threat prime (Obama), a majority threat prime (shifting racial demographics of the U.S.), or no prime, before completing an implicit measure of positive and negative associations with Whites and Blacks. Consistent with group threat theory, both group threat primes increased implicit anti-Black bias. In the power threat prime (Obama) condition, only those with lower internal motivation to respond without prejudice showed elevated implicit bias. Findings indicate that framing Obama as a racial pioneer elicits group threat reactions among Whites with low internal motivation to respond without prejudice, increasing implicit anti-Black bias.