The Power of Implicit Processing of Religious Symbols to Activate or Moderate Anti-Muslim Attitudes Among Jews
Two experiments examined the influence of religious concepts on stereotypes, prejudices and threat perceptions of Jews towards Muslims. In Study 1, students (N=68) completed a search puzzle by which they were exposed to out-group, in-group or neutral religious symbols, and filled questionnaires assessing their out-group attitudes. Priming did not affect attitudes. In Study 2 subliminal priming was employed and it was found that subliminal exposure of participants (N=63) to in-group religious concepts reduced their negative attitudes towards Muslims, as reflected by measures of prejudice, social distance, realistic and symbolic threat perceptions. All these negative attitude measures were positively correlated with religiosity. Stereotypes and inter-group anxiety, however, were not affected by priming, and the former was not correlated with religiosity.
The findings highlight the complexity of the aforementioned forms of intergroup negative attitudes. Exposure to religious concepts may evoke prejudices and threat perceptions but may also reduce negative attitudes and anxiety. Moreover, a multicultural environment improves negative contact and may prevent its possible behavioral outcomes. Yet, exposure to religious content may prompt negative attitudes towards the minority in a culturally diverse and tense reality, suggesting the influence of minority-majority relations on out-group attitudes. These findings contribute to an understanding of the social context in which racism and violence against minorities and religious groups exist as well as the emotional and cognitive mechanisms that generate or moderate negative attitudes.