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Cognitive determinants of racial prejudice

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posted on 28.02.2017, 23:24 by Mozumder, Muhammad Kamruzzaman
Two studies, first qualitative and then quantitative, were conducted to investigate cognitive correlates of racial prejudice in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh - home to the decades-long interracial conflicts between indigenous Chakmas and settler Bengalis. The studies were guided by a theoretical framework comprised of cognitive behavioral perspective, indigenous psychology and grounded theory methodology. The first study employed a grounded theory approach to examine cognitive factors, especially thinking patterns and perceptions, likely to be associated with racial prejudice. In-depth interviews (IDI) were conducted with 26 respondents (12 Chakmas, 14 Bengalis), of which 16 had high and 10 had low level of prejudice. Participants were recruited from two districts of CHT through a theoretical sampling strategy. Four key-informants were also interviewed to triangulate the IDI findings. The interview data, analyzed using the qualitative software NVivo, revealed 31 types of race-related thoughts and perceptions of which 24 were associated with racial prejudice (e.g., dehumanization, disapproving contact, apprehension of negative, and victim thinking). The qualitative findings were used to generate empirical hypotheses that were tested in the quantitative study. Thirty-one cognitive factors derived from the qualitative study were reduced to 28 by a number of mergers and divisions. Three contact-related and one emotional factor were later added, making a total of 32 constructs. Thirty-three brief instruments, specific to the CHT, were developed to assess racial prejudice and all those constructs. All instruments demonstrated adequate face validity and internal consistency reliability (Cronbach’s alpha = .503 - .919; inter-item correlation r = .353 - .633) except for three (i.e., perception that opposite race is ethnocentric, apprehension of negative, and anchoring). Particularly notable was the 12-item racial prejudice scale that had high concurrent validity (r = -.791 with feeling thermometer), internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha .916; corrected item-total r = .471 - .789), and test-retest reliability (r = .979, two weeks gap). The quantitative study was conducted on 393 respondents, conveniently recruited from a number of suburban and rural locations of the Khagrachari district in CHT, almost equally represented by the two races (50.6% Chakmas, 49.4% Bengalis). With an age range of 18-87 years (average 37), the participants were mostly male (68.2%). Stepwise multiple linear regression revealed ten significant predictors explaining 86% of the variance in racial prejudice scores (F11,381 = 203.86, p < .01). Contact disapproval appeared to be the strongest predictor followed by dehumanization, progressive orientation, perspective taking, infrahumanization, overgeneralization, maximization-minimization, emotion towards other race, rumor susceptibility, and perceiving administration as biased. Of these ten factors, three (progressive orientation, rumor susceptibility, and perceiving administration as biased) were found to be quite novel as they were never studied before. Contrary to our general expectation, contact factors (direct-, extended-, and negative contact) failed to predict racial prejudice in the CHT context. This research provides an in-depth examination of race-related attitudes and thoughts within the context of CHT. The four-tiered indigenization model used here should be considered as a methodological approach for future research, as should the large set of contextualized instruments. The results suggest practical implications for prejudice reduction strategies appropriate to the CHT.


Principal supervisor

Shamsul Haque

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences (Monash University Malaysia)

Campus location



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences