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(THE CONVERSATION) The research summary is a brief overview of interesting scholarly work.

The big idea

People seem more willing to boycott a retailer in response to a video message about a consumer’s experience of unfairness while shopping when the narrator is black, even when the source of the actual information is from a person white, according to research I conducted with several colleagues. which is currently undergoing peer review.

We wanted to observe if and how the race of the person telling a story of racial injustice affects the reaction of their audience. So we conducted three studies that manipulated details about storyteller and victim race to isolate the role storyteller race plays.

In the first study, we recruited 370 Caucasian male participants using a participatory university research panel. We asked them to watch a video in which a professional male actor portraying a consumer describes shopping at a store with his family and being unfairly suspected of shoplifting.

Half of the participants heard the story from a white man, the rest from a black person – who was considered more believable on the issue in a previous test.


But after finishing the story, the man reveals that the real source of the story was his friend Jay, who was hesitant to speak out. A photo of him appears on the screen. Randomly, some participants see a Black, others see a White. Others did not receive this information, as a control condition.

Participants were then told that the speaker of the message was organizing a boycott and asked how willing they would be to support it.

We found that people were more likely to support taking harsh punitive action against the retailer if the initial source of the information was black, even when he reveals the incident happened to his white friend. But if the storyteller was white, there was much less support for a boycott – although that would change if the incident happened to a black friend.

To better understand what’s going on here, we conducted a second study, this time with 301 white men. The setup was the same except we didn’t use a control and asked for more tracks. In particular, we asked participants to rank how morally outraged they were by the story – a process that has been explored in the consumer ethics and morality literature.

We confirmed our previous results and also found that the black source elicits more moral outrage – a negative moral emotional reaction to unethical behavior. In other words, the black storyteller was more effective at eliciting perceptions of injustice, which subsequently reduced their likelihood of altering their initial judgment in response to new information.

A third study, involving 300 white men and women, replicated the study but revealed the true source of the racial injustice story early in the video. The impact was that participants were less likely to support punitive action if they initially learned that the actual source was white, even if the storyteller was black.

why is it important

A growing body of research on the persistence of misinformation shows that people often fail to update their formed beliefs in response to a message in light of new information. This previous research focuses on the lasting influence of message content.

Our research suggests that source-related judgments can exert a similar lasting influence. For policymakers and others trying to share information with the public, it shows the importance of the person they choose as the source of the message – such as a well-known celebrity for fighting vaccine misinformation. For the rest of us, it helps to recognize this bias and to pay attention to the source of a message – whether in a TV commercial or a tweet – and consider the message separately from the source.

And after

We would like to test how revealing demographic information about the source at the end of a message exerts influence in other contexts, such as sexual harassment. We also plan to go beyond measures of intention to examine the influence on the actual behavior of participants.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/people-are-more-likely-to-react-to-a-black-persons-story-of-injustice-even-if-it-happened-to – someone-who-is-white-172122.