EATING AWAY AT PERSONAL PREJUDICE: EXAMINING ASSIMILATION OF BLACKS AND ASIANS USING CHARACTERS FROM AMC'S THE WALKING DEAD
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Parasocial intergroup contact has been shown to influence beliefs about stigmatized groups, such as racial minorities. Previous work has demonstrated that affective factors, such as perspective taking, can account for the reductions in prejudice following parasocial interactions. The current study provides the first test of a cognitive factor (i.e., assimilation) that was expected to function in the same way. Specifically, it was expected that following the priming of a parasocial relationship with a Black or Asian character from the television show The Walking Dead, White participants would assimilate, or identify more closely with, the target characters racial group (i.e., Blacks or Asians). This assimilation was expected to lead to subsequent reduction in prejudice toward those racial groups, respectively. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that there would be individual differences that moderated this effect, such that it would only be observed for people low in avoidance of intimacy, as they are comfortable forming and maintaining close relationships. The final sample was comprised of 62 UH students and 148 MTurk workers. Significant findings were only observed for UH participants, and all observed effects were in the opposite direction of predictions. The discussion centers on explanations for the unexpected effects on assimilation, the null effects for prejudice, and general sample limitations. Implications and future directions are discussed.