Beal et al. (2001) Beal, D. J., Ruscher, J. B., & Schnake, S. B.(2001). No benefit of the doubt: Intergroup bias in understanding causal explanation.British Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 531-544

Listeners typically allocate more weight to information that appears later in a sentence, presumably because the communicator added the information because it was especially important. For instance, when explaining a student's poor performance on a test, a professor might comment "The test was hard, but he should have studied more." The professor's addition of the necessity of studying--especially when that phrase follows the disjunction "but"--places less weight on test difficulty than on study behavior. Listeners then tend to blame the student more than if the explanations were reversed. The current study examine this conversational convention in an intergroup situation. Specifically, we demonstrated that white participants relied upon this conversational convention when the target was white, but tended to ignore it when the target was African-American, of Asian descent, or Hispanic/Latino. In particular, when mitigating explanations for negative behavior or outcomes were available, white participants failed to give ethnic outgroup members the benefit of the doubt.

Back to publications