• Schema Avoidance and Social Norm Application in Changing Attitudes Toward Affirmative Action Programs

      Knapp, F. Andrew; The College at Brockport (2008-05-01)
      The interpretation and implementation of affirmative action policies (AAPs) has had the effect of creating beliefs and attitudes concerning these policies that vary with personal experience, race, gender, and other factors. Since attitudes toward AAPs have been found to be especially difficult to change, it is important to understand attitudes and how to change them. Following Ajzen's (1991, 2005) Theory of Planned Behavior, two hypotheses were tested: first, the avoidance of schema activation (i.e., by assessing attitudes toward AAPs without calling them "affirmative action") results in more positive attitudes toward the goals and ideals of those policies, and second, for those without any firmly held beliefs concerning AAPs, the presence or absence of a social norm example will influence attitudes in the direction provided by the example. This study of 298 undergraduate students showed a significant relationship between attitudes toward AAPs (measured with two separate dependent variables: a semantic differential and a measure of justice) and presence or absence of the words "affirmative action." Results were mixed in the presence or absence of a social norm model, with significant results only seen in the groups where the term affirmative action was not used. These results suggest that attitudes toward affirmative action can be influenced by avoiding schema activation and that providing a positive norm model is ineffective in changing attitudes when the term affirmative action is used. Correlations were also found between attitudes towards AAPs and measures of knowledge of AAPs, as well as participants' intention to take some kind of action regarding AAPs.