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Abstract

Helping behavior is less frequently shown toward members of social out-groups (Cikra, Bruneau, & Saxe, 2011). Race defines a common source of social division in America and other countries, and although most condemn racial discrimination, helping is undermined in interracial interactions (Saucier, Miller, & Doucet, 2005). Recent theory suggests that mindfulness, a receptive attention to one’s present experience, can attenuate the conceptual boundaries that typically separate and distance oneself from others (Trautwein, Schmidt, & Naranjo, 2014). We designed an experiment to examine whether dispositional mindfulness would be associated with increased helping behavior in interracial contexts. Self-identifying White participants (N = 139) witnessed a confederate in need of help while waiting to participate in a study, and experimenters observed whether participants helped them or not; self-identifying White or Black confederates were randomly assigned to each experimental session. Three-block sequential logistic regression models were constructed to identify predictors of same-race and interracial helping. Overall, dispositional mindfulness, agreeableness, and lower racial prejudice predicted greater helping behavior in same-race interactions (all ps < 0.05). Interestingly, mindfulness moderated the help-reducing effects of racial prejudice in the interracial interactions (p < 0.05). More specifically, high mindfulness was associated with increased helping behavior among those high in racial prejudice. This correlational evidence is consistent with mindfulness theory, which suggests deploying mindful attention dampens psychological barriers between self and others. This study highlights the potential for mindfulness in reducing defensive attitudes and increasing prosocial responsiveness across social lines.

Publication Date

2016

Subject Major(s)

Psychology

Keywords

Mindfulness, Racial Prejudice, Helping, Empathic Concern, Prosocial Behavior, Interracial Interactions, Mindful Attention

Disciplines

Social Psychology

Current Academic Year

Junior

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Daniel R. Berry

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Kirk Warren Brown

Rights

© The Author(s)

Abating Prejudice With Presence: Dispositional Mindfulness Increases Interracial Helping Behavior

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