This just in, from the Journal of Group Process and Intergroup Relations

Narrow imaginations: How imagining ideal employees can increase racial bias


When people make important decisions, such as selecting a job candidate or graduate school applicant based on how well they fit with that imagined ideal. In two experiments we provide evidence that imagining the ideal has unintended consequences. Imagining an ideal candidate for a professional job led participants to preferentially imagine a White candidate (Experiment 1) and to preferentially hire a White candidate over a Black candidate with matched qualifications (Experiment 2). These effects were independent of explicit prejudice, suggesting that even low-prejudice individuals may be affected by this bias. However, an alternative imagery strategy—imagining a variety of suitable applicants—was effective at remediating the bias. In some cases discrimination may result not from prejudiced attitudes but from failures of the imagination.