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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of two positive discrete emotions, awe and nurturant love, on implicit prejudices. After completing an emotion induction task, participants completed Implicit Association Test blocks where they paired photos of Arab and White individuals with "good" and "bad" evaluations. We hypothesized that nurturant love would increase the strength of negative evaluations of Arab individuals and positive evaluations of White individuals, whereas awe would decrease the strength of these negative evaluations when compared to a neutral condition. However, we found that both awe and nurturant love increased negative implicit prejudices toward Arab individuals when compared to the neutral condition.
Emotions have been defined as coordinated and functional changes in subjective experience, motivation, physiological activation, instrumental behavior, expressive behavior, and cognition that are evoked by important threats or opportunities in the environment. The proposed study looks at cognitive changes associated with the experience of several positive emotions, with a specific focus on awe. Prior research shows that positive emotions tend to increase people's use of cognitive heuristics (i.e. mental shortcuts used to simplify information we intake from the environment) and changes how they apply rules of thumb from stored knowledge to make decisions. Stereotypes, or assumptions about the characteristics held by individual members of a group, are one such heuristic. Awe, in contrast to other positive emotions, has been found to reduce people's tendency to rely on heuristics, rather than increasing its use. Thus, awe should tend to reduce stereotyping specifically. Participants made judgments on three characteristics and two types of theoretically valuable true/false statements. However, for both our measures, awe had no significant effect on stereotyping. Participants in the enthusiasm condition were significantly more likely than those in the awe condition to correctly identify stereotype-inconsistent statements present in the biography, which is the opposite of the predicted direction. Patterns for all four emotion conditions trended similarly to our predictions for stereotype-consistent statements correctly marked as being absent in the biography. There were no significant differences in ratings of three traits. Implications for enthusiasm and awe are discussed in the context of stereotypes of social objects and schemas of nonsocial objects.