They Have a Point: Testing Strategies to Improve Receptivity to Interracial Criticism and Promote Behavioral Change

Kaelyn Ireland, Logan Turner, Grace Bowe, Jessica Bray, Brooke Cassanova, Ca Saundra White, Steven Peek, Diana Riser, Katherine R.G. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People tend to be more resistant to criticism of their own group when it is given by outgroup members as opposed to ingroup members because they view the criticism as less constructive and legitimate when delivered by an outsider—a phenomenon known as the intergroup sensitivity effect, or ISE. The present study (N = 827) examines the effectiveness of two rhetorical techniques —balanced criticism (delivering criticism of one’s own group in addition to the target group) and buttering up (delivering praise alongside criticism) in reducing the ISE among European Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans. The impact of criticism on intentions to engage in corrective behavior was also explored. Participants read a fictitious interview excerpt containing criticism of their racial group delivered by a racial ingroup or outgroup member and then rated the critic and their statement on several dimensions. We found buttering up reduces the ISE among European Americans and Latino Americans, but not African Americans, while critiquing one’s own racial group alongside the target group is ineffective in reducing the ISE for the three examined groups. Additionally, we found African Americans were more willing to engage in corrective behavior to address criticism directed toward their racial group than their European American or Latino American counterparts. However, contrary to previous research, the group membership of the critic did not affect participants’ willingness to engage in corrective action. These findings contribute to our understanding of interracial dynamics in the United States and illuminate how to facilitate interracial criticism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere7089
JournalSocial Psychological Bulletin
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

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  • Intergroup Sensitivity Effect
  • behavior change
  • interracial criticism
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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