tory environment. Such automatic reactions have also been shown to lead to automatic forms of stereotype-confirming behavior (Bargh et al., 1996; Chen and Bargh, 1997).
The main effect of subtle prejudice seems to be to favor the ingroup rather than to directly disadvantage the outgroup; in this sense, such prejudice is ambiguous rather than unambiguous. That is, the prejudice could indicate greater liking for the majority rather than greater disliking for the minority. As a practical matter, in a zero-sum setting, ingroup advantage often results in the same outcome as outgroup disadvantage but not always. Empirically, ingroup members spontaneously reward the ingroup, allocating discretionary resources to their own kind and thereby relatively disadvantaging the outgroup (Brewer and Brown, 1998). People spontaneously view their own ingroups (but not the outgroup) in a positive light, attributing its strengths to the essence of what makes a person part of the ingroup (genes being a major example). The outgroup’s alleged defects are used to justify these behaviors. These ambiguous allocations and attributions constitute another subtle form of discrimination.
According to theories of ambivalent prejudice (e.g., for race, Katz and Hass, 1988; for gender, Glick and Fiske, 1996), the ambivalence of subtle prejudice means that outgroups are not necessarily subjected to uniform antipathy (Fiske et al., 2002). Outgroups may be disrespected but liked in a condescending manner. Versions of the “Uncle Tom” stereotype are a racial example. At other times, outgroups may be respected but disliked. White reactions to black professionals can exemplify this behavior. Some racial outgroups elicit both disrespect and dislike. Poor people, welfare recipients, and homeless people (all erroneously perceived to be black more often than white) frequently elicit an unambivalent and hostile response.
The important point is that reactions need not be entirely negative to foster discrimination. One might, for example, fail to promote someone on the basis of race, perceiving the person to be deferential, cooperative, and nice but essentially incompetent, whereas a comparable ingroup member might receive additional training or support to develop greater competence. Conversely, one might acknowledge an outgroup member’s exceptional competence but fail to see the person as sociable and comfortable—therefore not fitting in, not “one of us”—and fail to promote the person as rapidly on that account.
All manifestations of subtle prejudice—indirect, automatic, ambiguous, and ambivalent—constitute barriers to full equality of treatment. Subtle prejudice is much more difficult to document than more overt forms, and its effects on discriminatory behavior are more difficult to capture. However, “subtle” does not mean trivial or inconsequential; subtle prejudice can result in major adverse effects.
For example, Bargh and colleagues (1996) demonstrated how categori-