The aversive bystander effect whereby egalitarian bystanders overestimate the confrontation of prejudice

Hanna Szekeres*, Eran Halperin, Anna Kende, Tamar Saguy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Everyday expression of prejudice continues to pose a social challenge across societies. We tend to assume that to the extent people are egalitarian, they are more likely to confront prejudice—but this might not necessarily be the case. We tested this assumption in two countries (US and Hungary) among majority members of society, using a behavioral paradigm for measuring confronting. Prejudice was directed at various outgroup minority individuals (African Americans, Muslims and Latinos in the US, and Roma in Hungary). Across four experiments (N = 1116), we predicted and found that egalitarian (anti-prejudiced) values were only associated with hypothetical confronting intentions, but not with actual confronting, and stronger egalitarians were more likely to overestimate their confronting than weaker egalitarians—to the point that while intentions differed, the actual confronting rate of stronger and weaker egalitarians were similar. We also predicted and found that such overestimation was associated with internal (and not external) motivation to respond without prejudice. We also identified behavioral uncertainty (being uncertain how to intervene) as a potential explanation for egalitarians’ overestimation. The implications of these findings for egalitarians’ self-reflection, intergroup interventions, and research are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number10538
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

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