On the Malleability of Ideology: Motivated Construals of Color Blindness

Eric D. Knowles, Brian S. Lowery, Caitlin M. Hogan, Rosalind M. Chow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors propose that the content of certain sociopolitical ideologies can be shaped by individuals in ways that satisfy their social motivations. This notion was tested in the context of color-blind ideology. Color blindness, when construed as a principle of distributive justice, is an egalitarian stance concerned with reducing discrepancies between groups' outcomes; as a principle of procedural justice, however, color blindness can function as a legitimizing ideology that entrenches existing inequalities. In Study 1, White people high in antiegalitarian sentiment were found to shift their construal of color blindness from a distributive to a procedural principle when exposed to intergroup threat. In Studies 2, 3A, and 3B, the authors used manipulations and a measure of threat to show that antiegalitarian White people endorse color blindness to legitimize the racial status quo. In Study 3B, participants' endorsement of color-blind ideology was mediated by increases in their preference for equal treatment (i.e., procedural justice) as a response to threat. In the Discussion section, the authors examine implications of the present perspective for understanding the manner in which individuals' compete over the meaning of crucial ideologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-869
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • color blindness
  • distributive justice
  • ideology
  • legitimization
  • procedural justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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