Proactive control of implicit bias: A theoretical model and implications for behavior change

David M. Amodio, Jillian K. Swencionis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Four experiments examined the effect of proactive control on expressions of implicit racial bias. Whereas reactive control is engaged in response to a biasing influence (e.g., a stereotype, temptation, or distraction), proactive control is engaged in advance of such biases, functioning to strengthen task focus and, by consequence, limiting the affordance for a bias to be expressed in behavior. Using manipulations of response interference to modulate proactive control, proactive control was found to eliminate expressions of weapons bias, prejudice, and stereotyping on commonly used implicit assessments. Process dissociation analysis indicated that this pattern reflected changes in controlled processing but not automatic associations, as theorized, and assessments of neural activity, using event-related potentials, revealed that proactive control reduces early attention to task-irrelevant racial cues while increasing focus on task-relevant responses. Together, these results provide initial evidence for proactive control in social cognition and demonstrate its effectiveness at reducing expressions of implicit racial bias. Based on these findings and past research, we present a model of proactive and reactive control that offers a novel and generative perspective on self-regulation and prejudice reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-275
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Control
  • Implicit
  • Prejudice
  • Proactive
  • Stereotype

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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