Education, Ideology, and Racial Ambivalence: Conflict Amplification or Conflict Resolution?

  • Christopher M. Federico


Traditionally, social and political psychologists have assumed that most evaluatively laden beliefs and perceptions are structured in terms of a single bipolar affective dimension, with positive evaluations at one end and negative evaluations at the other (Schuman et al. 1997; also see Cacioppo and Berntson 1994; Cacioppo, Gardner, and Berntson 1999; Green and Citrin 1994; Levine, Carmines, and Sniderman 1999). This assumption implies that positive and negative evaluations should be reciprocally related, with the acceptance of positive evaluations necessarily leading to the rejection of negative ones. However, theory and research on affect increasingly point toward the existence of distinguishable positive and negative affective systems (Cacioppo and Berntson 1994; Cacioppo, Gardner, and Berntson 1999). In general, this bivariate model of the evaluative process suggests that separate “channels” may be responsible for positive and negative responses to various objects, and that these two channels may not always work in a reciprocal fashion. One of the more interesting phenomena highlighted by the bivariate model is ambivalence. Individuals who are ambivalent toward a particular object have both positive and negative perceptions of that object, rather than perceiving it in wholly positive or negative terms (Cacioppo and Berntson 1994; Cacioppo, Gardner, and Berntson 1999; Thompson, Zanna, and Griffin 1995). Research suggests that attitudes and perceptions in a number of social and political domains may be characterized by ambivalence (Alvarez and Brehm 2002; Craig, Kane, and Martinez 2002; Craig et al. 2005b; Lavine 2001; also see Cacioppo, Gardner, and Berntson 1999).


Racial Attitude Individualistic Concern Symbolic Racism Humanitarian Concern General Conflict 
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© Stephen C. Craig and Michael D. Martinez 2005

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  • Christopher M. Federico

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