Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

March 1972


Published in Psychological Review, Vol. 79, No. 2 (1972), pp. 146–160. Copyright © 1972 American Psychological Association. Used by permission. “This article may not exactly replicate the fi nal version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.”


The belief theory of prejudice introduced by M. Rokeach stated that racial prejudice is the result of the anticipation of belief differences. The unidirectional causal relationship implied is criticized as oversimplified. Research, supporting the belief theory is examined, with conceptual and experimental deficiencies noted. A new formulation is proposed which emphasizes mutual causality between racial prejudice and anticipated belief differences. Two studies supporting that view are presented in which belief communications were presented as tape-recorded interviews or speeches, with the race and social class of the communicator first having been manipulated. The interrelationships between communicator’s race, specific communication topic, and subject’s prejudice level on the dimensions of felt similarity of the subject to the communicator are seen as supporting the mutual causation formulation.