Image credit: Dennis Douven

Implicit attitudes toward ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga’: Three studies in samples of those who avoid or reappropriate usage

Image credit: Dennis Douven

Implicit attitudes toward ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga’: Three studies in samples of those who avoid or reappropriate usage

Abstract

There is sufficiently broad understanding of the history of hate and harm encapsulated in the word nigger that it has disappeared from the language of most Americans. There is decidedly less consensus about the use of the nonrhotic form, nigga, which in some communities of Black Americans is actively used as a means to reclaim or reappropriate meaning and valence. Three studies (N = 1428) used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to probe the implicit attitudes evoked by nigger and nigga in volunteers on the Project Implicit website and in a sample of predominately Black and Latinx underserved students. Explicit attitudes toward nigger and nigga revealed expected, nuanced sociocultural meanings of the terms, but these self-reports rarely correlated with implicit attitudes. In the Project Implicit samples (mainly, avoiders of the slur) we found that implicit attitudes toward nigger and nigga were robustly negative compared to the terms Black, Afro American, or African American. Notably, this negative implicit attitude was equally present in both White and Black Americans. In the sample of underserved youth (mainly, reappropriators of the slur), the nonrhotic form, nigga, also revealed negative valence, but significantly less so than in the Project Implicit sample. We discuss the implications of these findings for culturally significant words and their evaluative meaning.

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Sa-kiera T. J. Hudson, PhD
Postdoctoral Associate in the Social Perception and Communications Lab

My research interests include race, gender, sexual orientation, and power.