Temporal Distance and Discrimination: An Audit Study in Academia

Through a field experiment set in academia (with a sample of 6,548 professors), we found that decisions about distant-future events were more likely to generate discrimination against women and minorities (relative to Caucasian males) than were decisions about near-future events. In our study, faculty members received e-mails from fictional prospective doctoral students seeking to schedule a meeting either that day or in 1 week; students’ names signaled their race (Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Indian, or Chinese) and gender. When the requests were to meet in 1 week, Caucasian males were granted access to faculty members 26% more often than were women and minorities; also, compared with women and minorities, Caucasian males received more and faster responses. However, these patterns were essentially eliminated when prospective students requested a meeting that same day. Our identification of a temporal discrimination effect is consistent with the predictions of construal-level theory and implies that subtle contextual shifts can alter patterns of race- and gender-based discrimination.

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APA-Format Citation

Milkman, K. L., Akinola, M., & Chugh, D. (2012). Temporal Distance and Discrimination. Psychological Science, 23(7), 710-717. doi:10.1177/0956797611434539