Australia receives relatively few asylum seekers, but the public debate on this issue is intense and there is widespread prejudice toward them. The current research considers the role of two approaches in explaining prejudice toward asylum seekers: similarity priming and affective reactions of empathy. Participants (N 119) were primed that asylum seekers were either "similar" to or "different" from them and were asked whether these similarities or differences were important. Dispositional empathy and asylum-seeker empathy were measured. Results showed that priming was associated with increased prejudice when priming involved similarity and those similarities were held to be important. Moreover, cognitive similarity priming and affective empathy contributed separately and additively to the prediction of prejudice. Qualitative responses to the priming question revealed that even when "difference" was primed, two of the three prevalent themes were positive. Results are discussed in relation to understanding the cognitive and affective bases of empathy and prejudice, and practical implications for activists working to reduce prejudice toward asylum seekers.
- Asylum seekers