Journal of Pacific Rim Psychology


Black African Immigrants to Australia: Prejudice and the Function of Attitudes

Safiyya Khana1 c1 and Anne Pedersena2 c2

a1 Murdoch University, Australia.

a2 Murdoch University, Australia.


In recent years there has been an increase in Black African immigrants to Australia; however, there is no social psychological research that directly examines community attitudes towards this group. Here, the findings of a community survey in Western Australia are reported using data collected from 184 Australian participants. We were particularly interested in prejudiced attitudes and the function of attitudes towards Black African immigrants. On prejudice, a reliable and valid instrument measuring attitudes towards Black African immigrants was constructed. On functions, the most frequently reported function of attitude was ‘value-expressive’ (‘My attitudes give expression to my values’), followed by experiential-schematic (‘Helps me to make sense of the world’) and indirect experiential-schematic (‘Media, friends and family help me to make sense of the world’). While there was no significant difference between immigrant-accepting versus immigrant-rejecting participants on the value expressive or the experiential schematic functions, rejecting participants scored higher on the indirect experiential schematic function, highlighting the salience of second-hand information. The participants' most important reason for potentially changing their own attitudes towards Black African immigrants, however, were direct experience (experiential-schematic), followed by values (value expressive) and indirect experience (indirect experiential-schematic), two functions that were equally important. Qualitative open-ended interviews about attitudes converged with these themes, and added ‘integration’ by assimilating Australian culture, and not being involved in criminal activities (which highlights again a role for the media). We discuss these findings and derive a clear direction for anti-prejudice strategies at community and government levels.

Key Words

  • function of attitudes;
  • prejudice;
  • immigrants;
  • change;
  • Black African


c1 Address for correspondence: Safiyya Khan at the School of Psychology, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, 6150, Australia.

c2 Anne Pedersen at the School of Psychology, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, 6150, Australia.