Recent research has examined how people confront prejudice and has begun to test the differential effects of performative activism and real activism. Individuals choose to confront prejudice either as a cover to not seem ignorant or because they genuinely care about prejudice confrontation. We have established three motivations for confronting prejudice. One motivation for confrontation is internal which relates to individuals genuinely caring about prejudice reduction and educating why prejudice is wrong. These individuals confront any prejudicial situation they find themselves in, outside factors hardly influencing their decision. There are also two external motivations, either to look good / appear positively to others or to not look bad / avoid appearing negatively to others. Those externally motivated to look good will confront when they know they will receive external validation or some sort of reward. Those externally motivated to not look bad will confront to avoid appearing negatively to others when prejudice occurs.
In the current study, we examined how individuals with different levels of internal or external motivation made decisions to confront prejudice. We asked participants to imagine that they viewed someone acting in a prejudicial way and we were explicit about the risk, “you think that confronting would be risky” versus “would not be risky”. We also told them about the reward, “you know that you would feel good about yourself” versus “you know that it would make you look good to others”. Those higher in internal motivations reported significantly greater intentions to confront prejudice which were driven by motivations to reduce prejudice and advocate. Those more externally motivated to confront prejudice did also report greater likelihood of engaging in confrontation but to a lesser degree. It was especially driven by motivations toward social approval, performative activism, and a fear of disapproval from others. Finally, prejudice was conceptualized differently by those higher in internal motivations versus higher in external motivations. Internals viewed prejudice as a higher overall societal issue whereas externals saw it at a lower societal issue. Overall, this study extends on previous studies showing that internal motivations promote less performative activism due to caring about prejudice confrontation to a higher extent compared to external motivations.