Believing Is Seeing

Kevin Lewis

February 27, 2020

God as a White man: A psychological barrier to conceptualizing Black people and women as leadership worthy
Steven Roberts et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


In the United States, God is commonly conceptualized as the omnipotent and omniscient entity that created the universe, and as a White man. We questioned whether the extent to which God is conceptualized as a White man predicts the extent to which White men are perceived as particularly fit for leadership. We found support for this across 7 studies. In Study 1, we created 2 measures to examine the extent to which U.S. Christians conceptualized God as a White man, and in Study 2 we found that, controlling for multiple covariates (e.g., racist and sexist attitudes, religiosity, political attitudes), responses on these measures predicted perceiving White male job candidates as particularly fit for leadership, among both Black and White, male and female, Christians. In Study 3, we found that U.S. Christian children, both White and racial minority, conceptualized God as more White than Black (and more male than female), which predicted perceiving White people as particularly boss-like. We next found evidence to suggest that this phenomenon is rooted in broader intuitions that extend beyond Christianity. That is, in a novel context with novel groups and a novel god, U.S. Christian adults (Studies 4 and 6), atheist adults (Study 5), and agnostic preschoolers (Study 7), used a god's identity to infer which groups were best fit for leadership. Collectively, our data reveal a clear and consistent pattern: Attributing a social identity to God predicts perceiving individuals who share that identity as more fit for leadership.

The Trump Effect: An Experimental Investigation of the Emboldening Effect of Racially Inflammatory Elite Communication
Benjamin Newman et al.
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


This article explores the effect of explicitly racial and inflammatory speech by political elites on mass citizens in a societal context where equality norms are widespread and generally heeded yet a subset of citizens nonetheless possesses deeply ingrained racial prejudices. The authors argue that such speech should have an 'emboldening effect' among the prejudiced, particularly where it is not clearly and strongly condemned by other elite political actors. To test this argument, the study focuses on the case of the Trump campaign for president in the United States, and utilizes a survey experiment embedded within an online panel study. The results demonstrate that in the absence of prejudiced elite speech, prejudiced citizens constrain the expression of their prejudice. However, in the presence of prejudiced elite speech - particularly when it is tacitly condoned by other elites - the study finds that the prejudiced are emboldened to both express and act upon their prejudices.

Skin in the Game: Colorism and the Subtle Operation of Stereotypes in Men's College Basketball
Steven Foy & Rashawn Ray
American Journal of Sociology, November 2019, Pages 730-785


Colorism research often suffers from endogeneity issues related to human capital outcomes and researchers' inability to compare the effects of skin tone to those of racial classification. Furthermore, colorism research focuses on intraracial differences in skin tone inequality while insufficiently considering skin tone inequality across racial groups. Using data from video broadcasts of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's annual, single-elimination Men's Division I Basketball Tournament for the years 2000-2010, we quantitatively examine comments made by announcers about the performance, physical characteristics, and mental characteristics of players across various skin tones. Controlling for objective measures of performance, we find that announcers are more likely to discuss the performance and mental abilities of lighter-skinned players and the physical characteristics of darker-skinned players. We argue that, although the two concepts are related, skin tone is not simply a proxy for racial classification. Rather, skin tone inequality transcends traditional racial boundaries.

Questioning white losses and anti-white discrimination in the United States
Megan Earle & Gordon Hodson
Nature Human Behaviour, February 2020, Pages 160-168


Political polarization and far-right movements across the West are thought to be partly driven by beliefs that white people face discrimination in societies that supposedly favour non-white people. We compared perceptions of racial discrimination with reported discrimination experiences in large, US national samples to shed light on the veracity of such beliefs. Regarding experiences, we find that white people consistently experienced less discrimination than black people, and that declines in anti-black discrimination have not coincided with increases in anti-white discrimination. Regarding perceptions, respondents overall did not express zero-sum discrimination beliefs. Moreover, black respondents and Democrats perceived that black people face much more discrimination than white people, whereas white respondents and Republicans perceived a smaller discrimination gap between black and white people, relative to reported discrimination experiences. Overall, improvements for black people do not seem to coincide with disadvantages for white people, and discrimination perceptions differ from reported discrimination experiences. Implications for racial attitudes, political polarization and voting behaviour are discussed.

Not Your Average Joe: Pluralistic Ignorance, Status, and Modern Sexism
Tagart Cain Sobotka
Men and Masculinities, forthcoming


A growing body of research has highlighted that men's gender-related behaviors and choices are strongly influenced by the gendered beliefs they believe other men hold. However, limited research has sought to identify how men come to form opinions about what other men believe. Drawing from research on pluralistic ignorance, status, and masculinity, this study examines the role that high and low status men's sexist behaviors have on the discrepancy between men's own sexist beliefs and those they believe are held by most other men. Results from a series of online experiments show that men believe that "most men" are more sexist than themselves. Moreover, while the sexist acts of a low status man decrease men's personal endorsement of sexist beliefs, the same acts by a high status man increased men's personal endorsement of sexist beliefs. While personal beliefs were malleable, neither high nor low status men's behaviors affected men's perception of how sexist other men are. Together, these findings provide insight into the ways in which pluralistic ignorance and the sexist actions of high status men may contribute to systems of gender inequality.

What's in a shape? Evidence of gender category associations with basic forms
Steven Stroessner et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


Five experiments tested the possibility that basic shapes - squares, circles, and equilateral triangles - are gendered. Based on morphological, evolutionary, and socialization considerations, we hypothesized that square shapes would be associated with the male gender category and circles with the female gender category. Results on both direct (self-report) and indirect (IAT, priming) measures were consistent with the hypothesized associations. Squares and circles were strongly and consistently associated with gender concepts including masculinity/femininity, gendered terms, and traits. When these shapes appeared in a naturalistic environment, their presence served as a belongingness cue for both men and women. These results attest to the existence of gender associations in responses to some basic shapes and, more broadly, raise the possibility that social cognitive processes might play a central role in perception and judgment of social and non-social entities alike.

Perceptions of Racial Slurs Used by Black Individuals Toward White Individuals: Derogation or Affiliation?
Conor O'Dea & Donald Saucier
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Research suggests that racial slurs may be "reclaimed" by the targeted group to convey affiliation rather than derogation. Although it is most common in intragroup uses (e.g., "nigga" by a Black individual toward another Black individual), intergroup examples of slur reappropriation (e.g., "nigga" by a Black individual toward a White individual) are also common. However, majority and minority group members' perceptions of intergroup slur reappropriation remain untested. We examined White (Study 1) and Black (Study 2) individuals' perceptions of the reappropriated terms, "nigga" and "nigger" compared with a control term chosen to be a non-race-related, neutral term ("buddy"), a nonracial derogative term ("asshole") and a White racial slur ("cracker") used by a Black individual toward a White individual. We found that the intergroup use of reappropriated slurs was perceived quite positively by both White and Black individuals. Our findings have important implications for research on intergroup relations and the reappropriation of slurs.

The Countervailing Effects of Weight Stigma on Weight-Loss Motivation and Perceived Capacity for Weight Control
Brenda Major et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


We hypothesized that exposure to weight stigma simultaneously increases motivation to lose or avoid gaining weight to avoid future stigma and decreases perceived capacity to do so, by heightening concerns about experiencing stigma and negative affect. Study 1 showed that more frequently experiencing weight-based discrimination was associated with greater concerns about being a victim of weight stigma, which predicted increased motivation to lose weight but decreased perceived capacity for weight control. Study 2 showed that participants randomly assigned to view a weight-stigmatizing (vs. control) message showed increased concerns about being a target of weight stigma, which indirectly increased motivation to lose weight and decreased state self-control. These, in turn, predicted increased willingness to engage in unhealthy weight-loss behaviors and decreased perceived capacity for weight control, respectively. Study 3 showed that increased motivation to avoid stigma and increased negative affect mediate these effects of exposure to weight stigma.

Verb Intergroup Bias: Verbs Are Used More Often in Reference to In-Groups than Out-Groups
Magdalena Formanowicz
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Agency is a basic dimension of evaluations of social groups. More agency is assigned to in-groups than to out-groups, and verb intergroup bias (VIB) captures this tendency in language use. Four studies that performed large-scale quantitative analysis of natural language use, which covered more than 200 billion words, 20 countries, and various time spans, support the VIB model. Verbs, which are prototypically associated with actions, serve as agency indicators, and thus generic in-groups are more often described with verbs (we vs. they). Moreover, VIB is present in specific between-group comparisons: for Americans as an in-group reference and various out-groups (e.g., Mexicans, Russians, and Palestinians), as well as for Americans, Canadians, Britons, and Australians as in-group references and immigrants as a generic out-group. VIB is a useful tool in diagnosing intergroup discourses. Furthermore, VIB attests to the importance of analyzing language's role in the formation and maintenance of social biases.

The Bidirectional Causal Relation Between Implicit Stereotypes and Implicit Prejudice
Curtis Phills, Adam Hahn & Bertram Gawronski
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Although stereotypes and prejudice are commonly regarded as conceptually distinct but related constructs, previous research remains silent on the processes underlying their relation. Applying the balance-congruity principle to the concepts (a) group, (b) valence, and (c) attribute, we argue that the valence of attributes contained in a group-stereotype shapes evaluations of the group, while prejudice toward a group influences which attributes are stereotypically associated with the group. Using fictitious (Experiments 1 and 3) and real (Experiments 2 and 4) groups, the current studies demonstrate that (a) experimentally induced changes in the valence of semantic attributes associated with a group (stereotypes) influence implicit prejudice toward that group (Experiments 1 and 2), and (b) experimentally induced changes in the valence of a group (prejudice) influence implicit stereotyping of that group (Experiments 3 and 4). These findings demonstrate a bidirectional causal relation between prejudice and stereotypes.

Sharing Stories, Sharing Bias: How Descriptions of Context Shape Negative Stereotype Use in Response to Accounts of Economic Adversity
Mary Beth Hunzaker & Marcus Mann
Social Problems, forthcoming


Research shows that observers use negative stereotypes to construe victims of misfortune as responsible for their own fate. In two experiments, we test three situational characteristics' (injustice, scale, and control) effects on observers' tendency to use negative stereotypes when communicating stories about others' economic hardship. Study 1 examines predictions, based on social psychological theories of equity and justice, that stereotype use should increase in response to accounts of misfortune that are the result of unjust under-reward. Contrary to predictions, Study 1 found that participants used more stereotypes when retelling accounts in which the protagonist's misfortune was not the result of unjust rewards. Study 2 investigates competing predictions to Study 1, based on research regarding how portrayals of scale (whether the misfortune affects one vs. many) and control (whether another actor has control over the misfortune of another) affect perceptions of misfortune. Study 2 results indicate that stereotype use increases in response to accounts of large-scale, uncontrollable misfortune. Together, these studies suggest that qualities of portrayals (such as scale and control) are crucial in understanding stereotype transmission processes above and beyond the role of perceptions of injustice (i.e., the unequal distribution of rewards).


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