By Association

Kevin Lewis

November 03, 2022

Endorsing negative intergroup attitudes to justify failure to confront prejudice
Hanna Szekeres et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming 


While most people believe they would speak up against prejudice, many fail to do so. We identify a harmful consequence of such inaction through examining its impact on bystanders’ own prejudice. Across four studies in two countries (N = 1,003) using a behavioral paradigm and experimental pretest–posttest design, participants witnessed prejudice and discrimination against an outgroup minority (Jewish/Roma in Hungary, Muslim/Latinx in US). Drawing on self-justification theories, we predicted and found across Studies 1–3 that those who had an opportunity but did not confront, endorsed more negative intergroup attitudes following the incident both compared to their own prior attitudes and to control groups -- that is, those who witnessed the same prejudice but had no opportunity to confront and those who did not confront different (nonintergroup) prejudice. In Study 4, the proposed effect occurred only among those who initially valued confronting. We suggest that failure to speak up amplifies prejudice in society.

Affect toward Minority and Majority Groups in the Era of Donald Trump
Clem Brooks & Alicia Harmon
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, October 2022 


U.S. voters’ affect toward such minority groups as blacks, Muslims, and transgender people has become warmer in recent years. Warming affect toward minority groups is a surprise for the influential theory of affective polarization. In arguing that voters’ partisan allegiances fuel dislike of groups associated with the opposing political party, this theory predicts that it is primarily Democratic identifiers whose affect has become warmer, as affect is assumed to reflect partisanship and little more. Yet this is not what the authors find, analyzing high-quality data from the 2012–2020 American National Election Studies. Not only have Republicans (like Democrats) become warmer toward minority groups, but this influenced voter choice and contributed heavily to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Voters’ affect toward social groups may matter independently of the powerful force of partisanship. The authors discuss study limitations, alongside implications for affective polarization theory, research on Trumpism, and classical sociological scholarship on liberalization.

Shades of health: Skin color, ethnicity, and mental health among Black Americans
Cynthia Colen & Christina Bijou
Social Science & Medicine, November 2022


Skin color is an important predictor of health outcomes among Black Americans. Black Americans with darker complexions experience worse physical and psychological functioning than those with lighter complexions. However, most research on the health effects of colorism focuses solely on African Americans, omitting the experiences of other Black subpopulations. Using data from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), we investigate the relationship between skin color and mental health among African Americans (N = 3393) and Caribbean Blacks (N = 1378). Findings from multivariate logistic regressions reveal that Black Americans with the lightest complexions -- regardless of ethnicity -- report worse psychological functioning. However, the shape of the association between skin tone and mental health varies significantly based on ethnicity and the specific psychiatric outcome under study. For Caribbean Blacks, the association between skin color and any mental disorders and mood disorders is linear, while the relationship for anxiety disorders is curvilinear. For African Americans, the relationship between skin color and mental health shows an elevated risk among only those with the lightest skin tones. These results illustrate the heterogeneity within the Black community and highlight the importance of recognizing ethnicity in health disparities research.

Groups amplify the perceived threat and justification for using force against Black people protesting for racial equality -- especially among social conservatives
Erin Cooley et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming 


Although most antiracism protests of 2020 were peaceful, at times, there was extreme use of force. Drawing on research that groups amplify intergroup threats, we test whether use of force is perceived as particularly justified against groups of Black people protesting racism. In Study 1, White Americans perceived a group of Black people peacefully protesting racism to be more threatening and more deserving of use of force than the same Black people protesting individually. Notably, when the protest topic did not threaten the racial hierarchy (i.e., environmental protection), Black groups (vs. individuals) no longer amplified perceived threat nor support for force. Studies 2 and 3 demonstrated that this tendency for groups to amplify intergroup threat was stronger among White Americans motivated to maintain the status quo (i.e., social conservatives). We conclude that Black groups protesting racism activate intergroup threats with implications for support for using force against them.

The Equality Paradox: Gender Equality Intensifies Male Advantages in Adolescent Subjective Well-Being
Jiesi Guo et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 


Individuals’ subjective well-being (SWB) is an important marker of development and social progress. As psychological health issues often begin during adolescence, understanding the factors that enhance SWB among adolescents is critical to devising preventive interventions. However, little is known about how institutional contexts contribute to adolescent SWB. Using Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 and 2018 data from 78 countries (N = 941,475), we find that gender gaps in adolescents’ SWB (life satisfaction, positive and negative affect) are larger in more gender-equal countries. Results paradoxically indicated that gender equality enhances boys’ but not girls’ SWB, suggesting that greater gender equality may facilitate social comparisons across genders. This may lead to an increased awareness of discrimination against females and consequently lower girls’ SWB, diluting the overall benefits of gender equality. These findings underscore the need for researchers and policy-makers to better understand macro-level factors, beyond objective gender equality, that support girls’ SWB.

Can Social Media Rhetoric Incite Hate Incidents? Evidence from Trump's "Chinese Virus" Tweets
Andy Cao, Jason Lindo & Jiee Zhong
NBER Working Paper, October 2022 


We investigate whether Donald Trump's "Chinese Virus" tweets contributed to the rise of anti-Asian incidents. We find that the number of incidents spiked following Trump’s initial “Chinese Virus” tweets and the subsequent dramatic rise in internet search activity for the phrase. Difference-in-differences and event-study analyses leveraging spatial variation indicate that this spike in anti-Asian incidents was significantly more pronounced in counties that supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election relative to those that supported Hillary Clinton. We estimate that anti-Asian incidents spiked by 4000 percent in Trump-supporting counties, over and above the spike observed in Clinton-supporting counties.

Trash talk about the other gender: Content of, reactions to, and willingness to confront stereotypical comments about men and women
Elizabeth Haines et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming 


We examined the content of and reactions to stereotypical comments about men and women. In Study 1, daily comments participants recalled hearing people make about “what men/women are like” were generally negative and targeted the other gender. Men rejected negative comments about both genders, whereas women rejected negative comments about women more than comments about men. In Study 2, college participants could confront an online interaction partner who made an other-gender sexist comment. Women confronted a comment targeting women and had more negative reactions to sexism directed at a woman than at a man; men had equivalent, negative reactions to sexism that did not depend on target gender. Study 3 extended and replicated Study 2 by including both other-gender and same gender sexism. Results showed that (a) women were more attuned to men’s sexism toward women compared to all other types and (b) men responded negatively to sexism about either gender, but were more likely to confront sexism directed at women than sexism directed at men. We suggest that women’s tendency to confront sexism when it targets women but not men may reinforce stereotypes that undermine gender equality.

Old Southern Codes in New Legal Bottles? Sexual Harassment, Race, and Masculinity
John Sibley Butler et al.
Race and Social Problems, December 2022, Pages 326–341 


Historically, old southern codes were used to regulate the interactions between black males and white females. We draw parallels between these codes and current sexual harassment laws to examine the perceptions of sexual behavior that crosses racial lines. Specifically, we examine how white and black female targets perceived and reacted to the behavior of males of the same and different race than their own. Our results indicate that white women perceive the behavior committed by a man of another race as more sexually harassing than when a white male commits the behavior. Conversely, black women perceive the behavior committed by black men as more sexually harassing than when a man of a different race engages in the same behavior. Further, a similar pattern emerges for reporting sexual harassment. Implications for research and the management of sexual harassment are discussed.

Disrupting Monolithic Thinking about Black Women and Their Mental Health: Does Stress Exposure Explain Intersectional Ethnic, Nativity, and Socioeconomic Differences?
Christy Erving & Monisola Vaughan Smith
Social Problems, November 2022, Pages 1046–1067 


Guided by the intersectionality framework and social stress theory, this study provides a sociological analysis of Black women’s psychological health. Using data from the National Survey of American Life (N=2972), we first examine U.S. Black women’s psychological health through the intersections of their ethnicity, nativity, and socioeconomic status. Next, we assess the extent to which stress exposure (e.g., discrimination, financial strain, and negative interactions with family members) explains any discovered status differences in psychological health among Black women. Results reveal that foreign-born Afro-Caribbean women living in the United States experience a mental health advantage vis-à-vis their U.S.-born African American female counterparts. In addition, college-educated African American women experience fewer depressive symptoms but similar rates of lifetime PTSD relative to African American women without a college education. Last, though stress exposure was associated with poor mental health, it did not explain status differences in mental health. Overall, this study reveals that Black women, despite shared gendered and racialized oppression, are not a monolithic group, varying along other dimensions of stratification. The results suggest that other stress exposures and psychological resources should be explored in future work examining status differences in mental health among Black women.

Asian Men and Black Women Hold Weaker Race-Gender Associations: Evidence From the United States and China
Jordan Axt et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming 


Prior work finds a consistent association between race and gender: People associate Asian with female and Black with male. We used mouse-tracking to examine whether different U.S. racial/ethnic groups hold this same association (Study 1) and compared Asian-American participants to ethnically Chinese participants in China (Study 2). In Study 1, White and Hispanic participants showed the expected “race is gendered” effect, and the strength of the effect did not differ between men and women. However, participants with a counter-stereotypical racial-gender identity (Black women and Asian men) showed weaker race-gender associations. The same pattern emerged for East Asian participants in Study 2, both among people living in the United States and China. These data provide the first evidence of moderation in Asian-female, Black-male associations and further reveal the importance of considering intersectional identities in social cognition and social perception.

Making America great for whom?: How Trump’s Presidency affected fit and national identity among targets of bias
Katharina Block et al.
Self and Identity, forthcoming 


Can a politician cue national identity and fit? Given that Trump’s rhetoric often signaled the devaluation of certain groups, we examined this across three pre-registered studies. In Study1 (2017), targets of Trump’s rhetoric reported less social fit, greater social identity threat, and expected increased discrimination. In Study2 (2017), marginalized targets reported less fit and American identification as well as greater threat and discrimination when anticipating Trump (vs. Obama). Study3, conducted during the 2020 election, revealed that racialized participants felt greater fit and American identification after (vs. before) Biden’s victory, but effects of Trump’s presidency on expected discrimination had not reversed. These findings suggest that a divisive leader can induce feelings of devaluation, threat, and national detachment.

Stress and Stress-Induced Glucocorticoids Facilitate Empathic Accuracy in Men but Have No Effects for Women
Jonas Nitschke, Jens Pruessner & Jennifer Bartz
Psychological Science, October 2022, Pages 1783–1794


Empathy, the ability to understand the feelings of other people, is critical for navigating our social world and maintaining social connections. Given that acute stress, and resulting increased glucocorticoids, triggers a shift in two large-scale brain networks, prioritizing salience over executive control, we predicted that acute psychosocial stress would facilitate empathic accuracy. We also investigated the moderating role of gender, given that men typically show a more robust glucocorticoid response to acute stress than women. As predicted, results from two independent experiments (N = 267 college-age participants; 2,256 observations) showed that acute psychosocial stress facilitated empathic accuracy for men, an effect related to their glucocorticoid response in the stress condition. Conversely, psychosocial stress had no effect on empathic accuracy for women, who also showed a smaller cortisol response to stress than men. Exploratory analyses further revealed that women taking oral contraceptives performed worse on the empathic-accuracy task than regularly cycling women. This research highlights the important, but complex, role of stress in cognitive empathy.


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