Group Thoughts

Kevin Lewis

March 02, 2023

Group reciprocity and the evolution of stereotyping
Alexander Stewart & Nichola Raihani
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 25 January 2023 


Stereotypes are generalized beliefs about groups of people, which are used to make decisions and judgements about them. Although such heuristics can be useful when decisions must be made quickly, or when information is lacking, they can also serve as the basis for prejudice and discrimination. In this paper, we study the evolution of stereotypes through group reciprocity. We characterize the warmth of a stereotype as the willingness to cooperate with an individual based solely on the identity of the group they belong to. We show that when stereotype groups are large, such group reciprocity is less likely to evolve, and stereotypes tend to be negative. We also show that, even when stereotypes are broadly positive, individuals are often overly pessimistic about the willingness of those they stereotype to cooperate. We then show that the tendency for stereotyping itself to evolve is driven by the costs of cognition, so that more people are stereotyped with greater coarseness as costs increase. Finally we show that extrinsic ‘shocks’, in which the benefits of cooperation are suddenly reduced, can cause stereotype warmth and judgement bias to turn sharply negative, consistent with the view that economic and other crises are drivers of out-group animosity.

Are Rejection Fears during Interracial Interactions Moderated by the Racial Composition of the Interacting Partner’s Social Network? A Pre-Registered Replication and Extension Experiment
Heather Claypool & Alejandro Trujillo
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, February 2023, Pages 1-12 


Shapiro et al. found that White people had greater rejection fears from and desires to reject a Black person with a Black friend (homogeneous network) versus a White friend (heterogeneous network). We aimed to replicate these findings in a high-powered, pre-registered study and explored a novel question: would racial heterogeneity in the target’s network allay rejection concerns and desires only if it included a friend whose race matched the perceiver’s? Results mostly replicated Shapiro and colleagues’. New here, an Asian friend prompted equally weak rejection concerns and inclinations as did a White friend, with both below the Black friend condition. Thus, White people surmised a Black person was open to positive interactions if alongside a non-Black friend.

Discriminatory attitudes against unvaccinated people during the pandemic
Alexander Bor, Frederik Jørgensen & Michael Bang Petersen
Nature, 26 January 2023, Pages 704-711 


During the COVID-19 pandemic, sizeable groups of unvaccinated people persist even in countries with high vaccine access. As a consequence, vaccination became a controversial subject of debate and even protest. Here we assess whether people express discriminatory attitudes in the form of negative affectivity, stereotypes and exclusionary attitudes in family and political settings across groups defined by COVID-19 vaccination status. We quantify discriminatory attitudes between vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens in 21 countries, covering a diverse set of cultures across the world. Across three conjoined experimental studies (n = 15,233), we demonstrate that vaccinated people express discriminatory attitudes towards unvaccinated individuals at a level as high as discriminatory attitudes that are commonly aimed at immigrant and minority populations. By contrast, there is an absence of evidence that unvaccinated individuals display discriminatory attitudes towards vaccinated people, except for the presence of negative affectivity in Germany and the USA. We find evidence in support of discriminatory attitudes against unvaccinated individuals in all countries except for Hungary and Romania, and find that discriminatory attitudes are more strongly expressed in cultures with stronger cooperative norms. Previous research on the psychology of cooperation has shown that individuals react negatively against perceived ‘free-riders’, including in the domain of vaccinations. Consistent with this, we find that contributors to the public good of epidemic control (that is, vaccinated individuals) react with discriminatory attitudes towards perceived free-riders (that is, unvaccinated individuals). National leaders and vaccinated members of the public appealed to moral obligations to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake, but our findings suggest that discriminatory attitudes -- including support for the removal of fundamental rights -- simultaneously emerged.

School, Studying, and Smarts: Gender Stereotypes and Education Across 80 Years of American Print Media, 1930–2009 
Andrei Boutyline, Alina Arseniev-Koehler & Devin Cornell
Social Forces, forthcoming 


In this article, we apply computational word embeddings to a 200-million-word corpus of American print media (1930–2009) to examine how education-relevant gender stereotypes changed as women’s educational attainment caught up with and eventually surpassed men’s. This case presents a rare opportunity to observe how cultural components of the gender system transform alongside the reversal of an important pattern of stratification. We track six stereotypes that prior work linked to academic outcomes. Our results suggest that stereotypes most closely tied to the core stereotypical distinction between women as communal and men as agentic remained unchanged. The other stereotypes we tracked, however, became increasingly gender polarized: as school and studying gained feminine associations, intelligence and unintelligence gained masculine ones. Unexpectedly, we observe that trends in the gender associations of intelligence and studying are near-perfect mirror opposites, suggesting an interrelationship. We use these observations to further elaborate contemporary theoretical accounts of the gender system, arguing that this system persists partly because stereotypes shift to reinterpret social change in terms of a durable hierarchical distinction between women and men.

Same view, different lens: How intersectional identities reduce Americans’ stereotypes of threat regarding Arab and Black men
Veronica Bergstrom et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming 


Because Black and Arab men may be stereotyped as hostile in different ways (i.e., physical vs. ideological), this study assessed whether an old age identity versus gay identity would reduce stereotypes related to hostility for Black and Arab men differently. We assessed whether the addition of an old age identity reduces hostile stereotype content more for Black men than for Arab men. In line with our hypothesis, an old age identity resulted in participants reporting fewer hostile stereotypes for Black men, but not for Arab men. We also assessed whether a gay identity reduces hostile stereotype content in the same way for Black and Arab men. As expected, a gay identity resulted in participants reporting fewer hostile stereotypes for both male groups. The present study demonstrates the importance of considering intersecting identities in person perception and highlights the unique challenges faced by men belonging to these intersecting groups.

Pride and Prejudice: Same-Sex Marriage Legalization Announcements and Hate Crimes
Robert Pettis, Zehra Valencia & Breyon Williams
Journal of Law and Economics, November 2022, Pages 811–835


In this paper, we examine whether same-sex marriage legalization announcements impact the occurrence of hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Using a difference-in-differences design, we exploit the variation in the timing of same-sex marriage legalization announcements across states. On average, a same-sex marriage legalization announcement reduces the anti-LGBT hate crime rate by .112 per 100,000 people, although some additional analyses have weaker results. Decreases are mostly driven by reductions in violent crimes. Event-study estimates show that results fade after 1 year and provide evidence that reductions are not due to changes in social trends before an announcement. Our results demonstrate that salient, progressive LGBT policy announcements may, by themselves, effectively reduce anti-LGBT hate crimes.

Look the Part? The Role of Profile Pictures in Online Labor Markets
Isamar Troncoso & Lan Luo
Marketing Science, forthcoming


Profile pictures are a key component of many freelancing platforms, a design choice that can impact hiring and matching outcomes. In this paper, we examine how appearance-based perceptions of a freelancer’s fit for the job (i.e., whether a freelancer “looks the part” for the job), as inferred from profile pictures, can impact hiring outcomes on such platforms. Leveraging computer vision techniques and choice models, we analyze six-month data from (63,014 completed jobs that received 2,042,198 applications from 160,014 freelancers) and find that, above and beyond demographics and beauty, freelancers who “look the part” are more likely to be hired. Interestingly, we do not find a strong correlation between “looking the part” and job performance. Supplementing our large-scale observational study with two choice experiments, we find that (i) the effect of perceived job fit is stronger when reputation systems are not sufficiently diagnostic to differentiate candidates and (ii) that by considering perceptions of job fit, participants are more likely to choose freelancers with fewer reviews, lower ratings, and/or without certifications. Last, we find that “platform recommendations” can only partially mitigate the unintended consequences of profile pictures, and recommending multiple freelancers can further increase the role of “looking the part.”

Automating Automaticity: How the Context of Human Choice Affects the Extent of Algorithmic Bias
Amanda Agan et al.
NBER Working Paper, February 2023 


Consumer choices are increasingly mediated by algorithms, which use data on those past choices to infer consumer preferences and then curate future choice sets. Behavioral economics suggests one reason these algorithms so often fail: choices can systematically deviate from preferences. For example, research shows that prejudice can arise not just from preferences and beliefs, but also from the context in which people choose. When people behave automatically, biases creep in; snap decisions are typically more prejudiced than slow, deliberate ones, and can lead to behaviors that users themselves do not consciously want or intend. As a result, algorithms trained on automatic behaviors can misunderstand the prejudice of users: the more automatic the behavior, the greater the error. We empirically test these ideas in a lab experiment, and find that more automatic behavior does indeed seem to lead to more biased algorithms. We then explore the large-scale consequences of this idea by carrying out algorithmic audits of Facebook in its two biggest markets, the US and India, focusing on two algorithms that differ in how users engage with them: News Feed (people interact with friends' posts fairly automatically) and People You May Know (people choose friends fairly deliberately). We find significant out-group bias in the News Feed algorithm (e.g., whites are less likely to be shown Black friends' posts, and Muslims less likely to be shown Hindu friends' posts), but no detectable bias in the PYMK algorithm. Together, these results suggest a need to rethink how large-scale algorithms use data on human behavior, especially in online contexts where so much of the measured behavior might be quite automatic.

Low Modesty Linked to Feeling Deprived within Advantaged (but not Disadvantaged) Groups
Joanna Lindström, Robin Bergh & Nazar Akrami
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming 


There is growing recognition that members of structurally advantaged groups experience group-based relative deprivation. We consider the idea that personality may explain these “entitlement-based” feelings of deprivation. Specifically, we predicted that modesty would be negatively associated with group-based relative deprivation among members of advantaged groups, but not amongst disadvantaged groups. Two studies focusing on White and Black Americans (N = 334), and Men and Women (N = 309) showed that modesty interacted with group membership. Modesty was negatively related to group-based relative deprivation amongst White Americans and men, but not amongst Black Americans and women. The findings help explain why some individuals espouse rhetoric that their group is being disfavored, even when group statistics and history suggest otherwise.


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