Looking and Feeling

Kevin Lewis

May 14, 2020

Race-based biases in judgments of social pain
Jason Deska et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


Six studies tested the hypothesis that evaluators judge Black people less sensitive to social pain than White people. Social pain was operationalized as the psychological distress caused by experiences that damage social worth and interpersonal relationships (e.g., derogation, exclusion, unfairness). White evaluators judged both Black male (Studies 1, 2a, & 2b) and female (Studies 2a & 2b) targets as experiencing less social pain than White male and female targets. Study 3 provided evidence that this bias also extends to Black evaluators. Further, the belief that Black people are less sensitive to social pain than White people was mediated by judgments of differential life hardship experienced by Black and White targets (Study 4) and did not seem to be a subset of a broader tendency to judge Black targets as generally insensate (Study 5). Critically, the observed race-based social pain bias also translated into beliefs that Black targets needed fewer supportive resources than White targets to cope with socially painful events (Study 6). The current research demonstrates that there are racial biases in judgments of others' psychological distress and these biases inform social support judgments for those in need.

Discrepancies in East Asians’ perceived actual and ideal phenotypic facial features
Michael Thai et al.
Asian American Journal of Psychology, forthcoming


The present study tested for the existence of a phenotypic actual–ideal discrepancy in East Asians’ appraisals of their own faces, in the direction of idealizing a phenotypically “Whiter” face than they perceived themselves to have. The study was conducted in 2 phases. In the first phase, East Asian participants residing in the United States (N = 104; Mage = 18.73) came into the lab to have their photograph taken. They were sent a link to complete the second phase online. Participants were required to recall either their previous day, an experience of racial discrimination, or an experience of racial acceptance. They then selected their actual and ideal face from an array of faces comprising their actual face and 8 variants of their face that had been transformed to look phenotypically more “White” or more “East Asian.” A robust actual–ideal discrepancy emerged: Participants both idealized a phenotypically “Whiter” face and perceived themselves as having a more phenotypically “East Asian” face than they objectively did. This discrepancy arose irrespective of whether participants were reminded of an incident of racial discrimination or acceptance.

Exposure to negative stereotypes influences representations of monetary incentives in the nucleus accumbens
Locke Welborn, Youngki Hong & Kyle Ratner
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming


Contemporary society is saturated with negative representations of racial and ethnic minorities. Social science research finds that exposure to such negative stereotypes creates stress above and beyond pre-existing effects of income inequality and structural racism. Neuroscience studies in animals and humans show that life stress modulates brain responses to rewards. However, it is not known whether contending with negative representations of one’s social group spills overs to influence reward processing. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the effects of stigmatizing negative stereotypes on neural responding to the anticipation and consumption of monetary gains and losses in a Mexican American sample. Machine learning analyses indicated that incentive-related patterns of brain activity within the nucleus accumbens differed between Mexican Americans subjected to negative stereotypes and those who were not. This effect occurred for anticipating both gains and losses. Our work suggests that rhetoric stigmatizing Latinos and other minorities could alter how members of such groups process incentives in their environment. These findings contribute to our understanding of the linkage between stigmatizing experiences and motivated behavior, with implications for well-being and health.

Tracking Prejudice: A Mouse-Tracking Measure of Evaluative Conflict Predicts Discriminatory Behavior
David Melnikoff et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Explicit evaluations of racial out-groups often involve conflict between opposing evaluative tendencies. Yet this type of conflict is difficult to capture with standard measures of evaluative processing, which either ignore explicit evaluation or capture only the aspects of explicit evaluation that are consciously accessible and freely reported. A new tool may fill this gap in our ability to measure conflict in racial evaluation. This tool, called the mouse-tracking measure of racial bias (Race-MT), is designed to capture conflict in explicit evaluations of racial groups, even if that conflict is neither consciously accessible nor freely reported. We vetted the Race-MT by exploring whether it predicts discriminatory behavior. Across five studies (four preregistered, N = 1,492), we used the Race-MT to measure conflict in people’s positive, explicit evaluations of racial out-groups versus in-groups. These measures predicted discriminatory behavior in a noisy, naturalistic setting, suggesting that the Race-MT provides theoretically meaningful and predicatively useful insights into racial evaluation.

You don’t know where he’s been: Sexual promiscuity negatively affects responses toward both gay and straight men
Corey Cook & Catherine Cottrell
Psychology of Men & Masculinities, forthcoming


Sexual promiscuity is a common stereotype of gay men as well as a component of traditional masculine ideology. Working from an affordance management approach, we manipulated trait labels indicating sexual promiscuity, femininity, and masculinity and measured their effects on heterosexual men’s and women’s reported social distancing toward both gay and straight men. In Study 1, women reported increased social distancing toward sexually promiscuous gay men; men reported consistent distancing toward gay men across traits. Women and men alike reported increased social distancing toward sexually promiscuous straight men. Study 2 replicated these effects and included measures of threat as mediators of social distancing. Women’s increased social distancing toward sexually promiscuous gay men was mediated by perceived disease threats. Men reported decreased distancing toward masculine gay men, mediated through reduced gender role violation. Women and men reported increased social distancing toward sexually promiscuous straight men; these effects were not fully mediated by threat measures. These findings suggest that sexual promiscuity increases (a) women’s negativity toward gay men and (b) women’s and men’s negativity toward straight men, underlying a need to explore attitudes and inferences associated with perceived sexual promiscuity.

Facultative formidability: Physical size shapes men’s aggressive traits and behaviors in sports
Gregory Webster et al.
Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, forthcoming


Does one’s physical size inform the development of traits and interpersonal behavioral strategies? Drawing on resource holding potential, reactive heritability and facultative calibration, the recalibration theory of anger, and the general aggression model, we predicted that there would be positive relationships between (a) height and aggression and (b) weight and aggression for men but not for women. We tested this prediction across 4 studies (total N = 2,470). In 2 studies of undergraduates, we found Sex × Size interactions for weight (Study 1) and height (Study 2); the weight– and height–aggression associations were positive only for men (vs. women) and only for trait measures of anger or physical aggression (vs. hostility or verbal aggression). In 2 studies of professional male athletes, we found that both height and weight were positively related to penalization for aggression in both indoor lacrosse (Study 3) and ice hockey (Study 4) at both the individual and team levels. Collectively, these findings support the abovementioned theories and suggest that, in men, physical size may shape aggressive traits and behaviors in adaptive ways.

Greater variability in chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) brain structure among males
Alex DeCasien et al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, April 2020


Across the animal kingdom, males tend to exhibit more behavioural and morphological variability than females, consistent with the ‘greater male variability hypothesis'. This may reflect multiple mechanisms operating at different levels, including selective mechanisms that produce and maintain variation, extended male development, and X chromosome effects. Interestingly, human neuroanatomy shows greater male variability, but this pattern has not been demonstrated in any other species. To address this issue, we investigated sex-specific neuroanatomical variability in chimpanzees by examining relative and absolute surface areas of 23 cortical sulci across 226 individuals (135F/91M), using permutation tests of the male-to-female variance ratio of residuals from MCMC generalized linear mixed models controlling for relatedness. We used these models to estimate sulcal size heritability, simulations to assess the significance of heritability, and Pearson correlations to examine inter-sulcal correlations. Our results show that: (i) male brain structure is relatively more variable; (ii) sulcal surface areas are heritable and therefore potentially subject to selection; (iii) males exhibit lower heritability values, possibly reflecting longer development; and (iv) males exhibit stronger inter-sulcal correlations, providing indirect support for sex chromosome effects. These results provide evidence that greater male neuroanatomical variability extends beyond humans, and suggest both evolutionary and developmental explanations for this phenomenon.

Race, Racism, and the Cool Pose: Exploring Black and White Male Masculinity
James Unnever & Cecilia Chouhy
Social Problems, forthcoming


Scholars argue that racial oppression uniquely causes Black males to construct a definition of their masculinity — the “Cool Pose” — that is different from White male masculinity. In this paper, using a nationally representative survey conducted in 2018, we examined whether young Black males were more likely than White male youths to feel greater pressure to conform to the Cool Pose. We analyzed six measures of the Cool Pose. We found no evidence that young Black males were more likely than White male youths to feel greater pressure to use violence if provoked. However, we found that young Black males were more likely than White male youths to feel greater pressure to be physically and emotionally strong, play sports, and to dominate or control others. We conclude that research needs to move beyond idiosyncratic accounts of Black males’ cultural adaptations in order to explicate the developmental processes that affect how Black males living in a systemically racist society express their masculinity.

Learning goals mitigate identity threat for Black individuals in threatening interracial interactions
Dorainne Green, Daryl Wout & Mary Murphy
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, forthcoming

Method: Two experimental studies (N = 310) were conducted. Black adults (Mage = 29.66, 64% women) primed with either a performance or learning goal anticipated an interaction with a White partner who had either a racially diverse (Study 1) or racially homogenous (Studies 1 and 2) friendship network. After, we assessed participants’ social identity threat and anticipated interaction experiences.

Results: Black adults primed with learning (vs. performance) goals expected to be perceived more positively by their interaction partner and expected to have more positive interaction experiences when they anticipated an interaction with a White partner who had a racially homogenous network of friends.

The Effect of Age-Stigma Concealment on Social Evaluations
Laura Tian et al.
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming


Many older adults try to avoid age discrimination by hiding visible signs of aging. But using cosmetic procedures to conceal one’s age also incurs negative evaluations. This paradox prompted us to ask whether people can detect age concealment and, if so, whether they would either negatively evaluate concealers due to age-concealment stigmas or positively evaluate concealers because they look better. Across four studies with targets who underwent age-concealment procedures, we found that people could detect age concealment. Although people negatively evaluated concealers when thinking about them abstractly, they favored concealers over nonconcealers if they saw photos of them. Moreover, seeing photos of concealers improved subsequent evaluations of new concealers. The visual benefits of age-stigma concealment may therefore attenuate its stigma.


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