Looking the Part

Kevin Lewis

July 30, 2020

Stereotype Threat Among Black Men Following Exposure to Rap Music
Simon Howard, Erin Hennes & Samuel Sommers
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Stereotype threat theory argues that reminders of negative stereotypes about one's stigmatized identity can undermine performance, but few studies have examined this phenomenon among Black Americans. Drawing from the literature on the impact of mass media on stereotype activation, we examine whether exposure to rap music induces stereotype threat among Black men. In two studies, incidental exposure to violent/misogynistic rap, but not conscious hip-hop or pop music, impaired Black (but not White) men's cognitive performance (Experiments 1 and 2), but only when the artist was ostensibly Black (vs. White; Experiment 2). These effects were conditionally mediated by stereotype activation, such that listening to a Black (but not White) rapper activated negative stereotypes about Black people for both Black and White participants but only impaired performance among Black participants (Experiment 2). This suggests that exposure to some forms of artistic expression may activate culturally shared stereotypes and obstruct academic success among stigmatized groups.

Adults and children implicitly associate brilliance with men more than women
Daniel Storage et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


Women are underrepresented in careers where success is perceived to depend on high levels of intellectual ability (e.g., brilliance, genius), including those in science and technology. This phenomenon may be due in part to a gender-brilliance stereotype that portrays men as more brilliant than women. Here, we offer the first investigation of whether people implicitly associate brilliance with men more than women. Implicit measures are absent from prior research on the gender-brilliance stereotype, despite having the potential to contribute unique information about the prevalence of this stereotype. Across 5 studies (N = 3618) with 17 Implicit Association Tests using 6 distinct comparison traits (e.g., creative, funny), we found consistent evidence for an implicit gender-brilliance stereotype favoring men. Indeed, for 5 out of 6 comparison traits (even the male-typed trait funny), male was associated with brilliant and female with the comparison trait. Only a physical trait (strong) showed a stronger association with male than brilliant did; none of the psychological traits used as comparisons rivaled brilliant in their association to male. Evidence for the implicit gender-brilliance stereotype was consistently observed whether the male and female targets were represented with verbal labels or pictures, and whether the pictures depicted White or Black targets. Moreover, the results were robust in both men and women, children and adults, across different regions of the U.S. as well as internationally. This pervasive implicit association of brilliance with men is likely to hold women back in careers perceived to require brilliance.

Masks and Racial Stereotypes in a Pandemic: The Case for Surgical Masks
Leah Christiani et al.
University of North Carolina Working Paper, June 2020


To contain the spread of COVID-19, experts emphasize the importance of wearing masks. Unfortunately, this practice may put blacks at elevated risk for being seen as potential threats by some Americans. In this study, we evaluate whether and how different types of masks affect perceptions of threat for a black male model and a white male model. We find that non-black respondents perceive a black model as more threatening when he is wearing a bandana or a homemade cloth mask relative to wearing no mask at all. However, they do not perceive him as more threatening when he is wearing a surgical mask. As expected, these effects are especially pronounced in non-black respondents who score high in racial resentment, a common social scientific measure of racial bias. Further, it is not that high racial resentment non-black respondents find bandana and cloth masks more threatening in general. Our results suggest that they do not view a white male model as more threatening when he is wearing these types of masks. Though mandated mask wearing is an ostensibly race-neutral policy, our findings demonstrate the potential implications are far from race-neutral.

Lay theory of generalized prejudice moderates cardiovascular stress responses to racism for White women
Kimberly Chaney et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming


Research on stigma by prejudice transfer has demonstrated that White women anticipate sexism when interacting with a racist individual due to a belief that prejudices stem from an underlying ideology of group inequality. The present research proposes that individuals' lay theory of generalized prejudice (LTGP) varies across individuals and examines cardiovascular stress responses (high frequency heart rate variability [HF-HRV] and preejection period [PEP]). White women who held a lay theory of generalized prejudice and were evaluated by a White man with negative attitudes towards Black Americans demonstrated greater cardiovascular reactivity (decreases in parasympathetic activity [Studies 1 and 2] and shortened PEP [Study 2] from baseline to evaluation) than White women being evaluated by a neutral evaluator or who did not hold a lay theory of generalized prejudice. The present studies are the first to demonstrate cardiovascular stress responses to stigma by prejudice transfer and to highlight LTGP as a key individual difference in stigma by prejudice transfer.

Reinforcing the Racial Structure: Observed Race and Multiracial Internet Daters' Racial Preferences
Cynthia Feliciano & Jessica Kizer
Social Forces, forthcoming


Is the growing multiracial population changing the US racial structure? This study examines how self-identifying with more than one racial group relates to racial dating choices - an outcome that reveals multiracial individuals' agency in the process of racial boundary-making and reduction. Quantitative analyses of profiles drawn from the largest online dating website, combined with observer racial classifications of profile photos, reveal divergent patterns in racial preferences among multiracials who self-identify as part-Black compared with those who do not. Non-Black multiracials express racial preferences that are more similar to Whites than to minorities, consistent with Whitening theories suggesting that these groups situate themselves closer to Whites and reinforce the existing racial hierarchy. In contrast, part-Black multiracials' preferences are more similar to Blacks. However, regardless of racial self-identity, multiracial online daters' exclusion of Whites as possible dates depends upon how they are racially perceived by others - their observed race. In particular, among self-identified part-Black multiracials, those whom others view as non-Black are much more accepting of Whites as dates than are those whom others classify as Black. Since preferences for dating Whites vary substantially among individuals who self-identify as part-Black depending upon their observed race, this suggests a decline in the salience of the one-drop rule, even while some aspects of Black exceptionalism persist among multiracials whom others classify solely as Black.

White Categorical Ambiguity: Exclusion of Middle Eastern Americans From the White Racial Category
Kimberly Chaney, Diana Sanchez & Lina Saud
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Despite legal classification as White, Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Americans experience high levels of discrimination, suggesting low social status precludes them from accessing the White racial category. After first demonstrating that the rated Whiteness of MENA Americans influences support for discriminatory policies (Study 1), the present research explores ratings and perceptions of Whiteness of MENA Americans by demonstrating how MENA ethnicities shift racial categorization of prototypically White and racially ambiguous targets (Studies 2-4), and how MENA Americans' social status influences rated Whiteness (Study 5). As few studies have explored the relative Whiteness of different ethnicities in the United States despite the fluid history of the White racial category, the present studies have implications for the processes that inform White categorization and lay categorizations of MENA Americans.

The relations of White parents' implicit racial attitudes to their children's differential empathic concern toward White and Black victims
Wen Wang et al.
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, forthcoming


The goal of this study was to investigate the relations between White parents' implicit racial attitudes and their children's racially based bias in empathic concern toward White and Black victims of injustice as well as the moderating role of children's age in this relation. Children aged 5-9 years (N = 190) reported how sorry (i.e., sympathy) and nervous (i.e., personal distress) they felt after watching sympathy-inducing videos in which either a White (non-Hispanic) child or a Black child was teased by peers. Participants' primary caregivers (mostly mothers) completed a computerized Implicit Association Test to assess their implicit racial attitudes. Parents' implicit race bias was associated with their children's reported sympathy toward Black victims and their sympathetic bias (i.e., relative sympathy toward White vs. Black victims); however, results were moderated by children's age. Specifically, parents with higher implicit race bias tended to have children with lower levels of sympathy toward Black victims for younger children and higher levels of sympathetic bias for younger and average-aged children but not for older children. Older children tended to report relatively high levels of sympathy toward Black victims and low levels of sympathetic bias regardless of their parents' implicit attitudes. The importance of parents' implicit attitudes in understanding young children's race-based moral emotional responses and the implications for intervention work are discussed.

Biased Programmers? Or Biased Data? A Field Experiment in Operationalizing AI Ethics
Bo Cowgill et al.
Columbia University Working Paper, June 2020


Why do biased beliefs arise, and what interventions can prevent them? We study this topic in a field experiment about using machine learning to predict human capital. We randomly assign ~400 AI engineers to predict standardized test scores of OECD residents under different experimental conditions. We then assess the resulting predictive algorithms using the realized test performance and through randomized audit-like manipulations of algorithmic inputs. We find that biased beliefs are mostly caused by biased training data. However, simple reminders about bias are almost half as effective at fully de-biasing training data. We find mixed results on technical education and programmer demographics. Programmers who understand technical guidance successfully reduce bias. However, many do not follow the advice, resulting in algorithms that are worse than programmers given a simple reminder. Predictions by female and minority AI programmers do not exhibit less bias or discrimination. However prediction errors are correlated within engineering demographics, creating bias reductions from cross-demographic averaging. We also find no effects of our incentive treatments and no evidence that programmers' implicit associations between gender and math (measured through an IAT) are correlated with bias in code.

Implicit Transgender Attitudes Independently Predict Beliefs About Gender and Transgender People
Jordan Axt et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Surprisingly little is known about transgender attitudes, partly due to a need for improved measures of beliefs about transgender people. Four studies introduce a novel Implicit Association Test (IAT) assessing implicit attitudes toward transgender people. Study 1 (N = 294) found significant implicit and explicit preferences for cisgender over transgender people, both of which correlated with transphobia and transgender-related policy support. Study 2 (N = 1,094) found that implicit transgender attitudes predicted similar outcomes among participants reporting no explicit preference for cisgender versus transgender people. Across Study 3a (N = 5,647) and Study 3b (N = 2,276), implicit transgender attitudes predicted multiple outcomes, including gender essentialism, contact with transgender people, and support for transgender-related policies, over and above explicit attitudes. This work introduces a reliable means of measuring implicit transgender attitudes and illustrates how these attitudes independently predict meaningful beliefs and experiences.

A matter of flexibility: Changing outgroup attitudes through messages with negations
Kevin Winter, Annika Scholl & Kai Sassenberg
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Attitudes toward outgroups are an important determinant of peaceful coexistence in diverse societies, but it is difficult to improve them. The current research studies the impact of messages with negations on outgroup attitudes, more specifically on outgroup trust. All studies were preregistered. Using different target groups, Studies 1 and 2 provide evidence for the prediction that communicating negations (e.g., "they are not deceptive") enhances outgroup trust (more so than affirmations, such as "they are reliable," and no messages) among people who are initially low in outgroup trust. Three additional studies (Studies 3a, 3b, and 4), using both a causal chain approach and (moderated) mediation analysis, demonstrate that negations promote cognitive flexibility which in turn enhances outgroup trust among those initially low in outgroup trust. One final study suggests that these findings generalize to outgroup attitude change per se by showing that communicating negations also results in more moderate attitudes when the dominant initial attitude is positive (Study 5: high warmth) rather than negative (Studies 1-4: low trustworthiness). As such, communication that negates people's initial outgroup attitudes could be an effective (previously discounted) intervention to reduce prejudice in intergroup settings.

Detecting changes between two strangers: Insight from a classic change blindness paradigm
Alexandra Marquis, Nicole Sugden & Margaret Moulson
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming


The current study aims to investigate what factors influence whether adults detect a change between social partners in a brief interaction. In two experiments, we examined whether locale diversity, a stranger's marginalized minority status (e.g., minority race, minority religious affiliation), and race congruence (e.g., own or other race) influenced the likelihood of being differentiated. Using a change blindness paradigm, an experimenter approached pedestrians asking for directions, then surreptitiously changed places with a confederate. After the switch, we measured whether pedestrians noticed if the person had changed. In Experiment 1, noticing rates were significantly lower for confederates belonging to a minority race compared to White confederates, but only in the more homogenous location and not in the highly diverse location. In Experiment 2, pedestrians were least likely to detect a change when confederates belonged to a religious minority and a racial minority. We discuss the important implications for prejudicial behaviour and eyewitness identification, as well as the utility of performing psychological research outside of the lab.

Pitch lowering enhances men's perceived aggressive intent, not fighting ability
Jinguang Zhang et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming


Voice pitch is the primary perceptual correlate of fundamental frequency (fo) and describes how low or high a voice is perceived by listeners. Prior research showed that men whose habitual voice pitch is lower are perceived to have stronger fighting ability. However, voice pitch is also flexible and can thus be used facultatively to signal states that change situationally, such as current aggressive intent (i.e., readiness to use aggression). Drawing on motivation-structural-rules theory, this research tests the hypothesis that male speakers will be perceived as more likely to attack when they lower (compared to raise) their pitch to address an adversary in a conflict situation. Three experiments using male speakers and listeners supported this hypothesis, both with and without controlling for the perception of the speakers' fighting ability. In contrast, the same experiments found no evidence that pitch lowering enhanced the speakers' perceived fighting ability after controlling for their perceived aggressive intent. Moreover, we found mixed evidence that the speakers' perceived physical strength interacted with pitch modulation to influence their perceived aggressive intent. On balance, these findings show that, at least for men, pitch modulation is primarily an aggressive-intent signal assessed independently of signalers' fighting ability. Future research should distinguish between perceptions of aggressive-intent and fighting-ability when examining the perceptual effects of male voice-pitch modulation in intrasexual competition.

Hypersexualization and Sexualization in Advertisements for Halloween Costumes
Aurora Sherman, Haley Allemand & Shayla Prickett
Sex Roles, August 2020, Pages 254-266


Concerns about sexualization of Halloween costumes appear frequently in the lay press, but systematic investigation of such costumes or the ads in which they appear is relatively rare. We coded a randomly selected sample of 1001 advertisements for child, teen, and adult Halloween costumes for 13 different markers of sexualization that we combined into overall scores for costume sexualization, model sexualization, and hypersexualization. We found that ratings of model characteristics and costume were significantly more sexualized when the model was adult and female. Significant interactions indicated that model characteristics and costumes of male models were low in sexualization regardless of age, whereas model characteristics and costumes featuring female models were rated more sexualized than those for male models, even for child models, and sexualization ratings increased with age. A measure of hypersexualization (combining costume and model characteristic ratings and adding text sexualization) showed that hypersexualization is highest in advertisements featuring female and adult models while being low for male models across all three age groups. However, hypersexualization ratings were not significantly different for teen and adult women, indicating some compression of sexualization into adolescence. Our results could be used by parents, educators, or counselors interested in media literacy.


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