Making an impression

Kevin Lewis

August 31, 2017

Unexpected Gains: Being Overweight Buffers Asian Americans From Prejudice Against Foreigners
Caitlin Handron et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Can being overweight, a factor that commonly leads to stigmatization, ironically buffer some people from race-based assumptions about who is American? In 10 studies, participants were shown portraits that were edited to make the photographed person appear either overweight (body mass index, or BMI > 25) or normal weight (BMI < 25). A meta-analysis of these studies revealed that overweight Asian individuals were perceived as significantly more American than normal-weight versions of the same people, whereas this was not true for White, Black, or Latino individuals. A second meta-analysis showed that overweight Asian men were perceived as less likely to be in the United States without documentation than their normal-weight counterparts. A final study demonstrated that weight stereotypes about presumed countries of origin shape who is considered American. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that perceptions of nationality are malleable and that perceived race and body shape interact to inform these judgments.

Keeping Minorities Happy: Hierarchy Maintenance and Whites’ Decreased Support for Highly Identified White Politicians
Sora Jun, Brian Lowery & Lucia Guillory
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

We test the hypothesis that, to avoid provoking minorities, Whites will withhold their support for White political candidates who are highly identified with their race. In Study 1, we found that White Republicans were less supportive of White candidates the higher the perceived White identity of the candidate due to beliefs that such candidates would provoke racial minorities. In Study 2, we replicated this effect with a manipulation of candidates’ White identity. Study 3 found that Whites reported less support for high-identity candidates when they were led to believe that the hierarchy was unstable rather than stable. Consistent with our hypothesis that those who have the most to lose are most likely to avoid provoking minorities, in Study 4, we found that Whites with high subjective socioeconomic status (SES) varied their support for provocative White candidates as a function of hierarchy stability, whereas those with low subjective SES did not.

Defining Social Class Across Time and Between Groups
Dov Cohen et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

We examined changes over four decades and between ethnic groups in how people define their social class. Changes included the increasing importance of income, decreasing importance of occupational prestige, and the demise of the “Victorian bargain,” in which poor people who subscribed to conservative sexual and religious norms could think of themselves as middle class. The period also saw changes (among Whites) and continuity (among Black Americans) in subjective status perceptions. For Whites (and particularly poor Whites), their perceptions of enhanced social class were greatly reduced. Poor Whites now view their social class as slightly but significantly lower than their poor Black and Latino counterparts. For Black respondents, a caste-like understanding of social class persisted, as they continued to view their class standing as relatively independent of their achieved education, income, and occupation. Such achievement indicators, however, predicted Black respondents’ self-esteem more than they predicted self-esteem for any other group.

Freedom of racist speech: Ego and expressive threats
Mark White & Christian Crandall
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, September 2017, Pages 413-429

Do claims of “free speech” provide cover for prejudice? We investigate whether this defense of racist or hate speech serves as a justification for prejudice. In a series of 8 studies (N = 1,624), we found that explicit racial prejudice is a reliable predictor of the “free speech defense” of racist expression. Participants endorsed free speech values for singing racists songs or posting racist comments on social media; people high in prejudice endorsed free speech more than people low in prejudice (meta-analytic r = .43). This endorsement was not principled — high levels of prejudice did not predict endorsement of free speech values when identical speech was directed at coworkers or the police. Participants low in explicit racial prejudice actively avoided endorsing free speech values in racialized conditions compared to nonracial conditions, but participants high in racial prejudice increased their endorsement of free speech values in racialized conditions. Three experiments failed to find evidence that defense of racist speech by the highly prejudiced was based in self-relevant or self-protective motives. Two experiments found evidence that the free speech argument protected participants’ own freedom to express their attitudes; the defense of other’s racist speech seems motivated more by threats to autonomy than threats to self-regard. These studies serve as an elaboration of the Justification-Suppression Model (Crandall & Eshleman, 2003) of prejudice expression. The justification of racist speech by endorsing fundamental political values can serve to buffer racial and hate speech from normative disapproval.

The Prejudiced Personality? Using the Big Five to Predict Susceptibility to Stereotyping Behavior
Philip Chen & Carl Palmer
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Although long privileged by scholarship in psychology, personality has only recently been considered as an influential factor for political orientations and actions. In this article, we consider personality’s influence on another important tendency: the proclivity to engage in stereotyping and prejudicial thinking. Using a personality battery included for the first time on the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES), we examine the tendencies of particular personality types to stereotype. Results suggest that the two most politically relevant traits (Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness) are consistent predictors of authoritarian tendencies, which, in turn, produce indirect effects of personality on group-centric policy positions, over and above the effects through political predispositions such as partisanship. Our findings demonstrate the important role of group stereotyping in mediating the effects of personality on policy support.

Group identity as a source of threat and means of compensation: Establishing personal control through group identification and ideology
Chris Goode et al.
European Journal of Social Psychology, April 2017, Pages 259–272

Compensatory control theory proposes that individuals can assuage threatened personal control by endorsing external systems or agents that provide a sense that the world is meaningfully ordered. Recent research drawing on this perspective finds that one means by which individuals can compensate for a loss of control is adherence to ideological beliefs about the social world. This prior work, however, has largely neglected the role of social groups in defining either the nature of control threat or the means by which individuals compensate for these threats. In four experiments (N = 466), we test the possibility that group-based threats to personal control can be effectively managed by defensively identifying with the threatened group and its values. We provide evidence for the specificity of these effects by demonstrating that defensive identification and ideology endorsement are specific to the content of the group-based threat.

Human like me: Evidence that I-sharing humanizes the otherwise dehumanized
Elizabeth Pinel et al.
British Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

People persistently undermine the humanness of outgroup members, leaving researchers perplexed as to how to address this problem of ‘dehumanization’ (Haslam & Loughnan, 2014, Ann Rev of Psychol, 65, 399; Leyens, 2009, Group Process Intergroup Relat, 12, 807). Here, we test whether I-sharing (i.e., sharing a subjective experience) counters this tendency by promoting the humanization of outgroup members. In Study 1, White participants had a face-to-face meeting with a White or Black confederate and either did or did not I-share with this confederate. The extent to which participants humanized the outgroup member depended on whether or not they I-shared with her. Study 2 tested the effect of I-sharing on the two distinct dimensions of dehumanization (Haslam, 2006, Pers Soc Psychol Rev, 10, 252). Conceptually replicating the results of Study 1, participants who I-shared with a social class ingroup or outgroup member rated their partner as higher in human nature than those who did not I-share with their partner. These results add to the growing literature on I-sharing's implications for intergroup processes and suggest effective ways of tackling a persistent problem.

On Self-Love and Outgroup Hate: Opposite Effects of Narcissism on Prejudice via Social Dominance Orientation and Right-Wing Authoritarianism
Aleksandra Cichocka, Kristof Dhont & Arti Makwana
European Journal of Personality, July/August 2017, Pages 366–384

Previous research has obtained mixed findings as to whether feelings of self-worth are positively or negatively related to right-wing ideological beliefs and prejudice. We propose to clarify the link between self-worth and ideology by distinguishing between narcissistic and non-narcissistic self-evaluations as well as between different dimensions of ideological attitudes. Four studies, conducted in three different socio-political contexts: the UK (Study 1, N = 422), the US (Studies 2 and 3, Ns = 471 and 289, respectively), and Poland (Study 4, N = 775), investigated the associations between narcissistic and non-narcissistic self-evaluations, social dominance orientation (SDO), right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), and ethnic prejudice. Confirming our hypotheses, the results consistently showed that after controlling for self-esteem, narcissistic self-evaluation was positively associated with SDO (accounting for RWA), yet negatively associated with RWA (accounting for SDO). These associations were similar after controlling for psychopathy and Machiavellianism (Study 3) as well as collective narcissism and Big Five personality characteristics (Study 4). Studies 2–4 additionally demonstrated that narcissistic self-evaluation was indirectly positively associated with prejudice through higher SDO (free of RWA) but indirectly negatively associated with prejudice through lower RWA (free of SDO). Implications for understanding the role of self-evaluation in right-wing ideological attitudes and prejudice are discussed.

Visible Consumption and Race: Evidence from Auto-Loans
Konstantinos Tzioumis
U.S. Department of the Treasury Working Paper, July 2017

This paper uses auto-loan applications to assess differences in consumption preferences across races. After controlling for income and age, Whites and Blacks are found to have similar choices in terms of vehicle value, while Hispanics choose vehicles that are about 5-8% more expensive. These results add to the literature by drawing on documented choices rather than realized purchases.

Assessing the accuracy of perceptions of intelligence based on heritable facial features
Anthony Lee et al.
Intelligence, September–October 2017, Pages 1-8

Perceptions of intelligence based on facial features can have a profound impact on many social situations, but findings have been mixed as to whether these judgements are accurate. Even if such perceptions were accurate, the underlying mechanism is unclear. Several possibilities have been proposed, including evolutionary explanations where certain morphological facial features are associated with fitness-related traits (including cognitive development), or that intelligence judgements are over-generalisation of cues of transitory states that can influence cognition (e.g., tiredness). Here, we attempt to identify the morphological signals that individuals use to make intelligence judgements from facial photographs. In a genetically informative sample of 1660 twins and their siblings, we measured IQ and also perceptions of intelligence based on facial photographs. We found that intelligence judgements were associated with both stable morphological facial traits (face height, interpupillary distance, and nose size) and more transitory facial cues (eyelid openness, and mouth curvature). There was a significant association between perceived intelligence and measured IQ, but of the specific facial attributes only interpupillary distance (i.e., wide-set eyes) significantly mediated this relationship. We also found evidence that perceived intelligence and measured IQ share a familial component, though we could not distinguish between genetic and shared environmental sources.

What a Story?
Andrew Martin, Patrick Rafail & John McCarthy
Social Forces, forthcoming

Despite efforts by protesters to develop newsworthy tactics, there is ample evidence that reporters use a few well-defined scripts to construct stories on these events. The institutionalization of protest has only served to amplify the routinization of media coverage. How then do reporters address emergent forms of collective action that fail to conform to existing scripts? The current research investigates this phenomenon by comparing the language used to describe protest in major American cities and disturbances on college and university campuses. Colleges and universities have seen an upsurge of these events, such as disorderly celebrations following sporting contests. In contrast, protest has become increasingly institutionalized. As a consequence, we suspected that coverage of campus community disturbances would draw much more heavily on language that portrays them as dangerous than would coverage of protests. Our analysis of newspaper coverage reveals that even when taking into consideration important event features like the behaviors of police and civilians, protests are covered in a far more routine fashion than are campus community riots, a condition that holds even for the most contentious protest events. These findings provide important insights into the interplay of collective action and media attention, and are especially timely given the recent rise of more contentious events such as the #blacklivesmatter protests.

Superior Pattern Detectors Efficiently Learn, Activate, Apply, and Update Social Stereotypes
David Lick, Adam Alter & Jonathan Freeman
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Superior cognitive abilities are generally associated with positive outcomes such as academic achievement and social mobility. Here, we explore the darker side of cognitive ability, highlighting robust links between pattern detection and stereotyping. Across 6 studies, we find that superior pattern detectors efficiently learn and use stereotypes about social groups. This pattern holds across explicit (Studies 1 and 2), implicit (Studies 2 and 4), and behavioral measures of stereotyping (Study 3). We also find that superior pattern detectors readily update their stereotypes when confronted with new information (Study 5), making them particularly susceptible to counterstereotype training (Study 6). Pattern detection skills therefore equip people to act as naïve empiricists who calibrate their stereotypes to match incoming information. These findings highlight novel effects of individual aptitudes on social–cognitive processes.

Risk Aversion and Implicit Bias
Daniel Lee
Rice University Working Paper, July 2017

This paper studies risk aversion as an influential construct in implicit bias testing, and one that has been previously overlooked in the literature. In it, I adapt a model of internal validity and apply it to the impact that risk preferences have on implicit bias. I then implement a laboratory experiment to gauge implicit bias as measured by the implicit association test (IAT). I structurally estimate subjects’ attitudes towards risk. In testing said model, I find that higher levels of risk aversion are associated with stronger implicit bias scores. This result is robust to a variety of econometric specifications and thus lends support to previous critiques of IAT validity.

to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.