Kevin Lewis

February 08, 2014

How “It Gets Better”: Effectively Communicating Support to Targets of Prejudice

Aneeta Rattan & Nalini Ambady
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

What is said when communicating intergroup support to targets of prejudice, and how do targets react? We hypothesized that people not targeted by prejudice reference social connection (e.g., social support) more than social change (e.g., calling for a reduction in prejudice) in their supportive messages. However, we hypothesized that targets of prejudice would be more comforted by social change messages. We content coded naturalistic messages of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning teenagers from (Study 1) and college undergraduates’ statements (Study 2a) and found social connection messages more frequent than social change messages. Next, we explored targets’ responses (Studies 2b-4b). Lesbian and gay participants rated social connection messages less comforting than social change messages (Study 3). Study 4 showed that only targets of prejudice distinguish social connection from social change messages in this way, versus non-targets. These results highlight the importance of studying the communication, content, and consequences of positive intergroup attitudes.


Anti-Gay Prejudice and All-Cause Mortality Among Heterosexuals in the United States

Mark Hatzenbuehler, Anna Bellatorre & Peter Muennig
American Journal of Public Health, February 2014, Pages 332-337

Objectives: We determined whether individuals who harbor antigay prejudice experience elevated mortality risk.

Methods: Data on heterosexual sexual orientation (n = 20 226, aged 18–89 years), antigay attitudes, and mortality risk factors came from the General Social Survey, which was linked to mortality data from the National Death Index (1988–2008). We used Cox proportional hazard models to examine whether antigay prejudice was associated with mortality risk among heterosexuals.

Results: Heterosexuals who reported higher levels of antigay prejudice had higher mortality risk than those who reported lower levels (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.25; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.09, 1.42), with control for multiple risk factors for mortality, including demographics, socioeconomic status, and fair or poor self-rated health. This result translates into a life expectancy difference of approximately 2.5 years (95% CI = 1.0, 4.0 years) between individuals with high versus low levels of antigay prejudice. Furthermore, in sensitivity analyses, antigay prejudice was specifically associated with increased risk of cardiovascular-related causes of death in fully adjusted models (HR = 1.29; 95% CI = 1.04, 1.60).

Conclusions: The findings contribute to a growing body of research suggesting that reducing prejudice may improve the health of both minority and majority populations.


Does the Mask Govern the Mind?: Effects of Arbitrary Gender Representation on Quantitative Task Performance in Avatar-Represented Virtual Groups

Jong-Eun Roselyn Lee, Clifford Nass & Jeremy Bailenson
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, forthcoming

Virtual environments employing avatars for self-representation — including the opportunity to represent or misrepresent social categories — raise interesting and intriguing questions as to how one's avatar-based social category shapes social identity dynamics, particularly when stereotypes prevalent in the offline world apply to the social categories visually represented by avatars. The present experiment investigated how social category representation via avatars (i.e., graphical representations of people in computer-mediated environments) affects stereotype-relevant task performance. In particular, building on and extending the Proteus effect model, we explored whether and how stereotype lift (i.e., a performance boost caused by the awareness of a domain-specific negative stereotype associated with outgroup members) occurred in virtual group settings in which avatar-based gender representation was arbitrary. Female and male participants (N=120) were randomly assigned either a female avatar or a male avatar through a process masked as a random drawing. They were then placed in a numerical minority status with respect to virtual gender — as the only virtual female (male) in a computer-mediated triad with two opposite-gendered avatars — and performed a mental arithmetic task either competitively or cooperatively. The data revealed that participants who were arbitrarily represented by a male avatar and competed against two ostensible female avatars showed strongest performance compared to others on the arithmetic task. This pattern occurred regardless of participants' actual gender, pointing to a virtual stereotype lift effect. Additional mediation tests showed that task motivation partially mediated the effect. Theoretical and practical implications for social identity dynamics in avatar-based virtual environments are discussed.


Mating Motives and Concerns About Being Misidentified as Gay or Lesbian: Implications for the Avoidance and Derogation of Sexual Minorities

Ashby Plant, Kate Zielaskowski & David Buck
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Recent research has demonstrated that concerns about being misidentified as gay or lesbian lead to the avoidance of gay men and lesbians. Because being misidentified as gay/lesbian can result in the loss of heterosexual people’s mating opportunities, we predicted that the activation of mating motives would heighten concerns among some heterosexuals about being misidentified as gay/lesbian. To combat such misidentification, we argued that heterosexuals would express antipathy toward and avoid contact with gay/lesbian people. Consistent with predictions, the activation of mating motives led heterosexuals who were generally concerned about misclassification as gay/lesbian to denigrate (Study 1) and avoid (Study 2) gay/lesbian people. Activating mating motives increased heterosexual participants’ concerns about being misclassified, which in turn heightened interest in avoiding gay/lesbian people (Study 3). These findings indicate that, although the motivation to find a romantic partner can have positive implications, it can contribute to negative responses to gay/lesbian people.


Attributions for sexual orientation vs. stereotypes: How beliefs about value violations account for attribution effects on anti-gay discrimination

Christine Reyna et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Attributions for sexual orientation strongly predict opposition to gay rights policies; however, we propose that beliefs that gays and lesbians violate important values drive gay rights opposition and account for the relationship between attributions and anti-gay discrimination. In two studies, we found that beliefs that gays and lesbians violate values accounted for much of the relationship between attributions and anti-gay discrimination. In addition, these stereotypes were the most powerful predictors of opposition to gay rights when both value violations and attributions were included in the model. Results also demonstrated that violations of specific values predicted opposition to policies relevant to those values. This suggests that attributions of choice over sexual orientation are less relevant for predicting opposition to gay rights than beliefs about choice to uphold or violate values.


Gender of Siblings and Choice of College Major

Massimo Anelli & Giovanni Peri
University of California Working Paper, December 2013

In this study we analyze whether the gender composition of siblings within a family affects the choice of College Major. The question is whether a family environment that is more gender-homogeneous encourages academic choices that are less gender stereotyped. We use the last name and the exact family address contained in a unique dataset covering 30,000 Italian students graduated from high school between 1985 and 2005 to identify siblings. We follow the academic career of these individuals from high school to college graduation. We find that mixed gender siblings within a family tend to choose college majors following a stereotypical gender specialization. Namely, males have higher probability of choosing “male dominated” majors such as Engineering and women higher probability of choosing “female dominated” majors such as Humanities. Same-gender siblings, on the other hand, have higher probability of making non-gender stereotyped choices. This college major choice is not driven by the choice of high school academic curriculum, which appears to be mainly function of geographical proximity to schools.


Disparities in Safety Belt Use by Sexual Orientation Identity Among US High School Students

Sari Reisner et al.
American Journal of Public Health, February 2014, Pages 311-318

Objectives: We examined associations between adolescents’ safety belt use and sexual orientation identity.

Methods: We pooled data from the 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (n = 26 468 weighted; mean age = 15.9 years; 35.4% White, 24.7% Black, 23.5% Latino, 16.4% other). We compared lesbian and gay (1.2%), bisexual (3.5%), and unsure (2.6%) youths with heterosexuals (92.7%) on a binary indicator of passenger safety belt use. We stratified weighted multivariable logistic regression models by sex and adjusted for survey wave and sampling design.

Results: Overall, 12.6% of high school students reported “rarely” or “never” wearing safety belts. Sexual minority youths had increased odds of reporting nonuse relative to heterosexuals (48% higher for male bisexuals, 85% for lesbians, 46% for female bisexuals, and 51% for female unsure youths; P < .05), after adjustment for demographic (age, race/ethnicity), individual (body mass index, depression, bullying, binge drinking, riding with a drunk driver, academic achievement), and contextual (living in jurisdictions with secondary or primary safety belt laws, percentage below poverty, percentage same-sex households) risk factors.

Conclusions: Public health interventions should address sexual orientation identity disparities in safety belt use.


Sexual Minority Stressors and Psychological Aggression in Lesbian Women’s Intimate Relationships: The Mediating Roles of Rumination and Relationship Satisfaction

Robin Lewis et al.
Psychology of Women Quarterly, forthcoming

Our study examined how two sexual minority stressors (internalized homophobia and social constraints in talking with others about one’s minority sexual identity) are related to psychological aggression (PA) in lesbian women’s relationships. PA includes a range of methods to hurt, coerce, control, and intimidate intimate partners. Rumination (i.e., brooding about one’s self and life situation) and relationship satisfaction were examined as potential mediating variables. Self-identified lesbian women in a same-sex relationship (N = 220) were recruited from a market research firm’s online panel. Participants completed measures of internalized homophobia, social constraints, rumination, relationship satisfaction, and frequency of past year PA victimization and perpetration. Internalized homophobia and social constraints in talking to friends about sexual identity yielded a positive indirect link with PA via a sequential path through rumination and relationship satisfaction. There was an additional indirect positive association of minority stressors with PA via a unique path through rumination. These results demonstrate the importance of continued efforts toward reducing minority stress, where possible, as well as enhancing coping. Given the importance of rumination and relationship satisfaction in the link between minority stressors and PA, it is imperative to improve adaptive coping responses to sexual minority stressors. Development and validation of individual- and couples-based interventions that address coping with sexual minority stressors using methods that decrease rumination and brooding and increase relationship satisfaction are certainly warranted.


“Hit Me Baby”: From Britney Spears to the Socialization of Sexual Objectification of Girls in a Middle School Drama Program

Laurie Schick
Sexuality & Culture, March 2014, Pages 39-55

This language socialization study integrates ethnographic and intertextual methods of data collection and analysis to examine how one middle school drama class’s performance of Britney Spears’s first hit song, originally titled “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” exemplifies not only how sexually charged media can contribute to the normalization of sexist, abusive, and thus also violent behavior toward women, but also how local caretaking adults can contribute to these socialization practices even within the context of official educational activities. Prior studies related to the socialization of gender equality and sexual abuse prevention in educational institutions have focused on whether and how adult intervention may prevent or stop gender and thus also sexually related abuse. This study indicates that further research into adult complicity and the need for intervention into adult behavior may also be called for. The ethnographic fieldwork for this paper was conducted during a larger language socialization study at a middle school in the western United States. This included the videotaping of rehearsals and performances by middle school students of popular songs. The intertextual data chosen for analysis is based on these ethnographic observations. The conclusion that some adults are actively socializing female sexual objectification and male dominance during school-based activities is based on observations of these locally occurring interactions.


She Stoops to Conquer? How Posture Interacts With Self-Objectification and Status to Impact Women’s Affect and Performance

Megan Kozak, Tomi-Ann Roberts & Kelsey Patterson
Psychology of Women Quarterly, forthcoming

Research suggests that posture exerts powerful affective and cognitive influences, although recent studies have indicated that these embodiment effects are moderated by gender. We examined two sociocultural factors that may contribute to the effects of postural feedback in women: self-objectification and power. Across a 2 × 2 × 2 between-subjects design, 80 female undergraduates completed various cognitive tasks and self-report measures after having been in an upright or slouched posture, seated in either a (powerful) throne or child’s chair, and wearing either a formfitting (objectifying) tank top or loose sweatshirt. The results showed that posture had the predicted influence on mood, with those seated upright reporting more positive mood than those seated in a slouched position. For the cognitive tasks, our findings were more complex and, due to low power, are best considered preliminary. Participants who were seated upright in a child’s chair while wearing a sweatshirt attempted the highest number of math items compared to those in the other conditions, supporting our prediction that postural benefits would be greatest in a context where power cues were gender-appropriate and self-objectification effects were attenuated. On a measure of satisfaction with performance, our findings suggest that self-objectification outweighed the power manipulation, leading to poorer outcomes when a seated position emphasized sexualized features of the body. Taken together, our results suggest that embodiment effects appear to be impacted by contextual cues, perhaps particularly for women.


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