One Size Fits All

Kevin Lewis

May 26, 2022

White Americans' Reactions to Racial Disparities in COVID-19
Lafleur Stephens-Dougan
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

I fielded a survey experiment on a nationally representative sample of 591 white Americans to test whether exposure to information about the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Black people influenced white Americans' opinion about COVID-19 policies. I found that racially prejudiced white Americans who were exposed to the treatment diminished the importance of wearing a face mask. They also became more supportive of outdoor activities without social distancing guidelines, more likely to perceive shelter-in-place orders as a threat to their individual rights and freedoms, and less likely to perceive African Americans as following social distancing guidelines. Conversely, white Americans who did not endorse an anti-Black stereotype were less likely to perceive shelter-in-place orders as a threat to their individual rights and more likely to perceive African Americans as following social distancing guidelines. These findings highlight that well-intentioned public health campaigns may inadvertently exacerbate existing race-based health disparities. 

How the term "white privilege" affects participation, polarization, and content in online communication
Christopher Quarles & Lia Bozarth
PLoS ONE, May 2022

The language used in online discussions affects who participates in them and how they respond, which can influence perceptions of public opinion. This study examines how the term white privilege affects these dimensions of online communication. In two lab experiments, US residents were given a chance to respond to a post asking their opinions about renaming college buildings. Using the term white privilege in the question decreased the percentage of whites who supported renaming. In addition, those whites who remained supportive when white privilege was mentioned were less likely to create an online post, while opposing whites and non-whites showed no significant difference. The term also led to more low-quality posts among both whites and non-whites. The relationship between question language and the way participants framed their responses was mediated by their support or opposition for renaming buildings. This suggests that the effects of the term white privilege on the content of people's responses is primarily affective. Overall, mention of white privilege seems to create internet discussions that are less constructive, more polarized, and less supportive of racially progressive policies. The findings have the potential to support meaningful online conversation and reduce online polarization. 

"They're Everywhere!": Symbolically Threatening Groups Seem More Pervasive Than Nonthreatening Groups
Rebecca Ponce de Leon, Jacqueline Rifkin & Richard Larrick
Psychological Science, forthcoming 

The meaning of places is socially constructed, often informed by the groups that seem pervasive there. For instance, the University of Pennsylvania is sometimes called "Jew-niversity of Pennsylvania," and the city of Decatur, Georgia, is disparagingly nicknamed "Dyke-atur," connoting the respective pervasiveness of Jewish students and gay residents. Because these pervasiveness perceptions meaningfully impact how people navigate the social world, it is critical to understand the factors that influence their formation. Across surveys, experiments, and archival data, six studies (N = 3,039 American adults) revealed the role of symbolic threat (i.e., perceived differences in values and worldviews). Specifically, holding constant important features of the group and context, we demonstrated that groups higher in symbolic threat are perceived as more populous in a place and more associated with that place than groups lower in symbolic threat. Ultimately, this work reveals that symbolic threat can both distort how people understand their surroundings and shape the meaning of places. 

Poor Toddlers Feel Less Pain? Application of Class-Based Pain Stereotypes in Judgments of Children
Kevin Summers, Gina Paganini & Paige Lloyd
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Across four studies, we investigated whether perceptions of children's pain are influenced by their socioeconomic status (SES). We found evidence that children with low SES were believed to feel less pain than children with high SES (Study 1), and this effect was not moderated by child's age (Study 2). Next, we examined life hardship as a mediator of this effect among children, finding that children with low SES were rated as having lived a harder life and thus as feeling less pain (Study 3). Finally, we examined downstream consequences for hypothetical treatment recommendations. We found that participants perceived children with low SES as less sensitive to pain and therefore as requiring less pain treatment than children with high SES (Study 4). Thus, we consistently observe that stereotypes of low-SES individuals as insensitive to pain may manifest in judgments of children and their recommended pain care. Implications of this work for theory and medical practice are discussed. 

Globally Inaccurate Stereotypes Can Result From Locally Adaptive Exploration
Xuechunzi Bai, Susan Fiske & Thomas Griffiths
Psychological Science, May 2022, Pages 671-684

Inaccurate stereotypes - perceived differences among groups that do not actually differ - are prevalent and consequential. Past research explains stereotypes as emerging from a range of factors, including motivational biases, cognitive limitations, and information deficits. Considering the minimal forces required to produce inaccurate assumptions about group differences, we found that locally adaptive exploration is sufficient: An initial arbitrary interaction, if rewarding enough, may discourage people from investigating alternatives that would be equal or better. Historical accidents can snowball into globally inaccurate generalizations, and inaccurate stereotypes can emerge in the absence of real group differences. Using multiarmed-bandit models, we found that the mere act of choosing among groups with the goal of maximizing the long-term benefit of interactions is enough to produce inaccurate assessments of different groups. This phenomenon was reproduced in two large online experiments with English-speaking adults (N = 2,404), which demonstrated a minimal process that suffices to produce biased impressions. 

Assessing the speed and spontaneity of racial bias in pain perception
Peter Mende-Siedlecki et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming 

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that perceivers recognize painful expressions less readily on Black (compared to White) faces. However, it is unclear how rapidly this bias emerges and whether it occurs automatically or effortfully - for example, via the deliberate application of consciously-held racialized beliefs regarding pain tolerance. Across five experiments we examined the speed and spontaneity of racial bias in pain perception. First, we observed that racial bias in pain perception was still evident under minimal presentation conditions (as brief as 33 ms) and was most apparent for ambiguous (versus high intensity) pain expressions (Exp. 1A-B). Notably, these findings generalized across both Black and White perceivers. Next, we manipulated the amount of cognitive load participants were under while viewing and rating Black and White faces in varying degrees of pain (Exps. 2A-C). Here, we observed that perceivers had more stringent thresholds for seeing pain on Black (versus White) faces regardless of whether participants were under high (versus low) load. Bayesian analyses of these data suggested strong evidence for the null hypothesis that racial bias in pain perception is not moderated by cognitive load. Together, these data demonstrate that racial bias in pain perception occurs rapidly, automatically, and with minimal visual input. 

The Maintenance of the U.S. Racial Hierarchy Through Judgments of Multiracial People Based on Proximity to Whiteness
Maria Garay, Jennifer Perry & Jessica Remedios
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 

Previous research has argued that a growing multiracial population will blur boundaries between racial groups, reducing racism and improving interracial relations. However, this is unlikely to happen if multiracial groups are judged according to their proximity to Whiteness. We examined how having White ancestry shapes status perceptions of multiracial groups. Studies 1 and 2 showed that multiracial groups with White ancestry (e.g., Black/White) are considered higher status than dual minority multiracial (e.g., Black/Latinx) and monoracial minority (e.g., Black) groups. Study 3 revealed that multiracial groups with White ancestry are perceived as more competent and warmer than monoracial minority and dual minority multiracial groups, leading to higher status perceptions for multiracial groups with White ancestry. Thus, multiracial people, like other racial minorities, may be judged according to White, Eurocentric standards. The results imply that, without anti-racist intervention, the treatment of multiracial people will reinforce, rather than challenge, the existing racial hierarchy. 

Intersectional implicit bias: Evidence for asymmetrically compounding bias and the predominance of target gender
Paul Connor et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Little is known about implicit evaluations of complex, multiply categorizable social targets. Across five studies (N = 5,204), we investigated implicit evaluations of targets varying in race, gender, social class, and age. Overall, the largest and most consistent evaluative bias was pro-women/anti-men bias, followed by smaller but nonetheless consistent pro-upper-class/anti-lower-class biases. By contrast, we observed less consistent effects of targets' race, no effects of targets' age, and no consistent interactions between target-level categories. An integrative data analysis highlighted a number of moderating factors, but a stable pro-women/anti-men and pro-upper-class/anti-lower-class bias across demographic groups. Overall, these results suggest that implicit biases compound across multiple categories asymmetrically, with a dominant category (here, gender) largely driving evaluations, and ancillary categories (here, social class and race) exerting relatively smaller additional effects. We discuss potential implications of this work for understanding how implicit biases operate in real-world social settings. 

Assessing the Causal Link between the COVID-19 Pandemic and Racial Discrimination
Jun Zhao, Justine Tinkler & Kristen Clayton
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, April 2022

In this article, we report the results of a randomized controlled experiment that examines how exposure to information about a global pandemic from Asia affects white Americans' prosocial behavior towards white, black, and Asian Americans. We find that when exposed to a new disease threat from Asia, (1) white Americans donate significantly less money to Asian American recipients than to white or black American recipients, (2) liberals and conservatives are equally likely to discriminate, and (3) a significant spike in media attention about violence against Asians inhibited this discriminatory behavior - at least temporarily. Our experiment allows us to rule out alternative explanations for the unequal treatment of Asian Americans, providing evidence of a causal link between the COVID-19 pandemic and racial discrimination. The study contributes to knowledge about the spillover effects of external threats on race relations and has implications for public health and science communication. 

Detecting Prejudice From Egalitarianism: Why Black Americans Don't Trust White Egalitarians' Claims
Michael Rosenblum, Drew Jacoby-Senghor & Derek Brown
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Although White Americans increasingly express egalitarian views, how they express egalitarianism may reveal inegalitarian tendencies and sow mistrust with Black Americans. In the present experiments, Black perceivers inferred likability and trustworthiness and accurately inferred underlying racial attitudes and motivations from White writers' declarations that they are nonprejudiced and egalitarian (Experiments 1 and 2). White writers believed that their egalitarianism seemed more inoffensive and indicative of allyship than was perceived by Black Americans (Experiment 1a). Linguistic analysis revealed that, when inferring racial attitudes and motivations, Black perceivers accurately attended to language emphasizing humanization, support for equal opportunity, personal responsibility, and the idea that equality already exists (Experiment 1b). We found causal evidence that these linguistic cues informed Black Americans' perceptions of White egalitarians (Experiment 2). Suggesting societal costs of these perceptions, White egalitarians' underlying racial beliefs negatively predicted Black participants' actual trust and cooperation in an economic game (Experiment 3). Our experiments (N = 1,335 adults) showed that White Americans' insistence that they are egalitarian itself perpetuates mistrust with Black Americans. 

Categorizing a Face and Facing a Category: The Constructive Impacts of Ambiguity and Uncertainty in Racial Categorization
Aharon Levy et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 

The past generation has seen a dramatic rise in multiracial populations and a consequent increase in exposure to individuals who challenge monolithic racial categories. We examine and compare two potential outcomes of the multiracial population growth that may impact people's racial categorization experience: (a) exposure to racially ambiguous faces that visually challenge the existing categories, and (b) a category that conceptually challenges existing categories (including "biracial" as an option in addition to the monolithic "Black" and "White" categories). Across four studies (N = 1,810), we found that multiple exposures to faces that are racially ambiguous directly lower essentialist views of race. Moreover, we found that when people consider a category that blurs the line between racial categories (i.e., "biracial"), they become less certain in their racial categorization, which is associated with less race essentialism, as well. Importantly, we found that these two effects happen independently from one another and represent two distinct cognitive processes. 

On the value of modesty: How signals of status undermine cooperation
Shalena Srna, Alixandra Barasch & Deborah Small
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming 

The widespread demand for luxury is best understood by the social advantages of signaling status (i.e., conspicuous consumption; Veblen, 1899). In the present research, we examine the limits of this perspective by studying the implications of status signaling for cooperation. Cooperation is principally about caring for others, which is fundamentally at odds with the self-promotional nature of signaling status. Across behaviorally consequential Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) games and naturalistic scenario studies, we investigate both sides of the relationship between signaling and cooperation: (a) how people respond to others who signal status, as well as (b) the strategic choices people make about whether to signal status. In each case, we find that people recognize the relative advantage of modesty (i.e., the inverse of signaling status) and behave strategically to enable cooperation. That is, people are less likely to cooperate with partners who signal status compared to those who are modest (Studies 1 and 2), and more likely to select a modest person when cooperation is desirable (Study 3). These behaviors are consistent with inferences that status signalers are less prosocial and less prone to cooperate. Importantly, people also refrain from signaling status themselves when it is strategically beneficial to appear cooperative (Studies 4-6). Together, our findings contribute to a better understanding of the conditions under which the reputational costs of conspicuous consumption outweigh its benefits, helping integrate theoretical perspectives on strategic interpersonal dynamics, cooperation, and status signaling.


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