Quick to Judge

Kevin Lewis

May 04, 2023

Biological Essentialism Correlates With (But Doesn’t Cause?) Intergroup Bias
April Bailey & Joshua Knobe
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 


People with biological essentialist beliefs about social groups also tend to endorse biased beliefs about individuals in those groups, including intensified emphasis on the group, stereotypes, and prejudices. These correlations could be due to biological essentialism causing bias, and some experimental studies support this causal direction. Given this prior work, we expected to find that biological essentialism would lead to increased bias compared with a control condition and set out to extend this prior work in a new direction (regarding “value-based” essentialism). But although the manipulation affected essentialist beliefs and essentialist beliefs were correlated with group emphasis (Study 1), stereotyping (Studies 2, 3a, 3b, and 3c), prejudice (Studies 3a), there was no evidence that biological essentialism caused these outcomes (NTotal = 1,903). Given these findings, our initial research question became moot. We thus focus on reexamining the relationship between essentialism and bias.

“There She Is, Your Ideal”: Negative Social Comparisons and Health Behaviors
Christopher Carpenter & Brandyn Churchill
NBER Working Paper, April 2023


We provide novel evidence on the role of negative social comparisons in population health behaviors by exploiting variation in Miss America and Miss USA beauty pageant winners. We show that there was more front-page newspaper coverage and more pageant-related internet search behavior following a home-state win. Teen girls and pageant-aged women with home-state winners were more likely to report that they were trying to lose weight, and pregnant women gained less gestational weight. We do not detect meaningful changes for teen boys, young adult men, or older women for whom social comparisons were plausibly less salient.

Stereotypes of criminality in the U.S. track ecology, not race
Keelah Williams
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming


Why do social perceivers use race to infer a target's propensity for criminal behavior? Life history theory proposes that the harshness and unpredictability of one's environment shapes individuals' behavior, with harsh and unpredictable (“desperate”) ecologies inducing “fast” life history strategies (characterized by present-focused behaviors), and resource-sufficient and stable (“hopeful”) ecologies inducing “slow” life history strategies (characterized by future-focused behaviors). People have an implicit understanding of the ways in which ecology shapes behavior, and use cues to ecology to infer a target's likely life history strategy. Additionally, because race is confounded with ecology in the United States, American perceivers use race as a heuristic cue to ecology, stereotyping Black individuals as possessing faster life history strategies than White individuals. Here, I propose that many race stereotypes about criminality actually reflect inferences of life history strategy, and thus track beliefs about the behavioral effects of ecology, rather than race. In a series of three studies, I explored the relations between perceptions of ecology, race, and criminal behavior. Participants in each study (N = 896) were recruited through a U.S. online marketplace. Findings indicate that stereotypes regarding likelihood to engage in specific crimes were largely driven by beliefs about the presumed ecology of the offender, rather than offender's race, such that Black and White targets from desperate (and hopeful) ecologies were stereotyped as similarly likely (or unlikely) to commit a variety of “stereotypically Black” crimes. Taken together, these findings suggest that beliefs about criminality may not be driven by race, per se, but may instead reflect inferences of how one's ecology shapes behavior. Implications of these findings for understanding and reducing racial bias in the criminal justice system are discussed.

Racial attitudes and belief in redeemability: Most Whites believe justice-involved Black people can change
Leah Butler, Francis Cullen & Velmer Burton
Criminology, forthcoming 


Public belief in redeemability reduces punitiveness and increases support for policy measures such as rehabilitation, expungement, and housing and employment opportunities. Although racial attitudes are known to influence a wide range of criminal justice policy opinions, their effects on beliefs about redeemability and condemnation have not been fully explored. Using data from a 2019 YouGov survey of a national sample of White U.S. adults (N = 766), the current study estimates the effects of three distinct racial attitudes -- racial resentment, racial sympathy, and White nationalism -- on three measures of belief in redeemability: 1) a race-neutral measure, 2) a measure of belief in redeemability of Black offenders, and 3) a measure of condemnation of Black offenders. The results indicate that belief in redeemability is high -- for offenders in general and for Black offenders. These findings are supported by a second 2022 YouGov survey of White U.S. adults (N = 1,505). Racial sympathy and White nationalism have significant effects across all three outcomes, with the positive effect of White nationalism on condemnation of Black offenders being the largest across the three models. These findings suggest that although most Whites agree that formerly incarcerated people are redeemable, racial attitudes influence these beliefs, especially for Black offenders.

Do Beliefs That Older Adults Are Inflexible Serve as a Barrier to Racial Equality?
Kimberly Chaney & Alison Chasteen
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 


Past research has demonstrated that older adults are stereotyped as less malleable than young adults. Moreover, beliefs that people are less malleable are associated with lower confrontations of prejudice, as perpetrators are seen as less capable of changing their (prejudiced) behavior. The present research sought to integrate these lines of research to demonstrate that endorsement of ageist beliefs that older adults are less malleable will lead to a lower confrontation of anti-Black prejudice espoused by older adults. Across four experimental studies (N = 1,573), people were less likely to confront anti-Black prejudice espoused by an 82-year-old compared with a 62-, 42-, or 20-year-old, due, in part, to beliefs that older adults are less malleable. Further exploration demonstrated that malleability beliefs about older adults were held across young, middle-aged, and older adult samples. These findings demonstrate how stereotypes about older adults can impede racial equality.

Is There an Idealized Target of Sexual Harassment in the MeToo Era?
Chloe Grace Hart
Social Problems, forthcoming 


Evidence suggests that Americans became more sympathetic toward people who experienced sexual harassment as the MeToo movement surged. Yet how comprehensive these shifts in public opinion have been remains unclear. I hypothesize that women who experience workplace sexual harassment are judged against the archetype of an idealized target of sexual harassment and deemed less credible when they fall short. Using data from a novel multifactorial survey experiment, I find that net of other factors, a Black woman is deemed less credible than a white woman. A woman is also deemed less credible when she does not assertively confront the harassment in the moment and when she does not report it to her organization. Further, she is deemed less credible when there are no witnesses and when her alleged harasser has not been publicly accused of harassment by others. Her credibility is not affected by a power disparity with the harasser, the presence of alcohol, or a prior romantic relationship with the harasser. Finally, the more facets of the archetype a target conforms to, the more credible she is perceived to be. These results demonstrate a hierarchy of sexual harassment targets, in which some are deemed more credible than others.

Quantifying cultural change: Gender bias in music
Reihane Boghrati & Jonah Berger
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming 


Cultural items (e.g., songs, books, and movies) have an important impact in creating and reinforcing stereotypes. But the actual nature of such items is often less transparent. Take songs, for example. Are lyrics biased against women, and how have any such biases changed over time? Natural language processing of a quarter of a million songs quantifies gender bias in music over the last 50 years. Women are less likely to be associated with desirable traits (i.e., competence), and while this bias has decreased, it persists. Ancillary analyses further suggest that song lyrics may contribute to shifts in collective attitudes and stereotypes toward women, and that lyrical shifts are driven by male artists (as female artists were less biased to begin with). Overall, these results shed light on cultural evolution, subtle measures of bias and discrimination, and how natural language processing and machine learning can provide deeper insight into stereotypes, cultural change, and a range of psychological questions more generally.

Examining the Consequences of Dehumanization and Adultification in Justification of Police Use of Force Against Black Girls and Boys
Jennifer Perillo et al.
Law and Human Behavior, February 2023, Pages 36–52

Method: After completing an implicit dehumanization measure, participants viewed an image (varied on age and gender) of a juvenile, estimated the juvenile’s age, and read a vignette in which the juvenile had an altercation with police. Participants rated the amount, severity, and justification of the force used by the officer as well as the physical and emotional harm caused to the juvenile.

Results: We found that Black targets were dehumanized more than White targets. Adultification, unrelated to implicit dehumanization, predicted perceiving police use of force against juveniles as more justified and less severe. Black girls were most likely to experience adultification; participants generally perceived them as less victimized than Black boys and White girls.

Black + White = Prototypically Black: Visualizing Black and White People’s Mental Representations of Black–White Biracial People
Andre’ Oliver et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 


Utilizing reverse correlation, we investigated Black and White participants’ mental representations of Black–White Biracial people. Across 200 trails, Black and White participants chose which of two faces best fit specific social categories. Using these decisions, we visually estimated Black and White people’s mental representations of Biracial people by generating classification images (CIs). Independent raters blind to condition determined that White CI generators’ Biracial CI was prototypically Blacker (i.e., more Afrocentric facial features and darker skin tone) than Black CI generators’ Biracial CI (Study 1a/b). Furthermore, independent raters could not distinguish between White CI generators’ Black and Biracial CIs, a bias not exhibited by Black CI generators (Study 2). A separate task demonstrated that prejudiced White participants allocated fewer imaginary funds to the more prototypically Black Biracial CI (Study 3), providing converging evidence. How phenotypicality bias, the outgroup homogeneity effect, and hypodescent influences people’s mental images of ingroup/outgroup members is discussed.

Not in my group: Protecting group reputation by excluding stereotypical targets
Jorge Jacob & Jacqueline Chen
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming 


Across many societies, there are racial minority groups that are negatively stereotyped. In the US and Brazil, for instance, Black individuals are unjustifiably stereotyped with criminality by non-Black individuals. Consequently, in situations where this negative stereotype could apply, Black individuals may be more motivated to protect their group's reputation than individuals from non-stereotyped groups. This research extended the literature on racial categorization processes and stereotype threat by identifying a novel mechanism that increases the exclusion of undesirable potential ingroup targets. Across four experiments with Black and non-Black Brazilians and Americans (n = 1202), we show that when perceivers from negatively stereotyped groups (e.g., Black individuals) can exclude targets who reinforce negative stereotypes of the ingroup, they will do so to avoid further threats to their group's public reputation. We also explore cross-cultural variability (Brazilians vs. Americans) in the level of impact of group reputation threats in shaping racial categorization.

Revisiting Black Americans’ self-protective strategies: The effect of negative intelligence feedback on implicit (vs. explicit) self-esteem
Luis Rivera & Delisa Nicole Young
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, forthcoming 

Method: Black American participants across both experiments (Experiment 1: N = 57; 40 females, Mage = 21.60; Experiment 2: N = 79; 64 females, Mage = 24.86) completed an intelligence test, then were randomly assigned to receive either negative feedback about their performance or no-feedback. Participants then completed measures of implicit and explicit self-esteem. Participants in Experiment 2 also completed a measure of subjective identity centrality.

Results: In support of the hypotheses, Black American participants across both experiments who received negative performance feedback on an intelligence test exhibited lower implicit self-esteem compared to those who did not receive feedback. Experiment 2 further demonstrated that this effect emerged only among strongly identified Black American participants. Finally, and consistent with past research, explicit self-esteem was unaffected by negative performance feedback among all participants.


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