Seeing is Believing

Kevin Lewis

September 03, 2020

Mobilized or marginalized? Understanding low-status groups’ responses to social justice efforts led by high-status groups
Aarti Iyer & Tulsi Achia
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Members of high-status groups (e.g., men) often lead social justice efforts that seek to benefit low-status groups (e.g., women), but little is known about how observers respond to such instances of visible and influential solidarity. We presented information about a nonprofit organization seeking to address gender (Study 1, N = 198) or racial (Study 2, N = 216) inequality, in which the leadership team was manipulated to include a numerical majority of either high-status group members or low-status group members. Members of low-status groups who read about the majority high-status leadership team reported lower levels of collective action intentions, compared with those who read about the majority low-status leadership team. Mediation analyses (Studies 1 and 2) and an experimental-causal-chain design (Study 3, N = 405) showed that lower collective action intentions in response to the majority high-status leadership team were mediated by participants’ perception of a specific problem presented by high-status group leaders (lower awareness of inequality) and lower levels of hope. Study 4 (N = 555) demonstrated that low-status group members responded more negatively to a majority high-status leadership team in an organization seeking to benefit their low-status ingroup (solidarity context), compared with organizations seeking to benefit other groups (nonsolidarity contexts). Results provide the first evidence that the presence of influential high-status group leaders can discourage members of low-status groups from joining a social justice effort that seeks to benefit their ingroup, and that these negative responses extend beyond preferences predicted by frameworks of ingroup bias and role congruity.

From Fear to Hate: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Sparks Racial Animus in the United States
Runjing Lu & Yanying Sheng
University of California Working Paper, July 2020


We estimate the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on racial animus as measured by Google searches and Twitter posts that include a commonly used anti-Asian racial slur. Our empirical strategy exploits plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of the first COVID-19 diagnosis across regions in the United States. The first local diagnosis leads to an immediate increase in racist Google searches and Twitter posts, with the Twitter posts mainly from existing Twitter users who post the slur for the first time. This increase could indicate a rise in future hate crimes as we document with historical data a strong correlation between the use of the slur and anti-Asian hate crimes. Moreover, the increase in animosity is directed at Asians rather than at other minority groups and is amplified in the hours and on the days when the connection between the disease and Asians is more salient, as proxied by the number of President Trump’s tweets that mention China and COVID-19 simultaneously. In contrast, the negative economic impact of the pandemic plays little role in the initial increase in racial animus. Our results suggest that delinking a disease and a particular racial group can be an effective way to curb racial animus.

I’m up here! Sexual objectification leads to feeling ostracized
Maayan Dvir et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Theory and research demonstrate that women are frequently the targets of sexually objectifying behavior, viewed and treated by others as mere objects for pleasure and use. When sexually objectified, attention is principally focused on scrutinizing and valuing their physical features, whereas their internal attributes (e.g., thoughts, feelings, personhood) may be largely ignored (Bartky, 1990). Although the processes and negative effects associated with sexual objectification have been examined extensively, no work has examined the “ignoring” component of sexual objectification. We reasoned that sexually objectifying a woman by ignoring and devaluing some of her personal attributes or features is akin to partial ostracism. Although sexual objectification and partial ostracism may seem to comprise opposite characteristics (i.e., attention vs. ignoring), we posit that sexually objectifying a woman, much like partial ostracism, involves ignoring some of her internal attributes (e.g., thoughts, feelings, voice). Across 4 studies, we expected and found evidence that a sexual objectification experience (vs. control conditions) resulted in women feeling sexually objectified, which led to increased feelings of ostracism, which, in turn, threatened and lowered women’s fundamental need satisfaction (i.e., belonging, control, self-esteem, and meaningful existence). Our findings suggest that not only do women suffer the adverse consequences of being sexually objectified, but when they are objectified, they can also experience the added negative effects associated with being partially ostracized, a novel finding that contributes to both the sexual objectification and ostracism literature.

Girls Try, Boys Aim High: Exposing Difference in Implied Ability, Activity, and Agency of Girls Versus Boys in Language on McDonald’s Happy Meal Boxes
Kristen Lee Hourigan
Sex Roles, forthcoming


The present research investigates subtle yet powerful differences in the language present on cultural artifacts marketed for girls and boys. Through a content analysis of the verbs written on the girl-oriented and boy-oriented sides of all 56 McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes distributed between 2011 and 2019 in the United States, I uncover stark differences in the implied ability, activity, and agency levels of boys versus girls. The mixed methods nature of my exploration allows for statistical testing coupled with analysis of the language in context, revealing pervasive, nuanced differences that bolster our understanding of the complexity of the messages being relayed to children about what is appropriate and expected for boys versus girls. Central findings include the subtle, yet pervasive implication that girls are less active, less powerful, and in need of more detailed instruction and help, and they draw on a narrower set of skills as compared to boys. Through differential language, boys are also challenged at a qualitatively different level than girls and are assumed to have greater levels of ability (e.g., girls “try” and boys “aim high”). Girls’ agency is directly questioned, implying a lack of general confidence in the child’s ability to succeed, which is not the case for boys. Such subtle messages perpetuate insidious gender stereotypes and reinforce inequities in power and privilege.

The new identity theft: Perceptions of cultural appropriation in intergroup contexts
Ariel Mosley & Monica Biernat
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Cultural appropriation has been described and discussed within academic and everyday discourse, but little research has examined its role in the psychological context of intergroup relations. We sought to examine whether minority and majority group members (i.e., Black and White Americans) would differentially judge instances of cultural exchange as cultural appropriation. Five experiments (3 were preregistered on OSF) using a variety of potential cases of cultural appropriation demonstrated that Black participants were more likely than White participants to view these incidents as appropriation when they involved White perpetrators appropriating Black culture (vs. scenarios of Black perpetrators appropriating White culture), an effect mediated by distinctiveness threat. Black (vs. White) participants were also more likely to perceive White actors who appropriate Black culture as harmful and as intentional. In Study 4, explicit manipulation of distinctiveness threat eliminated the participant race effect: Perceivers viewed White perpetrators as more appropriative than Black perpetrators. When actors were portrayed as using either an ingroup or outgroup cultural product (Study 5), participants perceived use of an outgroup cultural product as more appropriative. Studies 3–5 were preregistered on OSF. This research illuminates how group-based status interacts with and adds to perpetrator prototypically to influence perceptions of cultural appropriation, distinguishes perception of appropriation from perception of racism, and points to the importance of distinctiveness threat as a contributor to differential race-based perceptions. Implications of perceiving cultural appropriation for intergroup relations are discussed.

White Demographic Anxiety and Support for Torture of Terrorism Suspects
James Piazza
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, forthcoming


In this study I use a survey experiment to test whether the prospect of White demographic decline affects attitudes toward treatment of terrorism suspects. I find that when White subjects are informed that Whites are projected to become a demographic minority in the United States by 2060 they are more likely to approve of the use of torture on terrorism suspects. In contrast, White subjects who are informed that Whites are expected to remain a demographic majority through 2030 are not. I also find that the effect of White decline salience on support for torture of terror suspects is mediated through a heighted perception of threat due to terrorism.

Is a Picture Worth A Thousand Words? An Experiment Comparing Observer-Based Skin Tone Measures
Mary Campbell et al.
Race and Social Problems, September 2020, Pages 266–278


Several different measures of skin color are popular in social science surveys, yet we have little evidence to suggest which method is the most valid or reliable when we design new studies. In this experiment, we compare three different ways of asking raters to evaluate skin tone, testing whether common methods designed to reduce variation across raters from different social groups are effective. We compare two popular scales: a simple text-based 5-point skin tone scale (which asks raters to classify pictures on a scale from very light to very dark) and a newer 10-point palette-based skin tone scale (which asks raters to choose a number from 1 to 10, with pictures associated with each number). We also ask raters to use a more complex two-axis color grid that we created, in order to test whether addressing common criticisms of the palette-based scales improves rating reliability. Experiment participants rated a randomly selected subset of pictures with a wide range of skin tones. We find that demographic characteristics of the raters such as gender, race, their amount of contact with diverse racial groups, and immigration status affect skin tone ratings that observers assign, no matter what type of measure is used, and the three measures have reliability ratings that are statistically similar. We discuss the implications of the differences between the measures for designing social science surveys and interview studies.

Dual cues: Women of color anticipate both gender and racial bias in the face of a single identity cue
Kimberly Chaney, Diana Sanchez & Jessica Remedios
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming


Integrating past research on women of color, stigma transfers, and generalized prejudice, the present research examined the extent to which threats and safety cues to one identity dimension (e.g., gender) results in threat or safety to women of color’s other stigmatized identity dimension (e.g., race). Across three experimental studies (Total N = 638), the present research found support for a dual cue hypothesis, such that Black and Latina women anticipated gender bias from a racial identity threat (Studies 1 and 2) and anticipated racial bias from a gender identity threat (Study 2) resulting in greater overall anticipated bias compared to White women (Study 3). Moreover, Black and Latina women anticipated racial identity safety from a gender identity safety cue (Study 3) supporting a dual safety hypothesis. These studies add to work on double jeopardy by extending a dual threat framework to anticipation of discrimination and highlighting the transferability of threat and safety cues for women of color.

Adults delay conversations about race because they underestimate children’s processing of race
Jessica Sullivan, Leigh Wilton & Evan Apfelbaum
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


To help children navigate their social environments, adults must understand what children know about race, and when they acquire this knowledge. Across three preregistered studies, we tested United States adults’ knowledge of when children first use race to categorize and ascribe traits to others. Participants wildly — and uniquely — misjudged children’s abilities to process race. This inaccuracy was consequential: it was a stronger predictor of the preference to delay conversations about race with children than other factors previously theorized to underlie adults’ reluctance to talk about race. And, this relation was causal. Our data suggest that fundamental misunderstandings about children’s capacities to process race are pervasive in the United States population and may delay when adults engage children in important conversations about race.

Disrupting Beliefs in Racial Progress: Reminders of Persistent Racism Alter Perceptions of Past, But Not Current, Racial Economic Equality
Ivuoma Onyeador et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Although there has been limited progress toward economic equality between Americans over the past half-century, many Americans are largely unaware of the persistence of economic racial disparities. One intervention for this widespread ignorance is to inform White Americans of the impact of racism on the outcomes of Black Americans. In two studies, we attempted to improve the accuracy of Whites’ perceptions of racial progress and estimates of contemporary racial economic equality. Reminding White Americans about the persistence of racial disparities produced smaller overestimates of how much progress had been made toward racial economic equality between 1963 and 2016. Rather than modifying overestimates of contemporary racial economic equality, participants who read about disparities assessed the past as more equitable than participants who did not. We discuss implications of these findings for efforts to address Whites’ misperceptions of racial economic equality and to challenge narratives of American racial progress.

Men Are Funnier than Women under a Condition of Low Self-Efficacy but Women Are Funnier than Men under a Condition of High Self-Efficacy
Tracy Caldwell & Paulina Wojtach
Sex Roles, September 2020, Pages 338–352


The debate about whether women can be as funny as men pervades the popular press, and research has sometimes supported the stereotype that men are funnier (Mickes et al. 2011). The goal of the present research was to determine whether this gender difference can be explained by differences in beliefs about one’s capability for humor (“humor self-efficacy”). Male and female U.S. undergraduates (n = 64) generated captions for 20 cartoons and rated their own humor self-efficacy. Subsequently, an independent sample of 370 Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) users evaluated these captions in a knockout-style tournament in which pairs of captions were presented with each of the cartoons. Each participant was randomly assigned to evaluate captions which were authored by men and women selected to be either low or high in humor self-efficacy. In the initial round of the tournament, each caption was authored by a man and a woman matched for comparable levels of self-identified humor self-efficacy. In subsequent rounds, the remaining captions were paired randomly. MTurk users, unaware of the captioners’ gender, selected the captions of men as funnier only under the low self-efficacy condition and those of women as funnier under the high self-efficacy condition. These data suggest that self-efficacy may be a critical determinant of the successful performance of humor. When people say that women are not funny, they may be relying on an unfounded stereotype. We discuss how this stereotype may negatively affect perceptions of women in the workplace and other settings.

Can Social Media Anti-abuse Policies Work? A Quasi-experimental Study of Online Sexist and Racist Slurs
Diane Felmlee et al.
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, August 2020


The authors use the timing of a change in Twitter’s rules regarding abusive content to test the effectiveness of organizational policies aimed at stemming online harassment. Institutionalist theories of social control suggest that such interventions can be efficacious if they are perceived as legitimate, whereas theories of psychological reactance suggest that users may instead ratchet up aggressive behavior in response to the sanctioning authority. In a sample of 3.6 million tweets spanning one month before and one month after Twitter’s policy change, the authors find evidence of a modest positive shift in the average sentiment of tweets with slurs targeting women and/or African Americans. The authors further illustrate this trend by tracking the network spread of specific tweets and individual users. Retweeted messages are more negative than those not forwarded. These patterns suggest that organizational “anti-abuse” policies can play a role in stemming hateful speech on social media without inflaming further abuse.

Disgust Toward Interracial Couples: Mixed Feelings About Black–White Race Mixing
Shoko Watanabe & Sean Laurent
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Three studies further explored Skinner and Hudac's (2017) hypothesis that interracial couples elicit disgust. Using verbal and face emotion measures (Study 1), some participants reported more disgust toward interracial couples than same-race White and Black couples. In Study 2, only people higher in disgust sensitivity tended to “guess” that rapidly presented images of interracial (vs. White) couples were disgusting. Study 3 used a novel image classification paradigm that presented couples side-by-side with neutral or disgusting images. Participants took longer to decide whether target images were disgusting only when interracial (vs. White) couples appeared next to neutral images. Greater sexual disgust heightened this difference. Mixed evidence suggesting an association of disgust with Black couples also emerged in Studies 2 and 3. Thus, the disgust–interracial romance association may only emerge under certain conditions, and the current research offers limited support for the hypothesis that disgust response is exclusively linked to interracial unions.

Tipping the Multiracial Color-Line: Racialized Preferences of Multiracial Online Daters
Celeste Vaughan Curington, Jennifer Hickes Lundquist & Ken-Hou Lin
Race and Social Problems, September 2020, Pages 195–208


Building on previous work on US multiraciality, we analyze the messaging patterns of Asian-white, Hispanic-white, and black-white multiracial heterosexual users on one of the largest mainstream dating websites in the USA. We consider how multiracials’ online dating behaviors reflect, accommodate or challenge racialized desirability hierarchies among heterosexual daters. The study’s results illustrate that Hispanic-white multiracial men show similar preferences to both their multiracial and monoracial in-groups, while Asian-white and black-white multiracial men most prefer their multiracial counterparts. Hispanic-white multiracial women, on the other hand, privilege whiteness and multiraciality, while Asian-white multiracial women show most preference for their multiracial in-groups. Overall, our findings illustrate that both multiracial men and women’s online dating behaviors illustrate a linked privileging of white multiraciality while they also reinforce a hierarchical ranking of racial desirability anchored by anti-Blackness.

Culturally learned first impressions occur rapidly and automatically and emerge early in development
Adam Eggleston et al.
Developmental Science, forthcoming


Previous research indicates that first impressions from faces are the products of automatic and rapid processing and emerge early in development. These features have been taken as evidence that first impressions have a phylogenetic origin. We examine whether first impressions acquired through learning can also possess these features. First, we confirm that adults rate a person as more intelligent when they are wearing glasses (Study 1). Next, we show this inference persists when participants are instructed to ignore the glasses (Study 2) and when viewing time is restricted to 100 milliseconds (Study 3). Finally, we show that six‐year‐old, but not 4‐year‐old, children perceive individuals wearing glasses to be more intelligent, indicating that the effect is seen relatively early in development (Study 4). These data indicate that automaticity, rapid access, and early emergence are not evidence that first impressions have an innate origin. Rather, these features are equally compatible with a learning model.


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