Sounds Like Them

Kevin Lewis

January 09, 2020

What breeds conspiracy antisemitism? The role of political uncontrollability and uncertainty in the belief in Jewish conspiracy
Mirosław Kofta, Wiktor Soral & Michał Bilewicz
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Belief in conspiracy theories about Jews is a prototypical example of how a naïve theory can serve as a universal explanation of “all the bad things happening in society.” Such a theory often arises in times of political unrest that tend to breed feelings of uncertainty in politics and a lack of control over politics. As both uncertainty (a sense-making deficit) and lack of control (an agency deficit) can relate to conspiracy-based antisemitism, this research examines which of the two processes plays a pivotal role in the belief in Jewish conspiracy. Specifically, we hypothesize that political uncontrollability, rather than political uncertainty, is a critical factor in triggering conspiracy theories about groups. In Study 1 (N = 812) we found that lack of control, but not uncertainty, in the political domain predicted belief in Jewish conspiracy, and subsequently led to increased discriminatory attitudes toward Jews. The results of longitudinal Study 2 (N = 476) revealed that only political uncontrollability led to an increase in conspiracy-related stereotypes of Jews. In Study 3 (N = 172) we found that experimental induction of political uncontrollability increased belief in Jewish, German, and Russian conspiracy, whereas induction of political uncertainty did not. Finally, Study 4 (N = 370) replicated this pattern in another cultural context with more general measures of uncontrollability and uncertainty. It was lack of personal control, rather than uncertainty, that increased belief in Jewish conspiracy — and indirectly predicted other conspiracy theories. Our findings consistently support the critical role of political uncontrollability, not uncertainty, in triggering a conspiracy theory of Jews.

Searching for a Roommate: A Correspondence Audit Examining Racial/Ethnic and Immigrant Discrimination among Millennials
Michael Gaddis & Raj Ghoshal
University of California Working Paper, November 2019


Survey research finds that Millennials have less prejudiced views of racial/ethnic minorities than other generations, leading some to label Millennials as post-racial. However, survey research may be subject to social desirability bias since it documents words instead of actions. This study uses a correspondence audit to investigate discrimination among Millennials via “roommate wanted” advertisements. We send over 4,000 emails and find a tiered pattern of discrimination against Asian (Indian and Chinese), Latina, and Black room-seekers. However, when Asian and Latina room-seekers make inquiries using White or Anglo first names to signal second or later generation immigration status, their response rates are statistically indistinguishable from Whites. Our findings shed light on the future of our racial system; expand our knowledge of discrimination beyond the traditional Black/White binary; illustrate the persistence of anti-Blackness; and highlight the ability of correspondence audits to uncover a phenomenon which respondents do not discuss truthfully.

Perceiving demographic diversity as a threat: Divergent effects of multiculturalism and polyculturalism
Hannah Osborn, Nicholas Sosa & Kimberly Rios
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming


The growing racial/ethnic diversity in the United States can be perceived as threatening to White Americans. The present work examines how interethnic ideologies — different ways of framing ethnic diversity — moderate perceptions of threat and political conservatism among White Americans exposed to a passage about the US becoming a “majority-minority” nation. Across 3 studies, we found divergent effects of multiculturalism and polyculturalism within the context of growing diversity. Priming multiculturalism increased perceived threats to the ingroup’s power and status, which in turn led to greater endorsement of conservative political views (Studies 1 and 3) and warmer feelings toward a conservative political figure (i.e., Donald Trump; Studies 2 and 3); however, these relationships were attenuated and sometimes reversed among participants primed with polyculturalism. We discuss implications for how interethnic ideologies influence White Americans’ threatened responses to increasing diversity.

Status anxiety mediates the positive relationship between income inequality and sexualization
Khandis Blake & Robert Brooks
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 December 2019, Pages 25029-25033


Income inequality generates and amplifies incentives, particularly incentives for individuals to elevate or maintain their status, with important consequences for the individuals involved and aggregate outcomes for their societies [R. G. Wilkinson, K. E. Pickett, Annu. Rev. Sociol. 35, 493–511 (2009)]. Economically unequal environments intensify men’s competition for status, respect, and, ultimately, mating opportunities, thus elevating aggregate rates of violent crime and homicide [M. Daly, M. Wilson, Evolutionary Psychology and Motivation (2001)]. Recent evidence shows that women are more likely to post “sexy selfies” on social media and that they spend more on beautification in places where inequality is high rather than low [K. R. Blake, B. Bastian, T. F. Denson, et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115, 8722–8727 (2018)]. Here we test experimentally for causal links between income inequality and individual self-sexualization and status-related competition. We show that manipulating income inequality in a role-playing task indirectly increases women’s intentions to wear revealing clothing and that it does so by increasing women’s anxiety about their place in the social hierarchy. The effects are not better accounted for by wealth/poverty than by inequality or by modeling anxiety about same-sex competitors in place of status anxiety. The results indicate that women’s appearance enhancement is partly driven by status-related goals.

Powerful men on top: Stereotypes interact with metaphors in social categorizations
Natalia Zarzeczna et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, January 2020, Pages 36–65


We examined whether people can simultaneously apply 2 cognitive strategies in social categorizations. Specifically, we tested whether stereotypes concerning social power of gender categories interact with metaphoric power-space links. Based on the conceptual blending perspective suggesting that semantically consistent concepts acquire each other’s properties, we predicted the following: Given that stereotypes create expectations linking gender with power, and metaphorically power is linked with vertical space, the conceptual blend of gender-power-space would invoke representations of male targets at the top vertical position when categorizing them as powerful, while female targets at the bottom when categorizing them as powerless. Across 6 studies, we show that the concept of gender is simulated spatially when people attribute power to male, but not female, targets. The predicted power-gender blending involved simulations of men judged as powerful when presented in upper location as opposed to women judged as powerful in upper location and men judged as powerful in lower location. Our hypothesis was further corroborated using pupillometry to assess preconscious processing, whereby stereotypically inconsistent orientations of gender and power evoked pupillary markers indicative of surprise. Our studies suggest that gender-power stereotypic expectations interact with the power-space metaphor in social categorizations.

“Big men” in the office: The gender-specific influence of weight upon persuasiveness
Kevin Kniffin, Vicki Bogan & David Just
PLoS ONE, November 2019


Height has been closely studied as a factor that influences myriad measures of leadership; however, the potential influence of weight on socially beneficial traits has been neglected. Using the anthropological concept of “big men” who relied on influence to lead their communities, we examine the role of weight upon persuasiveness. We present the results of six studies that suggest a tendency for raters to expect larger body mass to correspond with more persuasiveness among men. In the sixth, pre-registered study, we find evidence that fits the hypothesis that weight among men is positively associated with perceived persuasiveness. While the “big man” leadership concept is based on studies of pre-industrial societies where weight embodied status, our findings suggest an evolved bias to favor moderately big men – with respect to perceived persuasiveness – even in environments where there is no reason to interpret over-consumption of food and conservation of energy as a signal of wealth. Our studies contribute novel perspectives on the relevance of weight as an understudied dimension of “big” and offer an important qualification informed by evolutionary perspectives for the stigmatizing effects of relatively large body mass.

Free-riding and cost-bearing in discrimination
Xilin Li & Christopher Hsee
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming


We study how the temporal positions in which a disadvantaged person (e.g., an unattractive-looking customer) and an advantaged person (e.g., an attractive-looking customer) encounter an actor (e.g., a vendor) influence the treatment they get from the actor (e.g., the prices the vendor offers). Three experiments, including a field experiment and a pre-registered experiment, incorporate three types of personal attributes (physical appearance, nationality, and gender) and find both a free-riding effect for the disadvantaged person and a cost-bearing effect for the advantaged person. Specifically, the disadvantaged person receives better treatment by following the advantaged person, and the advantaged person receives worse treatment by following the disadvantaged person. These effects occur only if the attribute that differentiates the disadvantaged and advantaged persons is perceived as unjustifiable, and they disappear if the attribute is perceived as justifiable, suggesting that these effects are due not to anchoring, but to the actor’s need for justifiability. This research highlights the importance of choice architecture in discrimination and its prevention.

Be complex, be very complex: Evaluating the integrative complexity of main characters in horror films
Hayley McCullough
Psychology of Popular Media Culture, forthcoming


Building on the growing literature of linguistic analysis in pop culture, the following study uses integrative complexity to evaluate prominent characters in horror films. Integrative complexity is a linguistic variable developed by psychologists that measures differentiation at the lower levels and integration at the higher levels. Sampled from 40 horror films, the characters were compared based on gender, whether the character is the film’s hero or monster/killer, and the critical response to the film (aggregate scores from Rotten Tomatoes). A random sample of dialogue from each character was collected and scored using Automated Integrative Complexity. A series of analyses of variance revealed the following: (a) No significant main effects for gender or the hero versus monster/killer condition. (b) A significant main effect for critical response: Rotten films scored lower than fresh films in terms of integrative complexity. (c) A significant interaction between gender and critical response: Fresh films featured male characters with significantly higher integrative complexity scores than the female characters, whereas there was no significant difference between female and male characters in rotten films. These findings provide insight into the underlying psychology of horror films and critical response, implying that complex male characters are associated with positive reviews, whereas female characters may be incidental to success in this context.

Wealthy Whites and poor Blacks: Implicit associations between racial groups and wealth predict explicit opposition toward helping the poor
Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2019, Pages 26-34


The current research investigates whether automatic associations between race and social class predict deliberative attitudes toward wealth redistribution policies. In three studies, we found that participants were significantly more likely to associate African Americans (vs. White Americans) with the concept of poor in an implicit task. In addition, we found that this implicit association between poor and African Americans predicted explicit attitudes toward wealth redistribution (Study 1) — an effect mediated by the belief that redistributive policies benefit African Americans over White Americans (Study 2). Further, these associations held when controlling for implicit affective associations and explicit prejudice. Manipulating people's metacognitive beliefs about the validity of their implicit associations shifted whether implicit Black-poor associations predicted support for wealth redistribution (Study 3). Overall, these findings suggest race/class associations are well-learned, spontaneously activated, and may predict explicit policy attitudes toward wealth redistribution above and beyond implicit or explicit affective prejudice.

Voice Changes Meaning: The Role of Gay- Versus Straight-Sounding Voices in Sentence Interpretation
Fabio Fasoli et al.
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Utterances reveal not only semantic information but also information about the speaker’s social category membership, including sexual orientation. In four studies (N = 345), we investigated how the meaning of what is being said changes as a function of the speaker’s voice. In Studies 1a/1b, gay- and straight-sounding voices uttered the same sentences. Listeners indicated the likelihood that the speaker was referring to one among two target objects varying along gender-stereotypical characteristics. Listeners envisaged a more “feminine” object when the sentence was uttered by a gay-sounding speaker, and a more “masculine” object when the speaker sounded heterosexual. In Studies 2a/2b, listeners were asked to disambiguate sentences that involved a stereotypical behavior and were open to different interpretations. Listeners disambiguated the sentences by interpreting the action in relation to sexual-orientation information conveyed by voice. Results show that the speaker’s voice changes the subjective meaning of sentences, aligning it to gender-stereotypical expectations.

The Value of Interracial Contact for Reducing Anti-Black Bias Among Non-Black Physicians: A Cognitive Habits and Growth Evaluation (CHANGE) Study Report
Ivuoma Onyeador et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming


Although scholars have long studied circumstances that shape prejudice, inquiry into factors associated with long-term prejudice reduction has been more limited. Using a 6-year longitudinal study of non-Black physicians in training (N = 3,134), we examined the effect of three medical-school factors — interracial contact, medical-school environment, and diversity training — on explicit and implicit racial bias measured during medical residency. When accounting for all three factors, previous contact, and baseline bias, we found that quality of contact continued to predict lower explicit and implicit bias, although the effects were very small. Racial climate, modeling of bias, and hours of diversity training in medical school were not consistently related to less explicit or implicit bias during residency. These results highlight the benefits of interracial contact during an impactful experience such as medical school. Ultimately, professional institutions can play a role in reducing anti-Black bias by encouraging more frequent, and especially more favorable, interracial contact.

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.