The message is the medium

Kevin Lewis

November 30, 2017

Exposure to hate speech increases prejudice through desensitization
Wiktor Soral, Michał Bilewicz & Mikołaj Winiewski
Aggressive Behavior, forthcoming

In three studies (two representative nationwide surveys, N = 1,007, N = 682; and one experimental, N = 76), we explored the effects of exposure to hate speech on outgroup prejudice. Following the General Aggression Model, we suggest that frequent and repetitive exposure to hate speech leads to desensitization to this form of verbal violence and subsequently to lower evaluations of the victims and greater distancing, thus increasing outgroup prejudice. In the first survey study, we found that lower sensitivity to hate speech was a positive mediator of the relationship between frequent exposure to hate speech and outgroup prejudice. In the second study, we obtained a crucial confirmation of these effects. After desensitization training individuals were less sensitive to hate speech and more prejudiced toward hate speech victims than their counterparts in the control condition. In the final study, we replicated several previous effects and additionally found that the effects of exposure to hate speech on prejudice were mediated by a lower sensitivity to hate speech, and not by lower sensitivity to social norms. Altogether, our studies are the first to elucidate the effects of exposure to hate speech on outgroup prejudice.

Using deep learning and Google Street View to estimate the demographic makeup of neighborhoods across the United States
Timnit Gebru et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

The United States spends more than $250 million each year on the American Community Survey (ACS), a labor-intensive door-to-door study that measures statistics relating to race, gender, education, occupation, unemployment, and other demographic factors. Although a comprehensive source of data, the lag between demographic changes and their appearance in the ACS can exceed several years. As digital imagery becomes ubiquitous and machine vision techniques improve, automated data analysis may become an increasingly practical supplement to the ACS. Here, we present a method that estimates socioeconomic characteristics of regions spanning 200 US cities by using 50 million images of street scenes gathered with Google Street View cars. Using deep learning-based computer vision techniques, we determined the make, model, and year of all motor vehicles encountered in particular neighborhoods. Data from this census of motor vehicles, which enumerated 22 million automobiles in total (8% of all automobiles in the United States), were used to accurately estimate income, race, education, and voting patterns at the zip code and precinct level. (The average US precinct contains ∼1,000 people.) The resulting associations are surprisingly simple and powerful. For instance, if the number of sedans encountered during a drive through a city is higher than the number of pickup trucks, the city is likely to vote for a Democrat during the next presidential election (88% chance); otherwise, it is likely to vote Republican (82%). Our results suggest that automated systems for monitoring demographics may effectively complement labor-intensive approaches, with the potential to measure demographics with fine spatial resolution, in close to real time.

Deep down my enemy is good: Thinking about the true self reduces intergroup bias
Julian De Freitas & Mina Cikara
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2018, Pages 307-316

Intergroup bias — preference for one's in-group relative to out-groups — is one of the most robust phenomena in all of psychology. Here we investigate whether a positive bias that operates at the individual-level, belief in a good true self, may be leveraged to reduce intergroup bias. We find that even stereotypically threatening out-group agents are believed to have a good true self (Experiment 1). More importantly, consideration of an in-group and out-group members' true self reduces intergroup bias, both in the form of explicit evaluative judgments (Experiment 2) and actual donation behavior (Experiment 3). Across studies, the palliative effects of thinking of an individual's true self generalize to that individual's entire group. In sum, a simple intervention — thinking about another's true self — reduces the gap in how people evaluate and treat out-group relative to in-group members. We discuss implications of these findings for conflict reduction strategies.

Gender Differences in Political Knowledge: Bringing Situation Back In
Toni Alexander Ihme & Markus Tausendpfund
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming

One of the best-known empirical findings in the political sciences is the gender difference in political knowledge: women show less political knowledge than men. Conventional research argues that this difference is mainly a product of socialization, structural factors, and biology. Our paper brings a new perspective to the explanation of the gender gap in political knowledge. Based on an online survey and an experiment 1 , we emphasize the relevance of gender stereotypes as a situational pressure that reduces the performance of women in a political knowledge test. Two conclusions emerge from the analysis: First, our results indicate the existence of a negative stereotype related to the political knowledge of women. Second, the activation of gender stereotypes affects performance on a political knowledge test. Consistent with previous research on stereotype threat, our results indicate that the performance of men on a political knowledge test is affected by gender stereotypes.

Pick your perspective: Racial group membership and judgments of intent, harm, and discrimination
Stefanie Simon, Aaron Moss & Laurie O’Brien
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

How do people judge the intentions of a perpetrator and the harm experienced by a victim in cases of racial discrimination? How do these judgments influence attributions to discrimination? We examined these questions in 4 studies, predicting that Whites’ and Blacks’ judgments would reflect different group-based perspectives. Supporting our hypotheses, White authors describing an arrest denied intent and ignored harm relative to Black authors (Study 1). When judging whether an event was discrimination, Whites were influenced by intent, but Blacks were influenced by intent and harm (Study 2). Finally, instructing people to take the victim’s perspective increased Whites’ judgments of intent, harm, and discrimination (Studies 3 and 4), while Blacks’ judgments generally remained the same (Study 4). Our results demonstrate one reason why Whites and Blacks judge discrimination differently — they adopt different perspectives when evaluating intent and harm — and offer a way to increase Whites’ recognition of discrimination: perspective-taking.

Bias at the intersection of identity: Conflicting social stereotypes of gender and race augment the perceived femininity and interpersonal warmth of smiling Black women
Erin Cooley et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2018, Pages 43-49

Research indicates that Black women are socially ignored given that they are neither the prototypical Black person nor the prototypical woman. We build from augmentation principle to propose that factors that increase the salience of Black women's gender identity may lead to particularly positive social expectations given countervailing associations of Blackness/threat. First, Study 1 demonstrates that smiles increase the salience of Black women's gender identity as indicated by fewer categorization errors in a speeded gender categorization task. Next, Study 2 demonstrates that, consistent with augmentation principle, the expression of a smile increases the perceived femininity of a Black woman to a greater degree than a smile expressed by a White woman. Moreover, smiles increase positive expectations for an interaction with a Black woman more so than they do for a White woman. We conclude that Black women navigate a precarious balance between social invisibility and social hypervisibility based on shifts in the salience of their gender identity.

“You Little Creep”: Evidence of Blatant Dehumanization of Short Groups
Jonas Kunst, Nour Kteily & Lotte Thomsen
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Physical cues influence social judgments of others. For example, shorter individuals are evaluated less positively than taller individuals. Here, we demonstrate that height also impacts one of the most consequential intergroup judgments — attributions of humanity — and explore whether this effect is modulated by the tendency to value hierarchy maintenance. In Study 1, the shorter participants perceived a range of out-groups to be, the more they dehumanized them, and this tended to be particularly pronounced among those scoring high on social dominance orientation (SDO). In Study 2, participants dehumanized an out-group more when they were led to believe that it was relatively short. Finally, Study 3 applied a reverse correlation approach, demonstrating that participants in general, and especially those scoring high on SDO, represented shorter groups in ways less consistent with full humanity than they represented taller groups. Together, this research demonstrates that basic physical height cues shape the perceived humanity of out-groups.

Healthy Out-Group Members Are Represented Psychologically as Infected In-Group Members
Michael Bang Petersen
Psychological Science, forthcoming

A range of studies have demonstrated that people implicitly treat out-groups as the carriers of pathogens and that considerable prejudice against out-groups is driven by concerns about pathogens. Yet the psychological categories that are involved and the selection pressures that underlie these categories remain unclear. A common view is that human pathogen-avoidance psychology is specifically adapted to avoid out-groups because of their potentially different pathogens. However, the series of studies reported here shows that there is no dedicated category for reasoning about out-groups in terms of pathogens. Specifically, a memory-confusion experiment conducted with two large-scale samples of Americans (one nationally representative) yielded strong, replicable evidence that healthy out-group members are represented using the same psychological category that is used to represent manifestly infected in-group members. This suggests that the link between out-group prejudice and pathogen concerns is a by-product of general mechanisms for treating any unfamiliar appearance as an infection cue.

What Does the “Terrorist” Label Really Do? Measuring and Explaining the Effects of the “Terrorist” and “Islamist” Categories
Stephane Baele et al.
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, forthcoming

Many scholars and practitioners claim that labelling groups or individuals as “terrorists” does not simply describe them but also shapes public attitudes, due to the label's important normative and political charge. Yet is there such a “terrorist label effect”? In view of surprisingly scant evidence, the present paper evaluates whether or not the terrorist label – as well as the “Islamist” one – really impacts both the audience's perception of the security environment and its security policy preferences, and if yes, how and why. To do so, the article implements a randomized-controlled vignette experiment where participants (n = 481) first read one out of three press articles, each depicting a street shooting in the exact same way but labelling the author of the violence with a different category (“terrorist”/“shooter”/“Islamist”). Participants were then asked to report on both their perceptions and their policy preferences. This design reveals very strong effects of both the “terrorist” and “Islamist” categories on each dimension. These effects are analysed through the lenses of social and cognitive psychology, in a way that interrogates the use of the terrorist category in society, the conflation of Islamism with terrorism, and the press and policymakers’ lexical choices when reporting on political violence.

From groups to grits: Social identity shapes evaluations of food pleasantness
Leor Hackel et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2018, Pages 270-280

Throughout human history, food consumption has been deeply tied to cultural groups. Past models of food preference have assumed that social concerns are dissociated from basic appetitive qualities — such as tastiness — in food choice. In contrast to this notion, we tested and found support for the novel idea that social identities can shape the evaluation of food pleasantness. Specifically, individual differences in social identification (Study 1) as well as experimentally manipulated identity salience (Study 2) were associated with the anticipated tastiness of identity-relevant foods. We also found that identity salience influenced perceived food pleasantness during consumption (Study 3). These results suggest social identity may shape evaluations of food pleasantness, both through long-term motivational components of identification as well as short-term identity salience. Thus, the influence of social identity on cognition appears to extend beyond social evaluation, to hedonic experience. We discuss implications for theories of identity, decision-making, and food consumption.

Adopting the Objectifying Gaze: Exposure to Sexually Objectifying Music Videos and Subsequent Gazing Behavior
Kathrin Karsay et al.
Media Psychology, forthcoming

We investigated the effects of exposure to sexually objectifying music videos on viewers’ subsequent gazing behavior. We exposed participants (N = 129; 68 women, 61 men) to music videos either high in sexual objectification or low in sexual objectification. Next, we measured participants’ eye movements as they viewed photographs of 36 women models with various body shapes (i.e., ideal size model, plus size model) and degree of dress (i.e., fully dressed, scantily dressed, partially clad). Results indicated that sexually objectifying music videos influenced participants’ objectifying gaze upon photographs of women with an ideal size, but not plus size, body shape. Interestingly, that effect neither differed among men and women nor depended upon the models’ degree of dress. Altogether, once primed with sexually objectifying imagery, participants looked at women’s sexual body parts more than they looked at women’s faces.

Intergroup dissimilarity predicts physiological synchrony and affiliation in intergroup interaction
Chad Danyluck & Elizabeth Page-Gould
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2018, Pages 111-120

Interpersonal similarity attracts. In intergroup contexts, however, similarity between groups potentiates bias. The current study examined whether intergroup similarity versus dissimilarity engenders cross-group friendship formation. We used an essay-writing paradigm to manipulate perceived intergroup similarity or dissimilarity between the ethnic groups of participants prior to a dyadic interaction that involved a competitive party game. During the interaction, we continuously recorded physiological and behavioral responses from both participants. We used the physiological responses to derive a measure of physiological synchrony: the mutual activation of partners' sympathetic nervous systems. People primed with dissimilarity, not similarity, experienced physiological synchrony with their partner. Moreover, the partners of people primed with dissimilarity acted more affiliative than the partners of people primed with similarity, which in turn predicted friendship initiation by participants. We discuss the seemingly counter-intuitive value of emphasizing differences between groups to foster positive intergroup relations.

Contagious Anxiety: Anxious European Americans Can Transmit Their Physiological Reactivity to African Americans
Tessa West et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

During interracial encounters, well-intentioned European Americans sometimes engage in subtle displays of anxiety, which can be interpreted as signs of racial bias by African American partners. In the present research, same-race and cross-race stranger dyads (N = 123) engaged in getting-acquainted tasks, during which measures of sympathetic nervous system responses (preejection period, PEP) and heart rate variability were continuously collected. PEP scores showed that African American partners had stronger physiological linkage to European American partners who evidenced greater anxiety — greater cortisol reactivity, behavioral tension, and self-reported discomfort — which suggests greater physiological responsiveness to momentary changes in partners’ affective states when those partners were anxious. European Americans showed physiological linkage to African American and European American partners, but linkage did not vary as a function of their partner’s anxiety. Using physiological linkage offers a novel approach to understanding how affective responses unfold during dynamic intergroup interactions.

Bridging racial divides: Social constructionist (vs. essentialist) beliefs facilitate trust in intergroup contexts
Franki Kung et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, January 2018, Pages 121-134

Trust serves as the foundation for social harmony and prosperity, but it is not always easy to build. When people see other groups as different, e.g., members of a different race or ethnicity, the perceived boundary often obstructs people from extending trust. This may result in interracial conflicts. The current research argues that individual differences in the lay theory of race can systematically influence the degree to which people extend trust to a racial outgroup in conflict situations. The lay theory of race refers to the extent to which people believe race is a malleable social construct that can change over time (i.e., social constructionist beliefs) versus a fixed essence that differentiates people into meaningful social categories (i.e., essentialist beliefs). In our three studies, we found evidence that social constructionist (vs. essentialist) beliefs promoted interracial trust in intergroup contexts, and that this effect held regardless of whether the lay theory of race was measured (Studies 1 and 3) or manipulated (Study 2), and whether the conflict was presented in a team conflict scenario (Study 1), social dilemma (Study 2), or a face-to-face dyadic negotiation (Study 3). In addition, results revealed that the lay theory's effect on interracial trust could have critical downstream consequences in conflict, namely cooperation and mutually beneficial negotiation outcomes. The findings together reveal that the lay theory of race can reliably influence interracial trust and presents a promising direction for understanding interracial relations and improving intergroup harmony in society.

The Endurance of Interpersonal Confrontations as a Prejudice Reduction Strategy
Kimberly Chaney & Diana Sanchez
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Previous work has found that individuals who have been confronted for discrimination demonstrate a reduction in explicit prejudice and use fewer stereotypes immediately after the confrontation. Although confronting prejudice has been touted as a tool for prejudice reduction, it is not known how these effects translate over time and what processes might account for their endurance. Across two studies, the present research finds that individuals used significantly fewer negative stereotypes 7 days after confrontation (Study 1) and engaged in behavioral inhibition to stereotypical cues on a probe task 1 week after confrontation. Moreover, guilt and prolonged rumination mediated these effects for confronted participants (Studies 1 and 2). Across two studies, the present studies reveal the lasting effects of interpersonal confrontations in prejudice reduction and the process by which these effects endure.

Beauty, Effort, and Misrepresentation: How Beauty Work Affects Judgments of Moral Character and Consumer Preferences
Adriana Samper, Linyun Yang & Michelle Daniels
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Women engage in a variety of beauty practices, or “beauty work,” to enhance their physical appearance, such as applying cosmetics, tanning, or exercising. Although the rewards of physical attractiveness are well documented, perceptions of both the women who engage in efforts to enhance their appearance and the high-effort beauty products marketed to them are not well understood. Across seven studies, we demonstrate that consumers judge women who engage in certain types of extensive beauty work as possessing poorer moral character. These judgments occur only for effortful beauty work perceived as transformative (significantly altering appearance) and transient (lasting a relatively short time), such that they emerge within cosmetics and tanning, yet not skincare or exercise. This effect is mediated by the perception that putting high effort into one’s appearance signals a willingness to misrepresent one’s true self, and translates into lower purchase intentions for higher-effort cosmetics. We identify several boundary conditions, including the attractiveness of the woman performing the beauty work and whether the effort is attributed to external norms or causes. In examining how beauty work elicits moral judgments, we also shed light on why effortful cosmetic use is viewed negatively, yet effortful products continue to be commercially successful.

Subjective belonging and in-group favoritism
John Hunter et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2017, Pages 136-146

Three studies assessed the association between in-group favoritism and subjective belonging. Study 1 revealed that after New Zealanders allocated more positive resources to in-group than out-group members (i.e., Asians), they reported higher levels of belonging. Study 2 showed that when New Zealanders evaluated in-group members more positively than out-group members, they reported an increase in belonging. Study 3 examined the link between belonging and the allocation of negative resources (i.e., white noise) to in-group and out-group members amongst accepted, rejected and baseline participants. Group members who allocated more white noise to out-group than in-group members displayed elevated belonging. Relative to those in the baseline, accepted and rejected participants manifested pronounced patterns of in-group favoritism. Together, the results indicate that (a) different forms of in-group favoritism (i.e., evaluations and the allocation of positive and negative resources) are directly associated with enhanced belonging, (b) both high and low belonging can promote in-group favoritism, and (c) these relationships are not a function of personal esteem, group esteem or group identification. 

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