Their Problems

Kevin Lewis

September 09, 2021

Pliable Prejudice: The Case of Welfare
Paul Goren
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming 

The conventional wisdom maintains that whites’ racial predispositions are exogenous to their views of welfare. Against this position, scattered studies report that prejudice moves in response to new information about policies and groups. Likewise, theories of mediated intergroup contact propose that when individuals encounter messages about racial outgroups, their levels of prejudice may wax or wane. In conjunction, these lines of work suggest that whites update their global views of blacks based on how they feel about people on welfare. The current article tests this “prejudice revision” hypothesis with data from “welfare mother” vignettes embedded on national surveys administered in 1991, 2014, and 2015 and ANES panel data from the 1990s. The results indicate that views of welfare recipients systematically affect racial stereotypes, racial resentment, individualistic explanations for racial inequality, and structural explanations for racial inequality. Prejudice, in short, is endogenous to welfare attitudes.

Respectability Politics and Straight Support for LGB Rights
Philip Edward Jones
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Marginalized groups frequently adopt a respectability politics strategy, presenting themselves as adhering to dominant norms to gain public support. The LGBTQ movement, for example, has consciously portrayed same-gender relationships as exemplifying heteronormative values to win over straight Americans. But how effective is this strategy? Two survey experiments show that presenting LGB people as adhering to, or violating, norms of monogamy and exclusivity has null to minimal effects on straight respondents’ views of them or support for their rights. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the effects are moderated by (1) respondents’ political predispositions; or (2) the race, ethnicity, or gender of the LGB people being highlighted. Emphasizing the respectability of same-gender relationships is not as effective as the movement has assumed. More broadly, these results call into question the assumption that highlighting “respectable” members of marginalized groups is an effective way to change public opinion. 

The Color of Disparity: Racialized Income Inequality and Support for Liberal Economic Policies
Benjamin Newman, Tyler Thomas Reny & Bea-Sim Ooi
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

A corpus of research on the effect of exposure to income inequality on citizens’ economic policy preferences renders inconclusive results. At the same time, a distinct body of work demonstrates that ethnic fragmentation within a polity reduces government spending, presumably due to opposition among the public to spending believed to benefit stigmatized ethnic minorities. Focusing on the American context, this short article ties these two bodies of work together by arguing that the effect of routine exposure to income inequality should depend on the racial composition of the “have-nots,” with citizens being most likely to support liberal economic policies in the face of pronounced inequality only when potential beneficiaries are not a highly stigmatized minority group, such as Black Americans. Using geocoded survey data, we find that exposure to local economic inequality is only systematically associated with increased support for liberal economic policies when the respective “have-nots” are not Black.

Heterosexual men in Trump's America downplay compassion more for masculine (than for feminine) gay victims of hate crime due to identity threat
Chuma Kevin Owuamalam & Andrea Soledad Matos
European Journal of Social Psychology, forthcoming

Why would heterosexual men downplay their compassion for masculine (vs. feminine) gay victims of hate crime? Two social identity-inspired explanations provide contrasting answers to this question. The reactive distinctiveness thesis (RD) assumes that heterosexual men would downplay their compassion more, when cued to a gay victim's masculinity than their femininity, provided evaluative concerns are strong. In contrast, the feminization-threat thesis (FT) assumes that compassion downplays would be more visible when heterosexual men are cued to a gay victim's femininity (not masculinity), provided evaluative concerns are strong too. Consistent with RD, three experiments (Ntotal = 1,475) revealed that heterosexual men who read news about (gay) victims at a hate crime scene downplayed their compassion to a greater degree when cued to the masculinity rather than the femininity of such targets (Studies 1–3). Meanwhile FT's prediction received partial support when considering feminine (vs. masculine) heterosexual, but not homosexual victims (Study 3).

Gendering racialization
Ryan Bell & Gabriel Borelli
Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming

We extend Michael Tesler’s work on racialization using an intersectional framework to investigate the relationship between racial and gendered systems of power. We demonstrate that gender marginalization can increase scrutiny of women candidates from voters high in racial resentment. We utilize an original survey experiment fielded in December 2019 that leverages President Obama’s close ties to (then) Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton in order to demonstrate that Clinton is penalized more by racially resentful individuals than Biden when both are associated with Obama. This effect exists even when controlling for respondents’ levels of sexism. This suggests that racialization is a gendered process and that views on race and gender are more intricately linked than non-intersectional analyses would predict. Our findings raise questions for what precisely measures pertaining to racial resentment, sexism, and other social attitudes are tapping into when surveying the public. 

Black and Latinx conservatives upshift competence relative to liberals in mostly white settings
Cydney Dupree
Nature Human Behaviour, forthcoming

Racial minorities vary in their sociopolitical views, as figures such as Barack Obama and Ted Cruz often demonstrate. Here, I examine the implications for interracial behaviour, proposing that Black and Latinx conservatives -- specifically, those who are more supportive of hierarchy -- upshift competence relative to liberals in mostly white settings, distancing themselves from stereotypes. Analysing 250,000 Congressional remarks and 1 million tweets revealed that Black and Latinx conservatives (determined by voting behaviour) referenced high power and ability more than liberals. No such pattern emerged for white politicians. A meta-analysis of four experiments further revealed that Black conservatives (determined by social dominance orientation) referenced high status more than liberals when responding to a white (but not Black) partner. This was robust to controls and unique to hierarchy-based conservatism. Finally, analysing 18,000 editorials suggested the following implications: the more minority conservatives referenced power in Congress, the more journalists referenced power in editorials about them. The findings highlight the diverse ideology of racial minorities, as well as the behavioural implications.

“White” Self-Identification: A Source of Uniqueness Threat
Kimberly Rios & Cameron Mackey
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

The present research introduces the possibility that Whiteness can threaten majority group members’ sense of uniqueness and reduce their support for multiculturalism, an ideology that emphasizes recognition of distinctive cultural identities and is seen as primarily relevant to racial/ethnic minorities. Across three studies, being induced to self-identify as “White” (vs. “European American”) led majority group members high, but not low, in need for uniqueness (measured in Study 1, manipulated in Studies 2 and 3) to express less positivity toward multiculturalism. Further, the effect of uniqueness motives on reduced support for multiculturalism among participants self-identifying as “White” was mediated by reduced personal feelings of diversity (Study 3). Implications for optimal distinctiveness theory and the functions of White identity are discussed.

Priming COVID-19 salience increases prejudice and discriminatory intent against Asians and Hispanics
Yao Lu et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7 September 2021

Mounting reports in the media suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified prejudice and discrimination against racial/ethnic minorities, especially Asians. Existing research has focused on discrimination against Asians and is primarily based on self-reported incidents or nonrepresentative samples. We investigate the extent to which COVID-19 has fueled prejudice and discrimination against multiple racial/ethnic minority groups in the United States by examining nationally representative survey data with an embedded vignette experiment about roommate selection (collected in August 2020; n = 5,000). We find that priming COVID-19 salience has an immediate, statistically significant impact: compared to the control group, respondents in the treatment group exhibited increased prejudice and discriminatory intent against East Asian, South Asian, and Hispanic hypothetical room-seekers. The treatment effect is more pronounced in increasing extreme negative attitudes toward the three minority groups than decreasing extreme positive attitudes toward them. This is partly due to the treatment increasing the proportion of respondents who perceive these minority groups as extremely culturally incompatible (Asians and Hispanics) and extremely irresponsible (Asians). Sociopolitical factors did not moderate the treatment effects on attitudes toward Asians, but prior social contact with Hispanics mitigated prejudices against them. These findings suggest that COVID-19–fueled prejudice and discrimination have not been limited to East Asians but are part of a broader phenomenon that has affected Asians generally and Hispanics as well.

Race and White Rural Consciousness
Matthew Nelsen & Christopher Petsko
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming 

The concept of rural consciousness has gained a significant amount of traction over the past several years, as evidenced by hundreds of citations and its inclusion within the most recent pilot of the ANES. However, many have questioned whether rural consciousness is appreciably different from racial prejudice. We assessed this issue by distributing a survey study to Wisconsinites living in rural and urban communities, and by examining the relationships between rural consciousness, racial resentment, and political attitudes in the ANES 2019 Pilot Study. The survey study revealed that participants living in rural parts of Wisconsin — unlike those living in urban parts — tended to think of city dwellers as possessing more negative attributes. In addition, the survey study revealed that rural participants thought of Milwaukeeans, specifically, as possessing stereotypically Black attributes. Moreover, this tendency was starker among those who scored higher on a measure of rural consciousness, suggesting that rural consciousness is related to racial stereotyping. Finally, in an analysis of the ANES 2019 Pilot Study, we found that rural consciousness correlated with racial resentment, and that controlling for racial resentment dramatically reduced the extent to which rural consciousness could predict political preferences (e.g., approval for Donald Trump). Thus, while white rural consciousness may not be reducible to racism, racism certainly plays a central role.

Fight or flight: The role of context on biased intergroup shooting behaviors
Eric Splan & Chad Forbes
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Work using the First-Person Shooter task (FPST, also referred to as the “Police Officers Dilemma”) shows that cultural stereotypes play an integral role in influencing decisions to engage in shooting behaviors during a mock shooter simulation. Knowledge of the Black–violent stereotype typically leads White participants to have a quicker response to “shoot” armed Black target and falsely shoot unarmed Black targets, compared with White targets. Because this task constrains response options to shoot or not shoot, it is unclear what role structural and environmental factors may play in modulating biased shooting behaviors. In this study, participants played a variation of the FPST in which they made speeded shoot/flee decisions in response to armed and unarmed targets. In this variation, participants could “flee” in half of the trials regardless of whether the target was armed. Additionally, participants were primed with instructions that mirrored Stand Your Ground (SYG) law, traditional self-defense laws, or a set of control instructions. Across three studies, participants displayed racially biased behavior only on trials in which they were not allowed to flee from armed targets. In Study 3, EEG was recorded during the task to assess activation of an inhibitory brain network, which differentiated between Black and White targets. Decreased activation of this inhibitory network was associated with increased racial biased behavioral responses for those in the SYG condition. These studies highlight the ability for structural and environmental factors to exacerbate race-based disparities in the use of aggressive force as they pertain to the FPST. 

Who is a typical woman? Exploring variation in how race biases representations of gender across development
Rachel Leshin et al.
Developmental Science, forthcoming

From early in development, race biases how children think about gender—often in a manner that treats Black women as less typical and representative of women in general than White or Asian women. The present study (N = 89, ages 7–11; predominately Hispanic, White, and multi-racial children) examined the generalizability of this phenomenon across middle childhood and the mechanisms underlying variability in its development. Replicating prior work, children were slower and less accurate to categorize the gender of Black women compared to Asian or White women, as well as compared to Black men, suggesting that children perceived Black women as less representative of their gender. These effects were robust across age within a racially and ethnically diverse sample of children. Children's tendencies to view their own racial identities as expansive and flexible, however, attenuated these effects: Children with more flexible racial identities also had gender concepts that were more inclusive of Black women. In contrast, the tendency for race to bias children's gender representations was unrelated to children's multiple classification skill and racial essentialism. These findings shed light on the mechanisms underlying variation in how race biases gender across development, with critical implications for how children's own identities shape the development of intergroup cognition and behavior.

Disclosure Style and Response Engagement During Disclosures of Concealable Stigmatized Identities
Rebecca Cipollina et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming 

Supportive disclosure experiences benefit the well-being of those with concealable stigmatized identities (CSIs). The present research examines relationships between discloser’s disclosure directness, recipient’s response engagement, feelings of identity support, and disclosure response satisfaction. Across several correlational and experimental studies, direct disclosures (i.e., those referencing the CSI more explicitly) were met with more engaged recipient responses (e.g., verbal discussion of CSIs). Moreover, more engaged recipient responses were evaluated by disclosers as more supportive/validating and satisfying. To isolate the effects of disclosure directness, we explored and controlled for other disclosure factors including closeness to recipient and discloser outness. This work fills a current literature gap regarding how disclosure and response styles may promote positive disclosure experiences for those with varied CSIs.

No laughing matter: Why humor mistakes are more damaging for men than women
Taly Reich, Sam Maglio & Alexander Fulmer
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2021 

People of all genders regularly pursue both personal and professional objectives. To the latter, research has documented substantial barriers for women, especially when they make mistakes. As articulated by role congruity theory, their stereotypically communal nature appears at odds with the agentic objectives frequently seen as inherent to the workplace. To the former, though, how are women (versus men) evaluated in pursuit of communal objectives? We propose that observers are more likely to see men (versus women) as less successful after mistakes in the interpersonal realm. Nine preregistered experiments (N = 5400) test this proposition by targeting, specifically, the use of humor. They provide evidence for a process model by which women (versus men) who falter are still seen as more attentive, causing their mistakes to seem less substantial and bolstering downstream evaluations of them. Implications for gender, humor, and mistakes are discussed.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


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.