Under the Skin

Kevin Lewis

April 24, 2012

Do pigmentation and the melanocortin system modulate aggression and sexuality in humans as they do in other animals?

Philippe Rushton & Donald Templer
Personality and Individual Differences, July 2012, Pages 4-8

Pigmentation of the hair, skin, cuticle, feather and eye is one of the most salient and variable attributes of vertebrates. In many species, melanin-based coloration is found to be pleiotropically linked to behavior. We review animal studies that have found darker pigmented individuals average higher amounts of aggression and sexual activity than lighter pigmented individuals. We hypothesize that similar relationships between pigmentation, aggression, and sexuality occur in humans. We first review the literature on non-human animals and then review some of the correlates of melanin in people, including aggression and sexual activity. Both within human populations (e.g., siblings), and between populations (e.g., races, nations, states), studies find that darker pigmented people average higher levels of aggression and sexual activity (and also lower IQ). We conceptualize skin color as a multigenerational adaptation to differences in climate over the last 70,000 years as a result of "cold winters theory" and the "Out-of-Africa" model of human origins. We propose life history theory to explain the covariation found between human (and non-human) pigmentation and variables such as birth rate, infant mortality, longevity, rate of HIV/AIDS, and violent crime.


Racism leads to pushups: How racial discrimination threatens subordinate men's masculinity

Phillip Atiba Goff, Brooke Allison Lewis Di Leone & Kimberly Barsamian Kahn
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Two studies explored the gendered nature of racial discrimination for Black men, focusing on the relationship between race, discrimination, and masculinity threat. Specifically, we hypothesized that racial discrimination may also represent a threat to Black, but not White, men's masculinity. Both studies examined the target's perspective (i.e. Black and White men's perspectives) on the experience of racism and threat. Black men who experienced discrimination reported greater endorsement of male gender norms and were more vigilant to masculinity threat cues than were those who did not experience discrimination. Additionally, Black men engaged in masculine-typed behaviors - for our purposes, completing more pushups - in proportion to their experience of masculinity threat. Conversely, White men disengaged from the pushup task after experiencing discrimination. Study 2 suggests that White men's disengagement is mediated by affirming their social status. Our data suggest the importance of considering the gendered consequences of racial discrimination towards subordinate-group men.


Asian American male college students' perceptions of people's stereotypes about Asian American men

Joel Wong et al.
Psychology of Men & Masculinity, January 2012, Pages 75-88

Although Asian American men are a heterogeneous group with diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, they are frequently depicted in rigid, stereotypical ways that assume few differences exist among them. Guided by social identity theory, the purpose of this study was to examine 158 Asian American male college students' perceptions of people's stereotypes about Asian American men. Based on a discovery-oriented exploratory analysis of participants' open-ended responses, the following categories of perceived stereotypes about Asian American men were identified: (a) interpersonal deficits, (b) intelligence, (c) intense diligence, (d) unflattering physical attributes, (e) physical ability distortions, (f) perpetual foreigner, and (g) sexual/romantic inadequacies. Next, a latent class cluster analysis was conducted to identify meaningful clusters of participants based on the foregoing categories of perceived stereotypes. The results revealed three clusters of participants; these clusters were labeled Body-Mind Stereotypes, Nerd Stereotypes, and Outsider Stereotypes. Participants in the Outsider Stereotypes cluster reported higher levels of depressive symptoms than those in the other two clusters, whereas those in the Nerd Stereotypes cluster reported the lowest levels of interdependent self-construal. These findings are discussed in terms of practical implications for addressing the deleterious nature of stereotypes about Asian American men.


Huxtables on the Brain: An fMRI Study of Race and Norm Violation

Darren Schreiber & Marco Iacoboni
Political Psychology, forthcoming

While a substantial body of work has been devoted to understanding the role of negative stereotypes in racial attitudes, far less is known about how we deal with contradictions of those stereotypes. This article uses functional brain imaging with contextually rich visual stimuli to explore the neural mechanisms that are involved in cognition about social norms and race. We present evidence that racial stereotypes are more about the stereotypes than about race per se. Amygdala activity (correlated with negative racial attitudes in other studies) appeared driven by norm violation, rather than race. Similarly, a pattern of deactivation in the medial prefrontal cortex (previously associated with the dehumanizing of social outcasts) was connected to norm violation, not race.


"Don't Call Me a Student-Athlete": The Effect of Identity Priming on Stereotype Threat for Academically Engaged African American College Athletes

Jeff Stone, Keith Harrison & JaVonte Mottley
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, March/April 2012, Pages 99-106

Academically engaged African American college athletes are most susceptible to stereotype threat in the classroom when the context links their unique status as both scholar and athlete. After completing a measure of academic engagement, African American and White college athletes completed a test of verbal reasoning. To vary stereotype threat, they first indicated their status as a scholar-athlete, an athlete, or as a research participant on the cover page. Compared to the other groups, academically engaged African American college athletes performed poorly on the difficult test items when primed for their athletic identity, but they performed worse on both the difficult and easy test items when primed for their identity as a scholar-athlete. The unique stereotype threat processes that affect the academic performance of minority college athletes are discussed.


The Plight of Mixed Race Adolescents

Roland Fryer et al.
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

Since 1970, the fraction of mixed race black-white births has increased nearly nine-fold. This paper describes basic facts about the behaviors and outcomes of black-white mixed race individuals. Unsurprisingly, on a host of background and achievement characteristics as well as adult outcomes, mixed race individuals fall in between whites and blacks. When it comes to engaging in risky and anti-social adolescent behavior, however, mixed race adolescents are stark outliers compared to both blacks and whites. We argue that these behavioral patterns are most consistent with a two-sector Roy model, in which mixed race adolescents - not having a predetermined peer group - engage in more risky behaviors to be accepted.


Not all prejudices are experienced equally: Comparing experiences of racism and sexism in female minorities

Jessica Remedios, Alison Chasteen & Jeffrey Paek
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, March 2012, Pages 273-287

Research exploring the perspectives of stigmatized people has examined general processes related to experiencing prejudice. Past work, however, has invoked the assumption that prejudices against different group memberships are experienced in a similar manner. Across three studies we directly compare experiences of racism and sexism among female minorities and show, in contrast, that people respond to different forms of prejudice in distinct ways. In Study 1 we examined the attributions invoked by Asian women to explain prejudice and discovered that participants made stronger internal attributions to explain racism than sexism. In Study 2 we investigated emotional reactions to prejudice and found that Asian women report experiencing more depression following a race-based rejection than a gender-based rejection. In Study 3 we observed that Asian women reported perceiving more racism than sexism in their environments. Implications for advancing theories of prejudice experiences are discussed.


The Power of the Unsaid: The Influence of Nonverbal Cues on Implicit Attitudes

Luigi Castelli et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Attitudes are often shaped through social influence processes. We examined how observation of nonverbal behaviors can impact on implicit and explicit racial attitudes. In Study 1, participants observed an interracial interaction in which a White actor expressed friendly or unfriendly nonverbal behaviors toward a Black target (e.g., low eye contact, large seating distance). The results show that newly formed implicit attitudes toward the Black actor were shaped accordingly. In Study 2, participants were required to read a passage containing stereotypical contents against Black people while a confederate either remained neutral or expressed her approval (e.g., nodding). Implicit attitudes toward Black people became more negative in the latter condition. The results confirm the power of nonverbal cues in shaping implicit attitudes.


The Role of Skin Color and Facial Physiognomy in Racial Categorization: Moderation by Implicit Racial Attitudes

Elena Stepanova & Michael Strube
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Previous research has not sufficiently addressed factors that define and moderate racial categorization judgments. This study independently manipulated skin color and facial physiognomy to determine their relative weighting in racial categorization. Participants (N = 250) judged faces varying on 10 levels of facial physiognomy (from Afrocentric to Eurocentric) and 10 levels of skin color (from dark to light) under either no time constraints, a modest time constraint, and under a stringent time constraint. Skin color was a powerful predictor of racial typicality ratings at all levels of facial physiognomy, but participants relied upon facial physiognomy more when rating faces of light than dark skin color. Skin color was a more important cue than facial physiognomy under no time constraints, but as time constraints became more severe, skin color's importance decreased, yet it remained a more important cue at extreme physiognomy levels. The relationship between skin color and racial typicality ratings was stronger for those with more negative implicit racial attitudes. These findings suggest the primary role of skin color in racial categorization and underscore the importance of implicit attitudes in explicit categorization judgments.


Rushton's contributions to the study of mental ability

Arthur Jensen
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

This essay describes Rushton's contribution to examining the nexus of intelligence, race, and genetics, specifically what I termed "Spearman's hypothesis". It states that Black-White differences are "most marked in just those [tests] which are known to be saturated with g". I (Jensen) had confirmed this hypothesis using large data sets in the 1970s and 1980s and also found that Black-White differences were most marked on the more heritable rather than the more cultural subtests. Rushton confirmed and extended these findings in many highly innovative ways and demonstrated Spearman's hypothesis applied among samples of Gypsy Roma in Serbia, and East Asian, European, South Asian, Colored and Black samples in South Africa. He has not only documented group differences in brain size, intelligence, life span, family structure, infant mortality, developmental precocity, personality, and temperament, and rates of two egg twinning, and crime among East Asians, Europeans, and Africans, but also provided a life history theory that explains them.


Stereotyping by Omission: Eliminate the Negative, Accentuate the Positive

Hilary Bergsieker et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Communicators, motivated by strategic self-presentation, selectively underreport negative content in describing their impressions of individuals and stereotypes of groups, particularly for targets whom they view ambivalently with respect to warmth and competence. Communicators avoid overtly inaccurate descriptions, preferring to omit negative information and emphasize positive information about mixed individual targets (Study 1). With more public audiences, communicators increasingly prefer negativity omission to complete accuracy (Study 2), a process driven by self-presentation concerns (Study 3) and moderated by bidimensional ambivalence. Similarly, in an extension of the Princeton Trilogy studies, reported stereotypes of ethnic and national outgroups systematically omitted negative dimensions over 75 years - as anti-prejudice norms intensified - while neutral and positive stereotype dimensions remained constant (Study 4). Multiple assessment methods confirm this stereotyping-by-omission phenomenon (Study 5). Implications of negativity omission for innuendo and stereotype stagnation are discussed.


Discrimination and the Stress Response: Psychological and Physiological Consequences of Anticipating Prejudice in Interethnic Interactions

Pamela Sawyer et al.
American Journal of Public Health, May 2012, Pages 1020-1026

Objectives: We sought to demonstrate that individuals who anticipate interacting with a prejudiced cross-race/ethnicity partner show an exacerbated stress response, as measured through both self-report and hemodynamic and vascular responses, compared with individuals anticipating interacting with a nonprejudiced cross-race/ethnicity partner.

Methods: Through a questionnaire exchange with a White interaction partner (a confederate) Latina participants learned that their partner had racial/ethnic biased or egalitarian attitudes. Latina participants reported their cognitive and emotional states, and cardiovascular responses were measured while participants prepared and delivered a speech to the White confederate.

Results: Participants who believed that their interaction partner held prejudiced attitudes reported greater concern and more threat emotions before the interaction, and more stress after the interaction, and showed greater cardiovascular response than did participants who believed that their partner had egalitarian attitudes.

Conclusions: This study shows that merely anticipating prejudice leads to both psychological and cardiovascular stress responses. These results are consistent with the conceptualization of anticipated discrimination as a stressor and suggest that vigilance for prejudice may be a contributing factor to racial/ethnic health disparities in the United States.


The Cortisol Response to Anticipated Intergroup Interactions Predicts Self-Reported Prejudice

Erik Bijleveld, Daan Scheepers & Naomi Ellemers
PLoS ONE, March 2012

Objectives: While prejudice has often been shown to be rooted in experiences of threat, the biological underpinnings of this threat-prejudice association have received less research attention. The present experiment aims to test whether activations of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, due to anticipated interactions with out-group members, predict self-reported prejudice. Moreover, we explore potential moderators of this relationship (i.e., interpersonal similarity; subtle vs. blatant prejudice).

Methodology/Principal findings: Participants anticipated an interaction with an out-group member who was similar or dissimilar to the self. To index HPA activation, cortisol responses to this event were measured. Then, subtle and blatant prejudices were measured via questionnaires. Findings indicated that only when people anticipated an interaction with an out-group member who was dissimilar to the self, their cortisol response to this event significantly predicted subtle (r = .50) and blatant (r = .53) prejudice.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that prejudicial attitudes are linked to HPA-axis activity. Furthermore, when intergroup interactions are interpreted to be about individuals (and not so much about groups), experienced threat (or its biological substrate) is less likely to relate to prejudice. This conclusion is discussed in terms of recent insights from social neuroscience.


Norwegian Physical Anthropology and the Idea of a Nordic Master Race

Jon Røyne Kyllingstad
Current Anthropology, April 2012, Pages S46-S56

Anthropologists used to consider Norway a homeland for the so-called Nordic - or Germanic - race, which many Europeans and Americans held to be a superior race. This paper deals with the rise and decline of the idea of a Nordic master race in Norwegian physical anthropology. In the 1890s this idea held a key position in anthropological research on the racial identity and origin of the Norwegian population. In the early 1930s, however, leading Norwegian anthropological authorities condemned it as pseudoscientific ideology. I show how Norwegian discussions over this issue were related to greater conflicts within the international eugenics movement, to changing relations between German and Norwegian racial anthropologists before and after the Nazi takeover in Germany, and to conflicting and changing ideas of Norwegian nationhood among Norwegian scholars.


Bitter Reproach or Sweet Revenge: Cultural Differences in Response to Racism

Elizabeth Lee, Janet Swim & Michael Bernstein
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Culture has been shown to influence response styles. The authors conducted two studies to test the notion that African Americans would be more likely to respond to racism directly, whereas Asian Americans would be more likely to respond indirectly and therefore more subtly. Study 1 showed that Black women subjected to a racist comment from a confederate during an online interaction were more likely than Asian women to verbally reproach the perpetrator. These group differences were not present when the outcome measure was indirect responding - administration of good/bad jellybeans. Study 2 used an online format to demonstrate that Asian women were more likely than Black women to say they would not respond directly to a racist comment. This group difference in unwillingness to confront was significantly mediated by a goal of maintaining peace with their interaction partner. Implications of these findings for the study of discrimination, coping, and well-being are discussed.


Goals Can Be Threatened to Extinction: Using the Stroop Task to Clarify Working Memory Depletion Under Stereotype Threat

Keith Hutchison, Jessi Smith & Amber Ferris
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Consensus is building that stereotype threat interferes with working memory, but how so? Grounded in the dual-process framework of Kane and Engle, the authors examined the extent to which stereotype threat interferes with one's ability to maintain task goals in working memory and one's ability to choose between conflicting responses. One hundred eighty-seven Montana State University (MSU) men were first given the Operation Span task (OSPAN) to assess working memory capacity, then engaged in the Stroop task under mostly incongruent or mostly congruent conditions. The Stroop task was presented as a measure of verbal processing skills (stereotype threat condition) or not (control condition). Stroop errors and reaction times were assessed. Results suggest that for people lower in working memory capacity, stereotype threat primarily interferes with internally maintaining task goals across trials. Implications for such stereotype threat-based distraction effects on performance in educational and workplace environments are discussed.


Impact of Experiences With Racism on African-Descent Persons' Susceptibility to Stereotype Threat Within the United Kingdom

Stanley Gaines et al.
Journal of Black Psychology, May 2012, Pages 135-152

The present study examines the impact of experiences with individual, institutional, cultural, and collective racism on susceptibility to stereotype among African-descent persons within the United Kingdom (n = 103). Results of hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicated that (contrary to hypotheses) experiences with individual, institutional, and cultural racism were not significantly or marginally related to susceptibility to stereotype threat when entered together in Model 1. However (consistent with hypotheses), experience with collective racism was a significant positive predictor of susceptibility to stereotype threat after controlling for the effects of experiences with individual, institutional, and cultural racism in Model 2. Moreover (and unexpectedly), once experience with collective racism was added, experience with cultural racism emerged as a marginal negative predictor of susceptibility to stereotype threat. Implications for the continuing relevance of Erving Goffman's symbolic interactionist theory and construct of stigma, along with Claude Steele's construct of stereotype threat, to the field of Black psychology is discussed.


My culture made me do it: Lay theories of responsibility for automatic prejudice

Eric Luis Uhlmann & Brian Nosek
Social Psychology, Spring 2012, Pages 108-113

The present research examined the effects of egocentric motivations on individuals' explanations for how their automatic racial prejudices came into being. The majority of participants reported experiencing biased thoughts, feelings, and gut reactions toward minorities which they found difficult to consciously control, and they attributed such biases to cultural socialization. Of particular interest, ego-threatened participants were significantly more likely to attribute their automatic racial biases to their culture and significantly less likely to attribute such biases to themselves. Results suggest that attributing one's racial biases to cultural socialization can be a defensive, motivated process aimed at diminishing personal responsibility.


Academic adjustment across middle school: The role of public regard and parenting

Rebecca Kang McGill et al.
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

In the current longitudinal study, we examined associations between Black and Latino youths' perceptions of the public's opinion of their racial/ethnic group (i.e., public regard) and changes in academic adjustment outcomes across middle school. We also tested combinations of racial/ethnic socialization and parent involvement in academic activities as moderators of this association. We used a 2nd-order latent trajectory model to test changes in academic adjustment outcomes in a sample of 345 Black and Latino urban youth across 6th, 7th, and 8th grades (51% female). Results revealed a significant average linear decline in academic adjustment from 6th to 8th grade, as well as significant variation around this decline. We found that parenting moderated the association between public regard and the latent trajectory of academic adjustment. Specifically, for youth who reported high racial/ethnic socialization and low parent academic involvement, lower public regard predicted lower academic adjustment in 6th grade. For youth who reported both low racial/ethnic socialization and low parent academic involvement, lower public regard predicted a steeper decline in academic adjustment over time. Finally, among youth who reported high racial/ethnic socialization and high parent academic involvement, public regard was not associated with either the intercept or the slope of academic adjustment. Thus, the combination of high racial/ethnic socialization and parent academic involvement may protect youths' academic motivation and performance from the negative effects of believing the public has low opinions of one's racial/ethnic group. Implications for protecting Black and Latino youths' academic outcomes from decline during middle school are discussed.

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