Looks that way

Kevin Lewis

January 18, 2018

Relating pattern deviancy aversion to stigma and prejudice
Anton Gollwitzer et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, December 2017, Pages 920–927


What predicts people’s powerful and universal dislike of social deviancy? Across six studies, aversion towards non-social pattern deviancy, for example, a row of triangles with one triangle out of line, predicted aversion towards stigmatized individuals, social norm breakers, statistically negative and positive deviants, and a racial minority group (Black individuals). The relationship between pattern deviancy and social deviancy aversion emerged across explicit and implicit measures, across cultures (United States and China), and was of a moderately large magnitude (meta-analytic effect size: d = 0.68). Studies 7 and 8 examined developmental differences. Older but not younger children’s pattern deviancy aversion related to their dislike of social norm breakers. Although non-social pattern deviancy and social deviancy judgements may seem distinct given their differing domains, people’s aversion towards non-social pattern deviancy and social deviancy consistently overlapped. These findings raise the possibility that pattern deviancy aversion plays an important role in stigmatization and prejudice.

Interventions Highlighting Hypocrisy Reduce Collective Blame of Muslims for Individual Acts of Violence and Assuage Anti-Muslim Hostility
Emile Bruneau, Nour Kteily & Emily Falk
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Collectively blaming groups for the actions of individuals can license vicarious retribution. Acts of terrorism by Muslim extremists against innocents, and the spikes in anti-Muslim hate crimes against innocent Muslims that follow, suggest that reciprocal bouts of collective blame can spark cycles of violence. How can this cycle be short-circuited? After establishing a link between collective blame of Muslims and anti-Muslim attitudes and behavior, we used an “interventions tournament” to identify a successful intervention (among many that failed). The “winning” intervention reduced collective blame of Muslims by highlighting hypocrisy in the ways individuals collectively blame Muslims — but not other groups (White Americans, Christians) — for individual group members’ actions. After replicating the effect in an independent sample, we demonstrate that a novel interactive activity that isolates the psychological mechanism amplifies the effectiveness of the collective blame hypocrisy intervention and results in downstream reductions in anti-Muslim attitudes and anti-Muslim behavior.

Representing other minds: Mental state reference is moderated by group membership
Jennifer Susan McClung & Stephen David Reicher
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming


The ability to infer the psychological forces that drive others' behaviour is a cornerstone of human cognition. This ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) we have has been extensively studied in its developmental stages and non-human forms. However, how the fully developed theory of mind functions on a daily basis is still the focus of ongoing research. One capacity stemming from theory of mind involves overt linguistic mental state reference. We propose that, rather than being a capacity that those with a fully developed ToM use consistently, mental state reference is a function of our social relationship to others: specifically, whether the other is perceived as an in-group or out-group member. We therefore examined spontaneous mental state reference during casual conversation as a function of group membership. Participants were divided into ‘in-group’ or ‘out-group’ pairs using a classic minimal group paradigm. Next, they were allowed to converse casually with their partner without the experimenter present and then subsequently asked to describe their partner in a written format after interactions. We scored participants' conversations and their written descriptions of each other for frequency and complexity of mental state reference. Results showed that, when interacting with presumed out-group members, participants referenced their partners' mental states significantly less often than when interacting with presumed in-group members. This effect was found both during conversations and in subsequent descriptions of the partner. Spontaneous mental state reference is apparently not a consistent psychological process but instead subject to social constructs, specifically group membership.

Gender Labels on Gender-Neutral Colors: Do they Affect Children’s Color Preferences and Play Performance?
Sui Ping Yeung & Wang Ivy Wong
Sex Roles, forthcoming


Gender-typed color preferences are widely documented, and there has been increasing concern that they affect children’s play preferences. However, it is unclear whether such color preferences exist across cultures, how they have emerged, and how gender color-coding affects performance. Chinese preschoolers (n = 126) aged 59 to 94 months were tested. First, we assessed their gender-typed color preferences using forced-choice tasks with color cards and pictures of neutral toys in gender-typed colors. Second, we tested if gender labels could affect color preferences by labeling two gender-neutral colors as gender-typed and assessed children’s liking for them using a rating task and a forced-choice task with pictures of neutral toys in the labeled colors. Third, we assigned children a tangram puzzle (i.e., a puzzle using geometric pieces) painted either in the gender-appropriate or gender-inappropriate color and measured the number of pieces they completed and their speed. Results showed that Chinese children exhibited the same gender-typed color preferences as Western children did. Moreover, applying gender labels amplified a gender difference in color preferences, thus providing direct and strong evidence for the social-cognitive pathway underlying gender-typed preferences. Finally, color-coding as gender-appropriate or -inappropriate had no impact on performance but the gender labels improved boys’ performance. These results add to knowledge on how gender-related information affects children’s responses to the social world and suggest that the current gender color divide should be reconsidered.

Reduced empathic responses for sexually objectified women: An fMRI investigation
Carlotta Cogoni, Andrea Carnaghi & Giorgia Silani
Cortex, February 2018, Pages 258-272


Sexual objectification is a widespread phenomenon characterized by a focus on the individual's physical appearance over his/her mental state. This has been associated with negative social consequences, as objectified individuals are judged to be less human, competent, and moral. Moreover, behavioral responses toward the person change as a function of the degree of the perceived sexual objectification. In the present study, we investigated how behavioral and neural representations of other social pain are modulated by the degree of sexual objectification of the target. Using a within-subject fMRI design, we found reduced empathic feelings for positive (but not negative) emotions toward sexually objectified women as compared to non-objectified (personalized) women when witnessing their participation to a ball-tossing game. At the brain level, empathy for social exclusion of personalized women recruited areas coding the affective component of pain (i.e., anterior insula and cingulate cortex), the somatosensory components of pain (i.e., posterior insula and secondary somatosensory cortex) together with the mentalizing network (i.e., middle frontal cortex) to a greater extent than for the sexually objectified women. This diminished empathy is discussed in light of the gender-based violence that is afflicting the modern society.

Continuing Evidence of Discrimination Among Local Election Officials
Alex Hughes et al.
University of California Working Paper, September 2017


Results of an audit study conducted during the 2016 election cycle demonstrate that the bias toward Latinos observed during the 2012 election has persisted. In addition to replicating previous results, we show that Arabs face an even greater barrier to communicating with local election officials. Our study did not produce evidence of discrimination against blacks, a finding that echoes the results of other recent studies. We examine one explanation for the high level of discrimination against Arabs, that bureaucrats are politically responsive. Our findings support this explanation. In geographies that cast more votes for the Republican candidate, discrimination against Arab names was stronger.

Who Forgoes Screening in Online Markets and When?: Evidence from Airbnb
Raveesh Mayya et al.
University of Maryland Working Paper, December 2017


Screening, a mechanism for alleviating information asymmetry, is considered a necessity for online peer to peer market platforms, but has also raised concerns of increased discriminatory or biased behaviors in the sharing economy. However, left unexamined is the recent phenomenon where providers of goods and services may voluntarily forgo screening, even though it increases the risks and costs associated with “lemons.” We examine when and who may choose to forgo screening, and the impact this may have on their performance outcomes. We answer these research questions on the Airbnb platform, which recently instituted an “Instant Book” feature that enables hosts to forgo the screening of guests seeking lodging. Utilizing a unique panel dataset of all the listings in New York City between August 2015 and February 2017, we employ propensity score matching combined with difference-in-difference analysis to examine switching and re-switching behaviors of hosts. Our study provides evidence of the economic benefits of forgoing screening from increased occupancy even as reviewer ratings decline, and shows these effects to be stronger for African American and female hosts. We discuss the strategic and social welfare implications of these findings, in the context of the current conversation regarding discrimination and bias in the sharing economy.

Academy Awards Speeches Reflect Social Status, Cinematic Roles, and Winning Expectations
David Markowitz
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming


An analysis of Academy Awards acceptance speeches revealed that social status is indicated through pronouns. Speeches from high status movie directors contained fewer self-references than relatively low status actors. Directors also communicated analytically compared with actors, who told stories and communicated narratively. A post hoc analysis revealed that unexpected award winners communicated more positively than those who were expected to win. The analyses emphasize the importance of replications in the social sciences and extending social and psychological phenomena to new settings.

Legally Armed but Presumed Dangerous: An Intersectional Analysis of Gun Carry Licensing as a Racial/Gender Degradation Ceremony
Jennifer Carlson
Gender & Society, forthcoming


This article analyzes gun carry licensing as a disciplinary mechanism that places African American men in a liminal zone where they are legally armed but presumed dangerous, even as African Americans now experience broadened access to concealed pistol licenses (CPLs) amid contemporary U.S. gun laws. Using observational data from now-defunct public gun boards in Metropolitan Detroit, this article systematically explores how CPLs are mobilized by administrators to reflect and reinforce racial/gender hierarchies. This article broadens scholarly understandings of how tropes of criminality shape racialized men’s encounters with the state beyond nonvoluntary, coercive settings and unpacks how race and gender interlock to shape these encounters. I extend insights from intersectionality scholarship to examine gun board meetings as degradation ceremonies whereby African American men are held accountable to controlling images of Black masculinity in exchange for a CPL. This article sharpens the conceptual apparatus that accounts for marginalized men’s subordination vis-à-vis the state by focusing on the provision of legitimate violence and revealing the persistent, if paradoxical, mobilization of legitimate violence in the reproduction of racial/gender hierarchies.

Who cares if “service with a smile” is authentic? An expectancy-based model of customer race and differential service reactions
Lawrence Houston, Alicia Grandey & Katina Sawyer
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, January 2018, Pages 85-96


“Service with a smile” improves performance ratings, but it is unclear whether that smile must always be authentic. We propose that reactions to a service employee’s display authenticity may depend on the customer’s race, due to a history of differential service experiences. Further, we propose that these experiences inform customers’ expectations, such that White customers are more likely than Black customers to expect friendly “service with a smile.” To test this conjecture, we first confirm that Blacks have lower service performance expectations than Whites due to a history of mistreatment in a service context. In two experimental studies and a field study, we then show that authenticity is a stronger predictor of performance-based evaluations (i.e., exceeded expectations) for White customers than for Black customers. Our findings underscore the impact of the racially biased treatment that Black customers have come to expect and the challenge of pleasing a diverse customer base.

The Chains on All My People Are the Chains on Me: Restrictions to Collective Autonomy Undermine the Personal Autonomy and Psychological Well-Being of Group Members
Frank Kachanoff et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Four studies assessed the potentially detrimental effects that restrictions to collective autonomy (i.e., a group’s freedom to determine and practice its own identity) may have for the personal autonomy and psychological well-being of group members. In Study 1, using 3 distinct samples (NSample1a = 123, NSample1b = 129, NSample1c = 370), correlational and cross-cultural evidence indicates that perceived restrictions to the collective autonomy of one’s group is directly associated with reduced personal autonomy, and indirectly associated with diminished well-being through personal autonomy. In Study 2 (N = 411), a longitudinal assessment of group members over 3 time-points during a 4-month period found that group members who perceived greater collective autonomy restriction also experienced reduced personal autonomy, and in turn, reduced psychological well-being over time. In Study 3 (N = 255), group members described a time during which their ingroup had (or did not have) its collective autonomy unduly restricted by other groups. Participants who were primed to think that their group lacked collective autonomy reported reduced feelings of personal autonomy, and reduced psychological well-being (compared with those primed to think their group had collective autonomy). In Study 4 (N = 389), collective autonomy was manipulated within the context of an intensive laboratory simulation. Collective autonomy-restricted group members experienced less personal autonomy than those who did not have their collective autonomy restricted. Together these findings suggest that restrictions to a group’s collective autonomy may have detrimental consequences for the personal autonomy and psychological well-being of group members.

More Than Skin Deep: Judgments of Individuals With Facial Disfigurement
Anja Jamrozik et al.
Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, forthcoming


People’s physical appearance can have a profound impact on their social interactions. Faces are often the first thing we notice about people and the basis on which we form our first impressions of them. People with facial disfigurement are discriminated against throughout their lives. Currently, we do not know why this discrimination occurs. In order to develop viable interventions, we must first understand the nature of people’s reactions to disfigurement. In this work, we tested the hypothesis that a “disfigured is bad” stereotype exists, wherein people attribute negative characteristics to individuals with facial disfigurement. People made judgments of individuals before and after they received corrective treatment for their disfigurement. Observers reported lower emotional valence (i.e., more negative emotion), higher arousal, and lower dominance when viewing pretreatment (vs. posttreatment) photographs. Moreover, pictured pretreatment individuals were viewed significantly more negatively in terms of personality (e.g., emotional stability, conscientiousness), internal attributes (e.g., happiness, intelligence), and social attributes (e.g., trustworthiness, popularity). These subjective judgments further reduced to people with disfigurement being regarded as less sociable and happy, less dominant, less emotionally stable, and more as objects of curiosity compared with those with corrected facial disfigurement. Our findings suggest that negative stereotype of people with facial disfigurement may drive discrimination in social, academic, and professional contexts. Knowing what inferences people draw on the basis of disfigurement will make it possible to design interventions to improve the way people with disfigurement are viewed and ultimately treated by others.

Dress Codes and Racial Discrimination in Urban Nightclubs
Reuben Buford May & Pat Rubio Goldsmith
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, forthcoming


In recent years, sociologists and others have suggested that nightclub owners have used dress codes to covertly discriminate against African Americans and Latinos. We test this claim using experimental audit methods where matched pairs of African American, Latino, and white men attempt to enter urban nightclubs with dress codes in large metropolitan areas (N = 159). We find systematic evidence that African Americans are denied access to nightclubs more often than similarly appearing whites and (in some cases) Latinos attempting to enter the same nightclubs. The magnitude of this discrimination is similar to that observed in housing audit studies. However, we do not find evidence of unequal treatment between whites and Latinos. These findings suggest that dress codes are used to racially discriminate against African Americans, in violation of federal law.

Shedding New Light on the Evaluation of Accented Speakers: Basic Mechanisms Behind Nonnative Listeners’ Evaluations of Nonnative Accented Job Candidates
Janin Roessel et al.
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming


The present research unites two emergent trends in the area of language attitudes: (a) research on perceptions of nonnative speakers by nonnative listeners and (b) the search for general, basic mechanisms underlying the evaluation of nonnative accented speakers. In three experiments featuring an employment situation, German participants listened to a presentation given in English by a German speaker with a strong versus native-like accent (in Studies 1–3) versus a native speaker of English (in Study 1). They evaluated candidates with a strong accent worse than candidates with a native(-like) pronunciation — even to the degree that the quality of arguments was of no relevance (Study 1). Study 2 introduces an effective intervention to reduce these discriminatory tendencies. Across studies, affect and competence emerged as major mediators of hirability evaluations. Study 3 further revealed sequential indirect influences, which advance our understanding of previous inconsistent findings regarding disfluency and warmth perceptions.

The behavioral immune system is designed to avoid infected individuals, not outgroups
Florian van Leeuwen & Michael Bang Petersen
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming


What is the adapted structure of the behavioral immune system? By definition, the behavioral immune system motivates pathogen avoidance. One prominent suggestion is that the behavioral immune system also contains an additional component that generates motivation to avoid individuals from unfamiliar outgroups. The evolvability of this component has recently been questioned, however, and it has been noted that all supportive evidence stems from WEIRD samples. In this paper, we conducted between-subject experiments in large samples of adult residents of the USA (N = 1615) and India (N = 1969). In the experiment, we measured comfort with physical contact with a depicted individual. The individual was either from an ethnic ingroup or outgroup and either showed a pathogen cue or not. Results were inconsistent with the view that the behavioral immune system motivates the avoidance of individuals from unfamiliar outgroups. Instead, the results strongly supported that the system simply motivates the avoidance of any infected individual regardless of their group membership.

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.