Kevin Lewis

November 19, 2020

Shades of Privilege: The Relationship Between Skin Color and Political Attitudes Among White Americans
Nicole Yadon & Mara Ostfeld
Political Behavior, December 2020, Pages 1369-1392


Shifting racial dynamics in the U.S. have heightened the salience of White racial identity, and a sense that Whites’ social status and resources are no longer secure. At the same time, the growing size of non-White populations has also renewed attention to skin color-based stratification and the potential blurring of racial boundaries. We theorize that Whites with darker skin will be motivated to protect the boundaries of Whiteness due to the loss of status they would face from blurring racial boundaries. Consistent with growing evidence of skin color’s importance for Whites, we demonstrate that darker-skinned Whites -- measured via a light-reflectance spectrophotometer -- identify more strongly with their White racial identity and are more likely to hold conservative political views on racialized issues than lighter-skinned Whites. Together, these findings offer new insights into the evolving meaning of race and color in American politics.

The Limited Impact of Identity Frames on Support for Multiracial Candidates
Katherine Clayton, Charles Crabtree & Yusaku Horiuchi
Stanford Working Paper, September 2020


The number of multiracial candidates seeking office in the United States is growing in an increasingly diverse America. This presents the media with new choices about how to frame candidates with potentially complex racial backgrounds. We investigate the impact of these decisions using a survey experiment on Kamala Harris -- the first Black woman and the first Asian woman to appear on a major party's presidential ticket. Our results reveal little evidence of framing effects: relative to a news headline ignoring race and gender altogether or a headline only highlighting gender, headlines that emphasize Harris's Black, Asian, or multiracial background do not change voters' attitudes toward the Biden-Harris presidential ticket. These findings suggest that simply highlighting different elements of a multiracial candidate's background is insufficient to boost or dampen popular support. While identity frames could be more powerful in other contexts, concerns about how the media present multiracial identities may be overblown.

Rising Ethnic Diversity in the United States Accompanies Shifts Toward an Individualistic Culture
Alex Huynh & Igor Grossmann
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


We investigate the relationship between ethnic diversity and the rise of individualism in the United States during the 20th and 21st centuries. Tests of the historical rates of ethnic diversity alongside individualistic relational structures (e.g., adults living alone, single-/multi-child families) from the years 1950 to 2018 reveal that societal and regional rates of ethnic diversity accompanied individualistic relational structures. These effects hold above and beyond time-series trends in each variable. Further evidence from experimental studies (N = 707) suggests that the presence of, and contact with, ethnically diverse others contributes to greater individualistic values (e.g., the importance of uniqueness and personal achievement). Converging evidence across societal-, regional-, and individual-level analyses suggests a systematic link between ethnic diversity and individualism. We discuss the implications of these findings for sociocultural livelihood in light of the rising rates of ethnic diversity across the globe.

Race-gender bias in white Americans’ preferences for gun availability
Matthew Hayes, David Fortunato & Matthew Hibbing
Journal of Public Policy, forthcoming


We argue that Americans’ policy attitudes on firearm availability are influenced by the identity of the prospective owner. We use an experiment to demonstrate that attitudes towards gun control/availability are influenced by both race and gender; whether subjects are primed to think of African-Americans versus whites or men versus women has a substantial impact on the degree to which they support firearm access. We find that for many white Americans, Black men and white women stand on opposite poles - priming white Americans with the thought of a Black man decreases support for gun availability, whereas priming the thought of a white woman increases support for gun availability. Further, the magnitude of this effect is quite large - comparable to the difference between Democrats and Republicans. These findings underscore the importance of thinking about the complicated role identity groups play in understanding Americans’ preferences for government (in)action, even in policy areas with explicit Constitutional mandates.

Are You Threatening Me? Asian‐American Panethnicity in the Trump Era
Danvy Le, Maneesh Arora & Christopher Stout
Social Science Quarterly, October 2020, Pages 2183-2192

Objective: This study explores the effect of Donald Trump's candidacy, and first year in office, on Asian‐American linked fate. We argue that the use of anti‐Asian and anti‐immigrant messaging during the 2016 election, and the enactment of discriminatory policies once elected, increased feelings of panethnic linked fate among Asian Americans.

Method: To test our hypotheses, we assess Asian Americans’ levels of linked fate before the 2016 election, immediately after the 2016 election, and one year after the 2016 election with several time‐series surveys.

Results: We find that Asian‐American linked fate is higher after the election and remains high one year later. Qualitative data collected through open‐ended survey responses suggest that the increase in panethnic linked fate can be at least partially attributed to Trump's discriminatory rhetoric.

Second-Order Beliefs Lower the Performance of Attractive People on Intelligence Tests
Youjung Jun, Keith Wilcox & Sandra Matz
Columbia University Working Paper, September 2020


It has been argued that attractive people should be more intelligent because attractiveness signals good genes. However, cultural stereotypes of attractive people depicted in the mass media propagate the notion that they are less intelligent. The present research suggests that these stereotypical representations of this social category have shaped attractive people’s beliefs about how their intelligence is judged based on their appearance, which has a self-fulfilling effect on their intelligence test performance. We demonstrate that the more closely people identity with the social category of attractive people the worse they perform on intelligence tests because they conform to a second-order belief that others expect them to be less intelligent. This effect also emerges when tests are merely framed as intelligence tests, but measure another construct. Reducing people’s focus on this belief diminishes its negative impact on test performance. An analysis of field data suggests that the self-fulfilling effect of this second-order belief may explain why the positive correlation between attractiveness and intelligence declines in early adulthood. Attractive people are shown to perform worse on an IQ test when they are sensitive to how their appearance is judged by others, but perform better when they are insensitive to others’ judgment. This suggests that second-order beliefs may override any intellectual advantages of attractiveness implied by the good genes theory.

Blatant dehumanization in the mind’s eye: Prevalent even among those who explicitly reject it?
Christopher Petsko et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming


Research suggests that some people, particularly those on the political right, tend to blatantly dehumanize low-status groups. However, these findings have largely relied on self-report measures, which are notoriously subject to social desirability concerns. To better understand just how widely blatant forms of intergroup dehumanization might extend, the present article leverages an unobtrusive, data-driven perceptual task to examine how U.S. respondents mentally represent “Americans” versus “Arabs” (a low-status group in the United States that is often explicitly targeted with blatant dehumanization). Data from 2 reverse-correlation experiments (original N = 108; preregistered replication N = 336) and 7 rating studies (N = 2,301) suggest that U.S. respondents’ mental representations of Arabs are significantly more dehumanizing than their representations of Americans. Furthermore, analyses indicate that this phenomenon is not reducible to a general tendency for our sample to mentally represent Arabs more negatively than Americans. Finally, these findings reveal that blatantly dehumanizing representations of Arabs can be just as prevalent among individuals exhibiting low levels of explicit dehumanization (e.g., liberals) as among individuals exhibiting high levels of explicit dehumanization (e.g., conservatives) - a phenomenon into which exploratory analyses suggest liberals may have only limited awareness. Taken together, these results suggest that blatant dehumanization may be more widespread than previously recognized and that it can persist even in the minds of those who explicitly reject it.

Disease Salience Effects on Desire for Affiliation With In-Group and Out-Group Members: Cognitive and Affective Mediators
Murray Millar, Andrea Fink-Armold & Aileen Lovitt
Evolutionary Psychology, July 2020


This study tested the hypothesis that threats related to infectious diseases would make persons less willing to affiliate with out-groups and that feelings of disgust and beliefs about the out-group members would mediate this effect. To test this hypothesis, American participants of European descent were presented with either a disease threat or control threat. Then they were shown a photograph of someone of the same race or different race. Participants were asked to indicate whether they would avoid the target person and to state their emotional and cognitive responses to the person. As predicted, disease salience decreased the desire to affiliate with out-group members, and both feelings of disgust and beliefs about the infection risk posed by the target person mediated this relationship.

Disfavor or Favor? Assessing the Valence of White Americans' Racial Attitudes
Alexander Agadjanian et al.
Dartmouth College Working Paper, September 2020


When citizens' racial attitudes are associated with their judgments related to race -- for example, when people with more negative attitudes toward Blacks are less likely to vote for a Black political candidate -- existing studies routinely interpret it as evidence of prejudice against minorities. But theoretically, such associations can represent favoring minorities, disfavoring them, or a combination of both. We provide a conceptual framework to distinguish patterns of favoring and disfavoring against a standard of racial indifference, and test it with a pre-registered conjoint experiment. In our results, one widely-used measure -- the Racial Resentment Scale (RRS) -- captures favoring of Blacks substantially more than disfavoring. This finding calls for greater care in characterizing white Americans' racial attitudes and illustrates ways to improve future research designs. We also describe several extensions that integrate the distinction between favoring and disfavoring into the broader study of racial attitudes.

How Body Size Cues Judgments on Person Perception Dimensions
Olya Bryksina, Luming Wang & Trang Mai-McManus
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Many people in Western societies pursue a thin body. Among the multiple reasons to lose weight, concerns about social perceptions play a prominent role in the desire to shed pounds. Previous research associates thinness with attractiveness, especially in Western societies. The current work demonstrates that moderate deviations from the average body size cue judgments on person perception dimensions. Results from three studies show that whereas moderately thin (vs. heavy) individuals are rated as more competent, moderately heavy (vs. thin) people are rated as more warm. The studies present mediation- and manipulation-based evidence that these effects occur because a thin (vs. heavy) body signals self-control - a construct instrumental in drawing competence inferences - and that a heavy (vs. thin) body signals emotional expressiveness - a construct that triggers inferences of warmth.

Hybrid Femininities: Making Sense of Sorority Rankings and Reputation
Simone Ispa-Landa & Mariana Oliver
Gender & Society, forthcoming


Gender researchers have only recently begun to identify how women perceive and explain the costs and benefits associated with different femininities. Yet status hierarchies among historically white college sororities are explicit and cannot be ignored, forcing sorority women to grapple with constructions of feminine worth. Drawing on interviews with women in these sororities (N = 53), we are able to capture college women’s attitudes toward status rankings that prioritize adherence to narrow models of gender complementarity. Sorority chapters were ranked according to women’s perceived heterosexual appeal to elite men. Women believed that top-ranked sororities conferred social power whereas middle- and bottom-ranked sororities offered greater freedom from policing over members’ bodies, fashion, and socializing. However, middle- and bottom-ranked sororities sometimes sought to rise in the rankings. When this occurred, existing members were marginalized, and a new pledge class with a greater tolerance for socializing with high-status “rapey” fraternities was sought. Women’s discussions of sorority rankings show evidence of a hybrid femininity that fuses practices from traditional models of gender complementarity and more recent models of women’s empowerment.

Deprivation or discrimination? Comparing two explanations for the reverse income-obesity gradient in the US and South Korea
SeungYong Han & Daniel Hruschka
Journal of Biosocial Science, forthcoming


In high-income countries, poverty is often associated with higher average body mass index (BMI). To account for this reverse gradient, deprivation theories posit that declining economic resources make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. By contrast, discrimination theories argue that anti-fat discrimination in hiring and marriage sorts heavier individuals into lower-income households. This study assesses competing predictions of these theories by examining how household income in representative samples from South Korea (2007-2014, N=20,823) and the US (1999-2014, N=6395) is related to BMI in two key contrasting groups: (1) currently-married and (2) never-married individuals. As expected by anti-fat discrimination in marriage, the reverse gradient is observed among currently-married women but not among never-married women in both countries. Also consistent with past studies no evidence was found for a reverse gradient among men. These findings are consistent with anti-fat discrimination in marriage as a key cause of the reverse gradient and raise serious challenges to deprivation accounts as well as explanations based on anti-fat discrimination in labour markets.

Diagnosing Gender Bias in Image Recognition Systems
Carsten Schwemmer et al.
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, November 2020


Image recognition systems offer the promise to learn from images at scale without requiring expert knowledge. However, past research suggests that machine learning systems often produce biased output. In this article, we evaluate potential gender biases of commercial image recognition platforms using photographs of U.S. members of Congress and a large number of Twitter images posted by these politicians. Our crowdsourced validation shows that commercial image recognition systems can produce labels that are correct and biased at the same time as they selectively report a subset of many possible true labels. We find that images of women received three times more annotations related to physical appearance. Moreover, women in images are recognized at substantially lower rates in comparison with men. We discuss how encoded biases such as these affect the visibility of women, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, and limit the validity of the insights that can be gathered from such data.

Racialization of Peer‐to‐Peer Transactions: Inequality and Barriers to Legitimacy
Steven Shepherd & Ted Matherly
Journal of Consumer Affairs, forthcoming


Racial disparities exist in how different peer‐to‐peer (P2P) business activities are treated. Adapting from institutional theory, whiteness theory, and stereotyping research, we find across a series of experiments that P2P activities are rated more negatively and lower in normative legitimacy when their actors are perceived to be Black as opposed to White. Local acceptance and regulative legitimacy increased normative legitimacy ratings for P2P activities in a Black community, but did not erase the normative legitimacy gap. Moreover, we find that popular terms for P2P businesses (“sharing economy” and “side hustle”) have racial associations, influencing perceptions of normative legitimacy. However, we also show that this may potentially be altered by the legitimating action (an advertising campaign) of a major P2P company employing these terms. Our results suggest that policymakers and programs for improving entrepreneurial achievement need to explicitly consider these racial associations and perceived differences in legitimacy.

Is Affirmation the Cure? Self-Affirmation and European-Americans’ Perception of Systemic Racism
Tara Lesick & Ethan Zell
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming


Racial-ethnic gaps in perception of racism are persistent in the United States, perhaps because the acknowledgement of racism is threatening to European Americans. Supporting this argument, preliminary research indicates that self-affirmation boosts European Americans’ perception of racism and reduces the gap between European and Hispanic Americans’ perception of racism. Although promising, these studies were limited by relatively low statistical power and no subsequent studies have assessed their robustness. We conducted 3 pre-registered experiments testing the effect of self-affirmation on perception of racism. Surprisingly, self-affirmation failed to increase European Americans’ perception of racism (Study 1-3). Further, self-affirmation failed to reduce the gap between European and African Americans’ perception of racism (Study 3). Our results challenge the notion that self-affirmation reliably alters perception of racism. Discussion highlights methodological, cultural, and historical differences between studies that may explain discrepancies in results.

White, Black, and Latina Female Victims in U.S. News: A Multivariate and Intersectional Analysis of Story Differences
Danielle Slakoff & Pauline Brennan
Race and Justice, forthcoming


Prior research suggests the media depict White female victims more sympathetically than their minority counterparts, yet no researcher has yet examined this proposition at the multivariate level. Moreover, prior research on media portrayals generally include White versus non-White or White versus Black comparisons, but no researcher has yet compared media accounts of White, Black, and Latina female victims. Based on critical race feminism, we expected news coverage of White, Black, and Latina victims to vary in key ways. We examined narratives at the bivariate and multivariate levels, and we contextualized findings with story excerpts. Stories about White female victims were more likely to contain sympathetic themes - such as themes of religiosity and reported media attention - and to result in overall sympathetic narratives compared to stories about minority victims, whereas overall narratives about Latina and Black female victims were often unsympathetic. Our findings align with the “ideal victim” stereotype and may help explain the differential treatment of White and minority female victims by the criminal justice system.


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