Status Boundary Enforcement and the Categorization of Black-White Biracials

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-24 15:30Z by Steven

Status Boundary Enforcement and the Categorization of Black-White Biracials

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Available online 2013-04-23

Arnold K. Ho, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Colgate University, Hamilton, New York

Jim Sidanius, Professor of Psychology and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Amy J. C. Cuddy, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Hellman Faculty Fellow
Harvard University

Mahzarin R. Banaj, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics
Harvard University


  • This paper demonstrates that individual differences and social context interact to influence how we categorize biracials.
  • We show that the rule of hypodescent is used to enforce group boundaries.
  • Anti-egalitarians are shown to strategically engage in hierarchy maintenance.

Individuals who qualify equally for membership in more than one racial group are not judged as belonging equally to both of their parent groups, but instead are seen as belonging more to their lower status parent group. Why? The present paper begins to establish the role of individual differences and social context in hypodescent, the process of assigning multiracials the status of their relatively disadvantaged parent group. Specifically, in two experiments, we found that individual differences in social dominance orientation—a preference for group-based hierarchy and inequality—interacts with perceptions of socioeconomic threat to influence the use of hypodescent in categorizing half-Black, half-White biracial targets. Importantly, this paper begins to establish hypodescent as a “hierarchy-enhancing” social categorization.

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