Looking the Part: Social Status Cues Shape Race Perception

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-05-29 19:02Z by Steven

Looking the Part: Social Status Cues Shape Race Perception

Volume 6, Issue 9: e25107
Published: 2011-09-26
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025107

Jonathan B. Freemam,  Assistant Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

Andrew M. Penner, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of California, Irvine

Aliya Saperstein, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Stanford University

Matthias Scheutz, Associate Professor of Computer Science
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

Nalini Ambady, Professor of Psychology
Stanford University

It is commonly believed that race is perceived through another’s facial features, such as skin color. In the present research, we demonstrate that cues to social status that often surround a face systematically change the perception of its race. Participants categorized the race of faces that varied along White–Black morph continua and that were presented with high-status or low-status attire. Low-status attire increased the likelihood of categorization as Black, whereas high-status attire increased the likelihood of categorization as White; and this influence grew stronger as race became more ambiguous (Experiment 1). When faces with high-status attire were categorized as Black or faces with low-status attire were categorized as White, participants’ hand movements nevertheless revealed a simultaneous attraction to select the other race-category response (stereotypically tied to the status cue) before arriving at a final categorization. Further, this attraction effect grew as race became more ambiguous (Experiment 2). Computational simulations then demonstrated that these effects may be accounted for by a neurally plausible person categorization system, in which contextual cues come to trigger stereotypes that in turn influence race perception. Together, the findings show how stereotypes interact with physical cues to shape person categorization, and suggest that social and contextual factors guide the perception of race.

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Continuous dynamics in the real-time perception of race

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2009-12-13 02:36Z by Steven

Continuous dynamics in the real-time perception of race

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume 46, Issue 1 (January 2010)
pages 179–185
DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.10.002

Jonathan B. Freemam Assistant Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

Kristin Pauker, Assistant Professor of Psychology
University of Hawaii

Evan P. Apfelbaum
Kellog School of Management
Northwestern Univeristy

Nalini Ambady, Professor and Neubauer Faculty Fellow
Tufts University

Although the outcomes of race categorization have been studied in detail, the temporal dynamics of realtime processing of race remain elusive. We measured participants’ hand movements en route to one of two race-category alternatives by recording the streaming x, y coordinates of the computer mouse. Study 1 showed that, when categorizing White and Black computer-generated faces that featurally overlapped with the opposite race, mouse trajectories showed a continuous spatial attraction toward the opposite category. Moreover, these race-atypical White and Black targets induced spatial attraction effects that had different temporal signatures. Study 2 showed that, when categorizing real faces that varied along a continuum of racial ambiguity, graded increases in ambiguity led to corresponding increases in trajectories’ attraction to the opposite category and trajectories’ movement complexity. These studies provide evidence for temporally dynamic competition across perceptions of race, where simultaneously and partially-active race categories continuously evolve into single categorical outcomes over time. Moreover, the findings show how different social category cues may exert different dynamic patterns of influence over the real-time processing that culminates in categorizations of others.

…The second important difference between dimensions of sex and race is the inherently fuzzy nature of race relative to the substantially less fuzzy nature of sex. Whereas it is rare to encounter faces that are truly sex-ambiguous—an unlikely situation usually evoking anxiety, a few laughs, or both (e.g., Saturday Night Live’s androgynous ‘‘Pat” skits)—perceivers often encounter faces that do not fit squarely into any race category at all. Interactions with mixed-race individuals, for instance, involve the perception of faces that tend to  contain major physiognomic overlap between multiple traditionally-distinguished race categories. Prior research indicates that, even in instances of extreme racial ambiguity (e.g., mixed-race faces), perceivers readily resolve this ambiguity by slotting faces into traditionally-distinguished race categories (Pauker et al., 2009), particularly during rapid categorization (Peery & Bodenhausen, 2008). In the present work, we wanted to determine how this resolution of racial ambiguity is accomplished in realtime.  Because perceptions of race can be fuzzy and involve different levels of ambiguity, this gave us the opportunity to examine how graded increases in the ambiguity of a social category may have corresponding graded effects on the real-time evolution of social categorical responses…

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