Gender, race and prejudice

Gender, race and prejudice

Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, New York

Leigh Wilton

“As an experimental social psychologist, I’m interested in how people see each other and how that affects their interactions,” says Leigh Wilton, who joined Skidmore’s psychology faculty last year. Her work focuses on race and gender. “People have expectations about gender and race,” she says, “but what happens when they encounter challenges to those beliefs, such as people who have mixed-race or nontraditional gender identities? What are the consequences, in terms of interpersonal and group relations, of the assumptions we hold?”

The essentialist school of thought holds that these identities are mostly in-born and immutable, rather than socially constructed and learned. But as Wilton points out, there’s no support for a scientific concept of race, and she asks, “If people see racial traits as genetically hard-wired, what do they think when they meet people of mixed-race parentage?

For Wilton, it’s more than academic. With a Latina mother and white father, she grew up with a natural curiosity about what social identities really mean and also with a drive to test ways of improving social interactions across difference…

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