Often Misidentified, Multiracial People Value Accurate Perceptions
American Psychological Association
Average American has trouble identifying multiracial people, research finds
HONOLULU — Multiracial people may be misidentified more often as being white than black and may value being accurately identified more so than single-race individuals, according to research presented at APA’s 121st Annual Convention.
“Today, the distinctions among white, black, Latino and Asian people are becoming blurred by the increasing frequency and prominence of multiracial people,” said Jacqueline M. Chen, PhD, of the University of California, Davis. “Still, average Americans have difficulty identifying multiracial people who don’t conform to the traditional single-race categories that society has used all their lives.”
Chen discussed six experiments in which participants were consistently less likely to identify people as multiracial than single-race and took longer to identify someone as multiracial compared to how easily they identified black, white and Asian people. When they made incorrect identifications, they were consistently more likely to categorize a multiracial person as white than black, the study found. Time pressure, distractions and thinking of race in either-or terms made observers significantly less likely to identify someone as multiracial. The study was conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara and involved 435 ethnically diverse undergraduate students.
Participants identified the race of black, white, Asian or multiracial individuals in photos and researchers recorded each participant’s accuracy and time to respond. Researchers used a memorization task and a time limit in two experiments to determine if either would affect a participant’s accuracy. In another experiment, participants were told the study was about reading comprehension and attention. They then read news articles about scientists claiming to find a genetic basis for race and were asked to view several photographs of faces and identify them by race.
Scientists agree that the racial categories we use today are not based on biological differences but are social constructions that can change over time, Chen said, noting that until the mid-20th century, the Anglo-Saxon majority in the United States viewed Irish and Italian immigrants as different races. Previous research has found that people who identify as multiracial have as many as or more positive experiences than those who identify with a single race, regardless of that group’s status in society, she said…
…In another presentation during the same convention session, Jessica D. Remedios, PhD, of Tufts University, looked at how multiracial people value the accuracy of another person’s perception of their race. “Our research found that multiracial people expect positive interactions with people who accurately perceive their racial backgrounds because that affirms their self-perceptions,” Remedios said. ..
Read the entire press release here.