Evidence for hypodescent and racial hierarchy in the categorization and perception of biracial individuals.

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-09 01:08Z by Steven

Evidence for hypodescent and racial hierarchy in the categorization and perception of biracial individuals.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Published online: 2010-11-22
DOI: 10.1037/a0021562

Arnold K. Ho
Department of Psychology
Harvard University

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

Daniel T. Levin, Professor of Psychology and Director of Graduate Studies
Vanderbilt University

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

Individuals who qualify equally for membership in two racial groups provide a rare window into social categorization and perception. In 5 experiments, we tested the extent to which a rule of hypodescent, whereby biracial individuals are assigned the status of their socially subordinate parent group, would govern perceptions of Asian–White and Black–White targets. In Experiment 1, in spite of posing explicit questions concerning Asian–White and Black–White targets, hypodescent was observed in both cases and more strongly in Black–White social categorization. Experiments 2A and 2B used a speeded response task and again revealed evidence of hypodescent in both cases, as well as a stronger effect in the Black–White target condition. In Experiments 3A and 3B, social perception was studied with a face-morphing task. Participants required a face to be lower in proportion minority to be perceived as minority than in proportion White to be perceived as White. Again, the threshold for being perceived as White was higher for Black–White than for Asian–White targets. An independent categorization task in Experiment 3B further confirmed the rule of hypodescent and variation in it that reflected the current racial hierarchy in the United States. These results documenting biases in the social categorization and perception of biracials have implications for resistance to change in the American racial hierarchy.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Historical Treatment of Biracial Individuals
  • Empirical Studies of Biracial Individuals: Identification, Categorization, and Perception
  • Overview of the Experiments
  • Experiment 1: A Blatant Test of Hypodescent
    • Method
    • Results and Discussion
  • Experiment 2A: A Test of the Automaticity of Hypodescent
    • Method
    • Results and Discussion
  • Experiment 2B: A Replication
    • Method
    • Results and Discussion
  • Experiment 3A: Evidence of Hypodescent in Visual Face Perception
    • Method
    • Results and Discussion
  • Experiment 3B: A Replication and Extension
    • Method
    • Results and Discussion
  • General Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • References

The “mixing of races” in America provides a natural laboratory for measuring perceptions of new racial identities that diverge from older and simpler notions of race purity (Shih & Sanchez, 2009). Although social psychologists have studied how humans think about ingroups and outgroups for decades, relatively little is known about the perception of individuals who, by the fact that they embody mixtures of social identities within a single individual, blur traditional group boundaries. Such individuals provide intriguing test cases for social categorization and social perception. We focus on one aspect of such mixtures by studying how humans who meld two seemingly distinct racial groups are categorized and perceived, and thereby test how socially meaningful lines that determine inclusion into desired group memberships are drawn. Fundamentally, the categorization and perception of biracial and multiracial individuals more broadly can reveal how culturally entrenched social categories and norms guide, and even limit, social perception.

From a sociostructural perspective, miscegenation and biracial identity have profound implications for understanding the stability and permeability of extant racial group boundaries. In the United States, there is a clear and consensually agreed upon racial status hierarchy—members of dominant and subordinate groups alike agree that Whites have the highest social status, followed by Asians, Latinos, and Blacks (see Fang, Sidanius, & Pratto, 1998; Kahn, Ho, Sidanius, & Pratto, 2009; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999, pp. 52–53). However, many have argued that the increasing rate of interracial dating and marriage between racial minorities and Whites, and resulting patterns of biracial identification of their offspring, will lead to a fundamental change in the American racial hierarchy (e.g., Alba & Nee, 2003; J. Lee & Bean, 2004, 2007a, 2007b; Sears & Savalei, 2006; Thornton, 2009). For example, J. Lee and Bean (2004) suggested that “based on patterns of immigration, intermarriage, and racial/multiracial identification…, Latinos and Asians may enjoy the option to view themselves as almost white or even white, and consequently, participate in a new color line that is still somewhat exclusionary of blacks” (p. 237). Others, like Thornton (2009), have documented how the mainstream media perceives the significance of multiracial identification: “For mainstream [news] papers, we are in a new era, sans racial determinants, and in this context multiracial people embody a color-blind America…” (p. 121). These sentiments assume that biracials will be accepted as part of their dominant parent group and not limited by their minority parent group status. However, are biracial targets perceived accurately as equal members of both parent groups or more in terms of their dominant or subordinate group lineage? The five experiments reported here are aimed at addressing this question…

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Study Looks at Biracial Assignment

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, New Media, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-13 21:24Z by Steven

Study Looks at Biracial Assignment

The Harvard Crimson
2010-12-13

Hana N. Rouse, Crimson Staff Writer

People classify biracial children as members of the minority parent group

People have the tendency to classify those of biracial descent as members of their minority parent group rather than as equal members of both races, according to a recent study published by Harvard psychologists.

The study, led by Harvard psychology graduate student Arnold K. Ho and co-authored by Harvard Professors James Sidanius and Mahzarin R. Banaji and Vanderbilt Professor Daniel T. Levin, employed computer generated faces of varying ethnicities and fictional family trees to test people’s intuitive racial classifications.

Study results suggest that participants classified half-white and half-minority persons as part of a minority. Researchers used computer generated faces of varying ethnicities and fictional family trees to test people’s preferences…

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‘One-drop rule’ persists: Biracials viewed as members of their lower-status parent group

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-12-11 23:16Z by Steven

‘One-drop rule’ persists: Biracials viewed as members of their lower-status parent group

Harvard Gazette
Harvard Science: Science and Engineering at Harvard University
2010-12-09

Steve Bradt, Harvard Staff Writer

Arnold K. Ho (right), a Ph.D. student in psychology at Harvard, and James Sidanius, a professor of psychology and of African and African-American studies at Harvard, researched the “one-drop rule.” They say their work reflects the cultural entrenchment of America’s traditional racial hierarchy, which assigns the highest status to whites, followed by Asians, with Latinos and blacks at the bottom.

The centuries-old “one-drop rule” assigning minority status to mixed-race individuals appears to live on in our modern-day perception and categorization of people like Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, and Halle Berry.

So say Harvard University psychologists, who’ve found that we still tend to see biracials not as equal members of both parent groups, but as belonging more to their minority parent group. The research appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Many commentators have argued that the election of Barack Obama, and the increasing number of mixed-race people more broadly, will lead to a fundamental change in American race relations,” says lead author Arnold K. Ho, a Ph.D. student in psychology at Harvard. “Our work challenges the interpretation of our first biracial president, and the growing number of mixed-race people in general, as signaling a color-blind America.”…

…“One of the remarkable things about our research on hypodescent is what it tells us about the hierarchical nature of race relations in the United States,” says co-author James Sidanius, professor of psychology and of African and African-American studies at Harvard. “Hypodescent against blacks remains a relatively powerful force within American society.”…

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Evidence for Hypodescent and Racial Hierarchy in the Perception of Biracial Individuals

Posted in Live Events, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science, United States on 2009-10-19 20:20Z by Steven

Evidence for Hypodescent and Racial Hierarchy in the Perception of Biracial Individuals

SPSP 2010
The Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology
2010-01-28 through 2010-01-30
Las Vegas, Nevada

Arnold K. Ho
Harvard University

Daniel T. Levin
Vanderbilt University

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

Mahzarin R. Banaji
Harvard University

Many have argued that the increasing rate of intermarriage between racial minorities and Whites and resulting patterns of biracial identification will lead to the dissolution of the American racial hierarchy (e.g., Alba & Nee, 2003; Lee & Bean, 2004; 2007a; 2007b; Thornton, 2009). However, little empirical evidence exists on perceptions of new racial identities that diverge from older notions of race purity and the “one drop” rule. We tested whether a rule of hypodescent, whereby biracial targets are assigned the status of their subordinate parent group, would govern perceptions of Asian-White and Black-White targets. Participants morphed faces from Asian to White, Black to White, White to Asian, and White to Black. Consistent with a rule of hypodescent, a face needed to be lower in proportion minority to be considered minority than proportion White to be considered White. In addition, the threshold for being considered White was higher for Black-White biracials than for Asian-White biracials, a pattern consistent with the structure of the current racial hierarchy. Finally, an independent racial categorization task confirmed that hypodescent and the current racial hierarchy guide how biracial targets are perceived. Potential distal (e.g., fear of contagion) and proximate (e.g., racism) causes of these phenomena are discussed.

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