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Three studies show that people whose physical features are seen as more (versus less) racially stereotypical are more vulnerable to social rejection and exclusion from those outside their group. In Study 1, which used an online social networking site, Blacks perceived as more physically stereotypical were found to have fewer non-Black friends, compared to less-stereotypical Blacks. In Study 2, which used an experimental paradigm, requests for friendship made to non-Blacks by more-stereotypical Blacks were more likely to be rejected than those made by less-stereotypical Blacks. Finally, in a college dormitory, people judged to have more (vs. less) racially stereotypical physical features were found to interact less often with outgroup members. This work substantiates a growing body of research demonstrating that people who are perceived as more physically stereotypical of their racial group are particularly vulnerable to discriminatory treatment by outgroup mem-bers across a variety of life domains.
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Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection
Michelle R. Hebl
a,
,1
, Melissa J. Williams
b,1
, Jane M. Sundermann
a,2
, Harrison J. Kell
a,3
, Paul G. Davies
c
a
Department of Psychology, Rice University, USA
b
Goizueta Business School, Emory University, USA
c
Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Canada
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Received 8 November 2011
Revised 29 May 2012
Available online xxxx
Keywords:
Race
Stereotypicality
Prototypicality
Physical appearance
Friendship
Rejection
Three studies show that people whose physical features are seen as more (versus less) racially stereotypical
are more vulnerable to social rejection and exclusion from those outside their group. In Study 1, which used
an online social networking site, Blacks perceived as more physically stereotypical were found to have fewer
non-Black friends, compared to less-stereotypical Blacks. In Study 2, which used an experimental paradigm,
requests for friendship made to non-Blacks by more-stereotypical Blacks were more likely to be rejected than
those made by less-stereotypical Blacks. Finally, in a college dormitory, people judged to have more (vs. less)
racially stereotypical physical features were found to interact less often with outgroup members. This work
substantiates a growing body of research demonstrating that people who are perceived as more physically
stereotypical of their racial group are particularly vulnerable to discriminatory treatment by outgroup mem-
bers across a variety of life domains.
© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Introduction
A visible stigma, such as membership in a racial minority group, can
have signicant negative consequences for a person's life outcomes,
well-being, and daily interactions with others, as shown by an abun-
dance of research over many decades (e.g., Allport, 1954; Dovidio &
Gaertner, 1986). Recent scholarship, however, has added to the com-
plexity of this approach by demonstrating that negative outcomes are
experienced to unequal degrees by members of the same minority
group. Specically, racial minorities who are perceived as more physi-
cally stereotypical or prototypical of their group are more vulnerable
to negative outcomes, compared to less-stereotypical minorities. In
other words, visible minorities face feature-based as well as category-
based discrimination (Maddox, 2004). In the case of Blacks, stereotypi-
cal features include a darker skin tone and broader nose and lips (Blair,
Judd, Sadler, & Jenkins, 2002; Brooks & Gwinn, 2010); for Hispanics,
they include a darker skin tone and more indigenous-appearing fea-
tures (Uhlmann, Dasgupta, Elgueta, Greenwald, & Swanson, 2002).
White stereotypicality appears to involve lighter skin, lighter hair and
eyes, and a thinner nose (Ma & Correll, 2011; Ronquillo et al., 2007);
for Asians, darker hair, smaller eyes, and larger cheeks (Mok, 1998;
Wilkins, Chan, & Kaiser, 2011).
Individuals perceived as more (versus less) stereotypical of their
ethnic or racial group are the recipients of more negative affect or
bias (Ito, Willadsen-Jensen, Kaye, & Park, 2011; Livingston & Brewer,
2002; Ronquillo et al., 2007; Uhlmann et al., 2002) and are viewed in
more stereotypical trait terms (Blair, 2006; Blair, Chapleau, & Judd,
2005; Blair, Judd, & Fallman, 2004; Blair, et al., 2002; Maddox &
Gray, 2002). Stereotypes linking Blacks and crime are particularly
problematic; Blacks perceived as more stereotypical are more likely
to be judged violent or criminal (Dixon & Maddox, 2005; Kahn &
Davies, 2010), even by police ofcers (Eberhardt, Goff, Purdie, &
Davies, 2004). They also are more likely to receive long prison sen-
tences and even the death penalty (Blair, Judd, & Chapleau, 2004;
Eberhardt, Davies, Purdie-Vaughns, & Johnson, 2006). Indeed, sociol-
ogists have suggested that the difference in life outcomes (such as
economic or educational attainment) between Blacks perceived as
more versus less stereotypical is at least as large as that between
Blacks and Whites (Hill, 2000; Hughes & Hertel, 1990; Keith &
Herring, 1991).
However, despite this recent growth of research exploring the con-
sequences for minorities of within-group phenotypic variability, little
is known about the role that this phenomenon plays in everyday social
interactions. That is, what are the experiences of individuals perceived
as more versus less physically stereotypical in interacting with those
outside their group? In the present studies, we investigate the role of ra-
cial stereotypicality in social acceptance and rejection, looking at social
decision making in real-life communities.
Research on friendship and social interaction across racial group
lines demonstrates that both majority-group and minority-group
members anticipate interracial interactions with signicant anxiety
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Corresponding author at: Department of Psychology, Rice University, 6100 Main
Street, Houston, TX 77005, USA.
E-mail address: hebl@rice.edu (M.R. Hebl).
1
The rsttwo authors contributedequally to this work;names are listed alphabetically.
2
Now at the Department of Psychology, University of Denver, USA.
3
Now at the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, Vanderbilt University, USA.
YJESP-02900; No. of pages: 7; 4C:
0022-1031/$ see front matter © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.05.019
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jesp
Please cite this article as: Hebl, M.R., et al., Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
(2012), doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.05.019
and distress (Richeson & Shelton, 2007). Majority-group members
typically fear that they will be viewed as prejudiced, and also (incor-
rectly) assume a lack of interest in friendship on the part of their
minority-group interaction partners, who meanwhile fear they will
be the targets of racial prejudice (Goff, Steele, & Davies, 2008; Plant,
2004; Shelton & Richeson, 2005). As a result of these anxious expec-
tations, relatively cold non-verbal behaviors are mutually expressed,
with the consequence being poorer relational outcomes relative to
comparable same-race interactions (Towles-Schwen & Fazio, 2006).
Expecting intergroup interactions to go poorly, both majority- and
minority-group members tend to avoid them; it is therefore not surpris-
ing that racial homophily persists in a variety of social contexts
(McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001). Here, we hypothesize that
these trends will be exacerbated as a function of physical stereotypicality.
That is, we expect that people perceived to have a more-stereotypical ap-
pearance will experience more social rejection from outgroup members
than will those judged to be less stereotypical.
This hypothesis is tested in three studies exploring real social
communities. In Study 1, we investigated the network size of Blacks
who use an online social networking site, hypothesizing that Blacks
perceived as more stereotypical would have fewer non-Black friends
than would less-stereotypical Blacks. This idea was further explored
in Study 2 using an experimental paradigm; we hypothesized that
Blacks' overtures of friendship to non-Blacks within a city-based on-
line community would be met with more rejection when the Black
initiator was more versus less stereotypical. Finally, in Study 3 we ex-
amined the strength of social ties among residents of a college dormi-
tory, hypothesizing that individuals perceived as more stereotypical
would have fewer interactions with outgroup members.
Study 1
In Study 1, we explored the relationship between perceived phys-
ical stereotypicality and friendship network size. Black Americans'
photographs on Facebook, the social networking website, were
coded for physical stereotypicality, and their number of friends was
recorded. We predicted that more-stereotypical Blacks would have
fewer non-Black Facebook friends, compared to those lower in
stereotypicality. (We did not make a prediction about the relation-
ship between physical stereotypicality and numbers of Black
friends.)
Method
Participants
The participant sample comprised Black men and women who
maintained personal prole pages on Facebook. To help ensure that
participants would be likely to identify as Black, participant selection
was limited to men and women with rst names shown to occur sig-
nicantly more frequently among Black than non-Black Americans
(Fryer & Levitt, 2004): Darnell, DeAndre, Deshawn, Jamal, Malik,
Marquis, Trevon, Tyrone, and Willie (men); and Aaliyah, Ashanti,
Deja, Diamond, Ebony, Jada, Jazmin, Precious, Raven, Shanice, and
Tiara (women). All participants who had one of these names,
whose prole picture included a recognizable face image, and who
appeared Black were added to the sample until we had an initial
sample of 200. Ten participants were then excluded because their
prole indicated that they lived outside the United States. This
yielded a nal sample of 190 (85 men and 105 women).
Coding of independent and dependent variables
Three judges rated each participant's main prole photo on Black
physical stereotypicality, using a scale that ranged from 1 (denitely
not stereotypical) to 4 (denitely stereotypical). Judges had access only
to photos during coding, and were blind to hypotheses. Inter-judge reli-
ability was sufciently high (Cronbach's alpha= .72), so stereotypicality
ratings were averaged across judges. This stereotypicality index served
as the independent variable.
Next, a fourth judge visited each prole page and recorded how many
Black and non-Black friends the person had (based on the friend's prole
photo). These two indices (number of non-Black friends and number of
Black friends) served as the dependent variables.
Coding of potential mediators
In addition, for exploratory purposes, participants' racial category
memberships also were coded. Specically, two judges indicated
whether they thought the person in the photo was Black (or not)
4
,
and rated their condence in this categorization as high, medium,
or low, therefore yielding a continuous scale that ranged from 1
(highly condent that the person is not Black) to 6 (highly condent
that the person is Black). Further, two additional judges indicated
whether they thought the person in the photo was Asian, Latino, or
White (i.e., a group other than Black, abbreviated here as ALW) or
not ALW, and rated their condence in this categorization as high,
medium, or low, therefore yielding a continuous scale that ranged
from 1 (highly condent that the person is not Asian, Latino, or
White) to 6 (highly condent that the person is ALW). Inter-judge re-
liability was sufciently high, so ratings were averaged across judges
to create a Black category condence index (alpha= .90) and an ALW
category condence index (alpha= .78). These indices were highly
but not perfectly correlated (r=.62).
Results
Four participants' total friend counts were more than two stan-
dard deviations above the sample mean (>1876 friends). These par-
ticipants were excluded from analysis
5
as unrepresentative of
typical Facebook users.
We hypothesized that Blacks judged to be more physically stereo-
typical would have fewer non-Black (outgroup) friends than would
less-stereotypical Blacks. We also looked at Black (ingroup) friends
for comparison. Following the methods of Judd, McClelland, and
Smith (1996) for within-subjects moderated regression, we rst
regressed the stereotypicality index on the difference between the
number of Black and non-Black friends each participant had. This
term was signicant, β=.29, pb.005, indicating that friend race mod-
erated the effect of stereotypicality on numbers of friends. Follow-up
analyses revealed that, as predicted, Black stereotypicality was nega-
tively associated with numbers of non-Black friends, β=.32,
pb.005. Moreover, Black stereotypicality was positively and margin-
ally associated with numbers of Black friends, β=.17, p= .051.
We also explored the Black and ALW category condence ratings
as potential mediators of the relationship between stereotypicality
and number of non-Black friends, to gain further insight into this re-
lationship. Not surprisingly, Black stereotypicality was positively re-
lated to Black category condence, β= .53, pb.005, and negatively
related to ALW category condence, β=.53, pb.005. Analyses
using bootstrapping methods (Preacher, Rucker, & Hayes, 2007)
showed that when Black category condence was tested as a poten-
tial mediator, the 95% condence interval (29.49, 14.32) included
0, indicating no mediation. However, when ALW category condence
was tested as a potential mediator, the 95% condence interval
4
Three participants were rated by both judges as unlikely to be Black. Excluding these
participants did not affectsignicance levels of the reported analyses. Theywere retained
in order to include the fullrange of the Black categorycondence index inthe subsequent
mediation a nalyses.
5
Excluding these participants did not affect signicance levels.
2M.R. Hebl et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Hebl, M.R., et al., Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
(2012), doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.05.019
(72.45, 7.03) did not include 0, indicating mediation. However,
this mediation was only partial, as the relationship between
stereotypicality and number of non-Black friends remained signi-
cant after controlling for the two category condence indices, β=
.17, p=.03. In other words, non-Blacks may be more accepting of
less-stereotypical (relative to more-stereotypical) Black Americans
not because they perceive them as not actually belonging to the
Black category, as indicated by the lack of mediation of the Black cat-
egory condence index, but rather because they perceive less-
stereotypical Blacks as potentially belonging to another racial catego-
ry (Asian, Latino, or White) along with the Black category.
Discussion
These results provide preliminary evidence that physical stereo-
typicality is linked to weaker social connections outside one's own ra-
cial group. Further, the mediation analyses suggest that this may occur
in part because less-stereotypical (but not more-stereotypical) indi-
viduals may be seen by others as potentially also belonging to the
ingroup.
Our central hypothesis is that people perceived as more stereotypical
experience greater social rejection from outgroup members, leading to
smaller numbers of friends. However, other explanations for the correla-
tional nding in Study 1 are possible; for instance, more-stereotypical
Black Americans may choose to maintain fewer outgroup friendships
than those lower in perceived stereotypicality. Hence, the goals of Study
2 were to test (using an experimental design) the hypothesis that
more-stereotypical Blacks are vulnerable to greater social rejection by
outgroup members.
Study 2
In Study 2, Black and non-Black participants were invited to re-
spond to friendship requests from Black men and women whose ap-
pearance varied in stereotypicality.
Method
Participants
The participant sample comprised individuals in a large U.S. city
who maintain Facebook pages. To obtain the sample, we visited the
city-specic Facebook page and recorded URLs for the rst 1400 indi-
viduals (randomly generated out of the entire set) who had a photo
with a recognizable face image and a range of friends that was +/1
SD from the city network mean (range: 51541 friends). This latter cri-
terion ensured participants who were fairly typical in terms of their ten-
dency to accept/reject friend requests. Six prole pages could not be
found when friend requests were sent; hence, the nal sample size
was 1394. The sample was 56% male and 71% White, 14% Asian, 8% La-
tino, and 7% Black. Gender was determined from self-identication on
proles; race was coded from prole photos.
Materials
We rst obtained photos of a Black man and Black woman who
were perceived as moderately stereotypic (Davies, 2012). Next, each
photo was altered using Adobe Photoshop, with modications of the
skin color, nose width, and lip fullness, to generate a less-
stereotypical version and a more-stereotypical version of the male
and female targets. (The original, moderately stereotypical photos
were not used as stimuli.) Pretesting conrmed that the two photos
modied to appear more stereotypic were perceived as signicantly
more stereotypic than the two photos modied to appear less stereo-
typic (Davies, 2012).
Fictitious Facebook prole pages were then created using these
four photos. Male targets were named Michael Davis; female tar-
gets were named Jennifer Davis.These names were chosen because
they are very common among young-adult Americans (Social
Security Administration, 2011) and could easily describe either a
White or Black American. Each prole page included a name, photo,
and city of residence (same as the participants'), and a short blurb:
I'm new to Facebook. Working on putting up my info!
Procedure
Each participant was sent a single friend request
6
on Facebook
from one of the four target proles, randomly determined. We then
recorded whether the friendship request was accepted. Requests
were recorded as rejected if no response was received within several
weeks.
Results and discussion
Overall, 15% of participants (213 out of 1394) accepted the re-
quests. This low rate is likely attributable to the fact that the targets
were unknown to participants, requesting friendship and access to
personal information, with only a (large) hometown in common.
Nonetheless, we anticipated that some targets specically those
with a more racially stereotypical appearance would be rejected
more than others, particularly by outgroup members.
Request acceptance was therefore analyzed by means of a 2 (tar-
get stereotypicality: high vs. low) × 2 (participant race: Black vs.
non-Black) logistic regression. There was a main effect for participant
race, such that the Black targets were more likely to be accepted as
friends by Black than non-Black participants, β=.75, pb.01. (See
Table 1.) The overall main effect of target stereotypicality was not sig-
nicant, β=.12, p=.12. However, as predicted, there was a signif-
icant target stereotypicality× participant race interaction, β=.60,
p=.02. Consistent with hypotheses, non-Black participants were sig-
nicantly less likely to accept a more-stereotypical vs. less-
stereotypical Black target as their friend, β=.16, p= .04. Among
Black participants, however, the likelihood of friend acceptance was
in fact marginally higher for more-stereotypical versus less-
stereotypical targets, β=.44, p= .08.
Follow-up analyses examined how long participants took before
accepting friend requests. Non-Black participants who accepted friend
requests took signicantly longer to accept requests from the more-
stereotypical vs. less-stereotypical Black target, F(1, 189)= 9.66,
pb.005, eta
2
=.05. There was no difference in the number of days
Black participants took to accept friend requests from less-
stereotypical and more-stereotypical targets, F(1, 25)b1, and the target
stereotypicality X participant race interaction was not signicant, F(1,
212)b1, both ns.
In summary, an overture of friendship from a Black person to a
non-Black person was less likely to be accepted when the friendship
requester looked more (vs. less) stereotypically Black. Further, even
among those requests that were accepted, more time passed before
acceptance when the requester looked more (vs. less) stereotypically
Black. As previously noted, past research has noted the anxiety Blacks
experience in initial social interactions with non-Blacks (Richeson &
Shelton, 2007; Shelton, Richeson, & Vorauer, 2006), based on fears
of rejection and stigmatization. The present research suggests that
such fears may not be unfounded. Further, Blacks perceived as more
(versus less) racially stereotypical are even more likely to experience
this rejection. Had the more-stereotypical targets created for this
6
In a friendrequest, a sender requests that he or she be added to the recipient's
Facebook-based social network, which may allow the sender greater access to personal
information (such as photos of the recipient). The recipient may accept, deny, or ignore
the request.
3M.R. Hebl et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Hebl, M.R., et al., Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
(2012), doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.05.019
study been real people, their experience of reaching out to initiate a
new friendship across race lines would likely have been met with
an outright rejection or, at best, a disheartening period of hesitancy
(as suggested by the longer times to accept requests). More-
stereotypical Blacks may regularly experience what amounts to a
double dose of social rejection in daily interactions with outgroup
members one for their membership in the Black racial group, and
another for a physical appearance seen as extra Black.
Combined with the rst study, Study 2 provides additional evi-
dence that racial stereotypicality leads to greater social rejection
from outgroup members. Further, the experimental design used in
the present study allows for conrmation of a causal path that
greater racial stereotypicality can directly cause increased rejection
from outgroup members.
Study 3
Study 3 tested the effects of perceived racial stereotypicality on
friendships within a face-to-face community. Here, residents of a col-
lege dormitory documented their relationships with each other, and
this information was examined as a function of the perceived
stereotypicality of residents' physical appearance. We hypothesized
that dorm residents would report interacting less with fellow resi-
dents who were more (vs. less) stereotypical of a racial outgroup.
Members of all racial groups were included in the study.
Method
Participants
The sample comprised all 330 residents of a university dormitory.
At this university, most students live on campus, and rst-year stu-
dents are randomly assigned to dormitories, helping to limit the
role of self-selection biases in the sample. Further, interaction
among dormitory residents is high (e.g., frequent dorm-based
events), as is identication with dorm membership (e.g., frequent
inter-dorm competitions).
Demographic information, based on self-identication, was
obtained independently from school administrators, along with stu-
dents' identication photos. Half of the participants (49%) were
male; 55% self-identied as White, 26% as Asian, 12% as Latino, and
7% as Black.
The study was announced during common mealtimes, and a sur-
vey was placed in each student's mailbox. The response rate was
56% (184 people). Students who participated were entered into a lot-
tery, and four winners each received a $250 gift certicate.
Materials and procedure
Participants completed the survey privately and returned it to a
centrally located collection box. The survey asked participants to indi-
cate, using a 1 (never)to5(very frequently) scale, how much they in-
teract with each of their 329 fellow dorm residents. The survey
included fellow residents' names, but not their pictures.
Ratings made of each dorm resident (rather than ratings made by
each participant), indicating how much other participants said they
interacted with him/her, were used as the dependent variables. Spe-
cically, an ingroup interaction index was created by averaging inter-
action ratings made of each dorm resident by respondents who
shared his/her racial group (White, Black, Asian, or Latino), and an
outgroup interaction index was created by averaging interaction rat-
ings made of each dorm resident by respondents who did not share
his/her racial group.
Racial stereotypicality index
To obtain information about physical stereotypicality, we coded
each participant's college-identication photo. The photos had been
taken using a standardized format at the beginning of each parti-
cipant's rst year. Eight photos were unavailable, leaving a total sam-
ple size of 322.
Three judges rated the racial stereotypicality of each photograph,
using a 7-point scale. Because reliability was high (Cronbach's
alpha= .78), ratings were averaged across judges.
Inter-judge reliability was comparable for ratings of the four racial
groups (range= .77.85), indicating that judges were able to deter-
mine stereotypicality with a similar level of agreement across the
four groups. Nonetheless, to ensure that subsequent analyses would
be driven by within-group variability in physical stereotypicality
(rather than any between-group variability in scale usage), each par-
ticipant's stereotypicality rating was z-scored around the mean and
standard deviation for his or her racial group before being compiled
into a single index. This racial stereotypicality index constitutes the
primary independent variable.
Results and discussion
Overall, the ingroup interaction index was signicantly larger
than the outgroup interaction index for both Whites, F(1, 178) =
144.48, pb.005, and non-Whites, F(1, 146) = 69.21, pb.005. This in-
dicates that participants who were dorm residents' ingroup mem-
bers said they interacted with the residents more often than did
participants who were residents' outgroup members, conrming
previously observed patterns of racial homophily (e.g., McPherson
et al., 2001).
To test our prediction that residents' perceived physical stereo-
typicality would predict their exclusion by outgroup members, the
outgroup interaction index was regressed on racial stereotypicality.
This analysis was signicant, β=.12, p=.03, consistent with pre-
dictions. In other words, the more stereotypical that residents
appeared based on their photograph, the less often fellow residents
outside their own racial group said that they interacted with them.
A follow-up analysis in which participant racial group (White ver-
sus non-White) and the product of racial group and stereotypicality
were entered as additional terms revealed that stereotypicality did
not interact with participant racial group in predicting outgroup in-
teraction, β=.01, ns. Thus, the strength of the relationship between
being perceived as having more stereotypical physical features and
interacting less with outgroup members was comparable for White
(β=.11) and non-White (β=.13) participants. (Sample sizes
Table 1
Acceptance of friend requests, Study 2.
High
stereotypicality
condition
Low
stereotypicality
condition
Total
Non-Black
participants
# (%) who accepted
friend requests*
81 (12%) 107 (16%) 188
(14%)
n 649 654 1303
Days to accept friend
request (M)**
3.08 2.24 2.60
Black
participants
# (%) who accepted
friend requests
17 (35%) 8 (19%) 25
(27%)
n484391
Days to accept friend
request (M)
2.09 2.00 2.06
Total # (%) who accepted
friend requests
98 (14%) 115 (16%) 213
(15%)
n 697 697 1394
Days to accept friend
request (M)**
2.91 2.22 2.53
Note: Signicance levels reect a comparison between the high- and low-stereotypicality
conditions.
pb.10. * pb.05. ** pb.01.
4M.R. Hebl et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Hebl, M.R., et al., Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
(2012), doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.05.019
within individual non-White groups were too small to allow separate
analyses for each group.)
In contrast, there was no relationship between racial stereotypicality
and the ingroup interaction index, β=.04, ns, indicating that partici-
pants' relationships with those in their group were not tied to the
stereotypicality of their physical appearance.
Thus, even among a community of adults with a great deal in com-
mon (age, educational ambitions, and dorm membership), race-based
physical appearance played a meaningful role in predicting social ac-
ceptance. Here, we found that this phenomenon was of comparable
size among Whites and non-Whites. It may be that the mechanisms
that lead more-stereotypical individuals to experience more outgroup
rejection are similar for Whites and non-Whites, possibly because
physical stereotypicality exacerbates individuals' reservations about
outgroup members. That is, encountering a person who looks more
prototypical of the outgroup may heighten a person's anxieties
about cross-group interactions, whereas encountering a person who
looks less prototypical may lessen these anxieties. This may occur
even for non-Whites encountering more-stereotypical Whites, even
though White physical appearance has not historically been stigma-
tized. We view this as an intriguing initial foray into the role that
physical stereotypicality plays for Whites and worthy of further
research.
Nonetheless, the consequences of outgroup exclusion are likely to
be more drastic for minority- than majority-group members. First, ex-
clusion by outgroup members results in more exclusion (in an abso-
lute sense) for those in a numerical minority group than those in a
majority group, simply because the size of the outgroup is larger for
minority- than majority-group members. Second, historically stigma-
tized minorities (Blacks, Asians, and Latinos) likely enter this selective,
academically intense environment with greater anxieties (relative to
majority-group members) about the degree to which they will be
accepted socially; research shows that a sense of belonging and social
acceptance in academic domains is critical for the success of minority-
group members (more than majority-group members; Walton &
Cohen, 2011).
These results may be somewhat surprising in light of the fact that col-
lege dormitories are famously liberal environments (Feldman &
Newcomb, 1969), and this university is one that, like most, publicly em-
braces the values of diversity, multiculturalism, and social engagement
with people of different backgrounds. Yet as past research shows, liberal
attitudes or low prejudice levels are insufcient for reducing and may
even exacerbate anxieties in interracial interactions (Shelton,
Richeson, & Bergsieker, 2009; Shelton, Richeson, Salvatore, & Trawalter,
2005; Vorauer, 2005, 2008; Vorauer & Turpie, 2004). In higher-
education environments, this may be especially true for students who
had had minimal contact with outgroup members before coming to col-
lege (Plant & Devine, 2003). Such an environment may create a perfect
stormfor anxiety and miscommunication between majority- and
minority-group members. The present studies suggest that this may be
particularly true the more that people appear physically prototypical of
their group.
General Discussion
These ndings are consistent with a growing body of research con-
rming that race-based discrimination occurs not only between catego-
ries but also within categories, such that people whose appearance is
more strongly prototypical of their group are subject to additional
stereotyping (e.g., Blair, et al., 2002), discrimination (e.g., Eberhardt, et
al., 2006), and, in the present results, social rejection and exclusion. This
phenomenon is all the more problematic given that stereotypicality-
based bias appears to be less consciously accessible and more difcult
to control than category-based bias (Blair, Judd, & Fallman, 2004;
Sczesny & Kuhnen, 2004).
These studies were the rst to explore the phenomenon of
stereotypicality bias within the context of social acceptance and rejection.
Analysis of two different social communities, the online social networking
site Facebook (Studies 12) and a college dormitory (Study 3), revealed
that being perceived as more physically stereotypical was associated
with having a smaller group of outgroup friends and fewer outgroup so-
cial interactions. Further, the experimental paradigm used in Study 2 re-
vealed that even direct overtures of friendship initiated by minorities
are more likely to be rejected by outgroup members if the initiator
looks more stereotypical of his/her racial group. Thus, an idea central to
social psychological thinking about interpersonal attraction, that we like
those who like us, or who wish to be our friends (e.g., Kenny & La Voie,
1982), may apply less to those who bear the stigma of racially stereotyp-
ical physical features.
Research in other areas has repeatedly demonstrated the negative
consequences of day-to-day experiences of exclusion for minorities.
For example, discrimination experiences predict poorer cardiovascu-
lar health among both Black Americans (Clark, 2000) and Asian
Americans (Gee, Spencer, Chen, & Takeuchi, 2007). In the employ-
ment domain, racial minorities' reduced access to valuable social net-
works hurts their prospects for hiring and promotion (Petersen,
Saporta, & Seidel, 2000; Seidel, Polzer, & Stewart, 2000). Across the
board, social rejection not only feels painful but also can undermine
intellectual performance, impulse control, self-esteem, and physical
health (DeWall & Bushman, 2011). Based on the present ndings,
we would suggest that these consequences of social rejection would
be worsened for those perceived as more stereotypical of their racial
group.
As noted in past research (Kaiser & Wilkins, 2010), it is likely that
multiple mechanisms are at play in the greater social exclusion expe-
rienced by those perceived as more racially stereotypical. The correla-
tional approach used in Studies 1 and 3 does not exclude the role of
personal choice, such that more-stereotypical individuals may choose
to associate with outgroup members less often (relative to less-
stereotypical individuals). However, the experimental paradigm
used in Study 2 suggests that more-stereotypical individuals are
also more likely to be directly rejected by those outside their group,
even when they explicitly initiate a relationship. Conrmation of
this causal path renders it unlikely that personal choice fully accounts
for the results of the other two studies. Further, recent work demon-
strates that although more-stereotypical minorities do identify with
their ingroup more strongly than do less-stereotypical minorities,
this tendency is minimally related or unrelated to the desire for inter-
action with outgroup members (Wilkins, Kaiser, & Rieck,2010). In other
words, majority group members appear to assume incorrectly that
more-stereotypical minorities are less interested in friendship with
them. Based on these ndings, we suggest that the role played by
personal choice in the reduced social interactions between more-
stereotypical group members and those outside their group is mini-
mal, and, if present at all, may reect a coping mechanism against
further exclusion (Kaiser & Wilkins, 2010; Maddox & Chase, 2004)
rather than the ultimate cause of stereotypicality-based differences
in social communities.
Instead, we speculate that the many factors that continue to stand in
the way of close friendships across racial lines are exacerbated when
one's interaction partner is more (vs. less) physically stereotypical of
his or her group. To the perceiver, a more-stereotypical outgroup mem-
ber may be seen as even more different from the self than a less-
stereotypical outgroup member, who may even be seen as possibly be-
longing to an ingroup as well (as suggested by the mediation analyses
from Study 1). These patterns are likely to be maintained over time
given that people appear to be largely unaware of discriminating
based on physical stereotypicality (Blair, Judd, & Fallman, 2004;
Sczesny & Kuhnen, 2004). As a result, individuals seeking to maintain
an image of themselves as non-prejudiced may do so by maintaining
friendships with less-stereotypical outgroup members, without
5M.R. Hebl et al. / Journal of Experimental Social Psychology xxx (2012) xxxxxx
Please cite this article as: Hebl, M.R., et al., Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
(2012), doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.05.019
realizing that their outgroup friends are not necessarily representative
of the group as a whole.
It was notable in these results that Black stereotypicality was mar-
ginally positively correlated with numbers of Black (ingroup) friends
in Study 1, and in Study 2, Black participants were marginally more
likely to accept friend requests from more-stereotypical (vs. less-
stereotypical) Black targets. In Study 3, on the other hand, which in-
cluded all racial groups, there were no relationships between
stereotypicality and ingroup interaction. One possibility for this dis-
crepancy may be the greater amount of stigma experienced by Black
Americans than by other racial groups, which may increase Blacks' em-
pathy for the inherent risk that an ingroup member faces (particularly
one with a more-stereotypical appearance) in making an overture of
friendship. Although it is certainly true that stereotypicality-based dis-
crimination has historically occurred within the African-American com-
munity as well as outside of it (Russell, Wilson, & Hall, 1993), it is
possible that different norms apply to the domain of social interaction,
in which one person reaches out to another with a (literal) request for
acceptance and inclusion. We see this as an interesting area for future
research.
One distressing implication of the present ndings is the role they
may play in perpetuating cycles of intergroup avoidance and segrega-
tion. Research shows that one of the strongest predictors of seeking
out or positively anticipating a cross-race social interaction is having
had such interactions in the past that have gone well (Levin, van
Laar, & Sidanius, 2003; Page-Gould, Mendoza-Denton, Alegre, & Siy,
2010; Page-Gould, Mendoza-Denton, & Tropp, 2008; Wout, Murphy,
& Steele, 2010). Yet in general, people tend to avoid interracial inter-
actions, in part due to false assumptions that outgroup members are
uninterested in friendship with them (Shelton & Richeson, 2005;
Wilkins, et al., 2010; Williams & Eberhardt, 2008). Combined with
the present results, these ndings suggest a lamentable, self-
perpetuating cycle based on pluralistic ignorance exacerbated by
the perception of stereotypical physical appearance such that indi-
viduals from different racial groups assume a desire for racial
homophily in the other and thus reinforce such homophily via mutual
passive disregard.
In summary, the results presented here demonstrate that people
whose physical features are viewed as more stereotypical of their
group are particularly vulnerable to exclusion from meaningful social
connections with others outside their group. Future research should
incorporate the role of physical stereotypicality in producing the anx-
iety and animosity between groups that provides such a fertile cli-
mate for interpersonal segregation across racial lines.
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Please cite this article as: Hebl, M.R., et al., Selectively friending: Racial stereotypicality and social rejection, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
(2012), doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.05.019
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Racial minorities will soon outnumber white Americans in the U.S. Prior research suggests that this demographic shift is likely to increase white peoples' feelings of threat and anti-minority discrimination. But might this demographic shift also alter who is considered a minority in the first place? We tested whether knowledge of an impending “majority-minority” shift in the U.S. would increase threat to white status, leading white perceivers to see mixed-race faces as minorities rather than white—a strategy historically used to preserve white status in the American racial hierarchy. In an initial correlational study, white participants who self-reported greater white status threat perceived mixed-race faces as more Latino than white (Study 1). As compared to those in a control condition, white participants in Studies 2–5 who read about the U.S. demographic shift reported greater white status threat and exhibited reduced perceptual thresholds for categorizing mixed-race faces as Latino, Black, and “not white.” A mediation analysis across studies suggests that the status threat white participants experienced from the demographic shift may have lowered their threshold for seeing mixed-race faces as minorities. Our results indicate that the threat of demographic change alters race perception in a manner that increases the number of people who are seen as minorities and who are, therefore, more vulnerable to discrimination.
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Using data from the National Survey of Black Americans, a national probability sample of black adults interviewed in 1980 (N-2,107), we find that blacks with lighter skin have higher socioeconomic status, have spouses higher in socioeconomic status, and have lower black consciousness than those with dark skin. Only the correlations of skin color with black consciousness variables are eliminated when we control for respondent's age, gender, and current and background socioeconomic status. We also find the impact of skin color on socioeconomic status among black Americans to be as great as the impact of race (black-white) on socioeconomic status in American society. We detect little evidence that the association between skin color and socioeconomic status changed during the 30-year period between 1950 and 1980. The association between skin color and life chances appears to be an aspect of black life in America that persists in spite of many social, political, and cultural changes that have affected black Americans in the present century.
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Four studies were conducted to test the hypothesis that group-related physical features may directly activate related stereotypes, leading to more stereotypic inferences over and above those resulting from categorization. As predicted, targets with more Afrocentric features were judged as more likely to have traits stereotypic of African Americans. This effect was found with judgments of African Americans and of European Americans. Furthermore, the effect was not eliminated when a more sensitive measure of categorization processes (category accessibility) was used or when the judgement context made category distinctions salient. Of additional interest was the finding that category accessibility independently affected judgment, such that targets who could be more quickly categorized as group members were judged more stereotypically.
This article attempts to address standards of physical attractiveness in the US and the effects these standards have on Asian Americans. In the US, attractiveness appears to be defined overwhelmingly by White criteria, and people of color are often neglected or overlooked. There appears to be convergence from a number of fields (i.e., ethnic studies, film studies, and literature, in addition to experts in the field of ethnic minority mental health) that White standards of attractiveness exert a deleterious effect on Asian Americans. This article will discuss the limited mental health research that does exist in this area and make suggestions for further research in this field. Discussion will center around acculturation and ethnic identity as possible mediating factors that may influence reactions to standards of attractiveness.
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Results from 5 experiments provide converging evidence that automatic evaluation of faces in sequential priming paradigms reflects affective responses to phenotypic features per se rather than evaluation of the racial categories to which the faces belong. Experiment 1 demonstrates that African American facial primes with racially prototypic physical features facilitate more automatic negative evaluations than do other Black faces that are unambiguously categorizable as African American but have less prototypic features. Experiments 2, 3, and 4 further support the hypothesis that these differences reflect direct affective responses to physical features rather than differential categorization. Experiment 5 shows that automatic responses to facial primes correlate with cue-based but not category-based explicit measures of prejudice. Overall, these results suggest the existence of 2 distinct types of prejudice.
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Using a longitudinal design that links a sample of southern-reared African American men to their childhood census records (collected in 1920), this study attempts to replicate recent findings documenting the influence of skin color on the socioeconomic attainment of African Americans. The childhood census records used in this study classify African Americans as either black or mulatto, allowing for a unique investigation of color stratification in adult life. Consistent with previous research, findings point to the importance of phenotypic characteristics in influencing the life chances of African Americans. Subjects identified as mulatto enjoyed modestly higher adult socioeconomic status compared with subjects identified as black. While the mulatto advantage attenuates slightly once origin characteristics are considered, multivariate results indicate that differences in social origins are responsible for only 10 to 20 percent of the color gap in adult attainment. Findings suggest that color bias (colorism) rather than family background may be responsible for the bulk of color differences in the socioeconomic status of African American men.
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In contrast to the situation when an independent or treatment variable varies between subjects, procedures for testing treatment by covariate interactions are not commonly understood when the treatment varies within subjects. The purpose of this article is to identify analytic approaches that test such interactions. Two design scenarios are discussed, one in which the covariate is measured only a single time for each subject and hence varies only between subjects, and the other in which the covariate is measured at each level of the treatment variable and hence varies both within and between subjects. In each case, alternative analyses are identified and their assumptions and relative efficiencies compared.
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Using a longitudinal design that links a sample of southern-reared African American men to their childhood census records (collected in 1920), this study attempts to replicate recent findings documenting the influence of skin color on the socioeconomic attainment of African Americans. The childhood census records used in this study classify African Americans as either black or mulatto, allowing for a unique investigation of color stratification in adult life. Consistent with previous research, findings point to the importance of phenotypic characteristics in influencing the life chances of African Americans. Subjects identified as mulatto enjoyed modestly higher adult socioeconomic status compared with subjects identified as black. While the mulatto advantage attenuates slightly once origin characteristics are considered, multivariate results indicate that differences in social origins are responsible for only 10 to 20 percent of the color gap in adult attainment. Findings suggest that color bias (colorism) rather than family background may be responsible for the bulk of color differences in the socioeconomic status of African American men.
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An increase in reciprocity of interpersonal attraction during the early acquaintance period followed by continuing social reciprocity are common sense propositions that are central principles of several social psychological theories. However, there is little empirical evidence of increasing reciprocity of interpersonal attraction over time. There are two potential reasons for this failure to find reciprocity over time. First, the reciprocity correlation contains a mixture of two correlations: reciprocity at the individual level and reciprocity at the dyadic level. Second, physical proximity may affect reciprocity, particularly during early acquaintance. The two reciprocity correlations and effects of physical proximity can be estimated from a round robin design. Correlations computed by taking all possible dyads measured at five time points show weak reciprocity effects with a decrease across the five time points. The individual level correlations were small while the dyadic correlations were positive. Partialling out roommate effects from the dyadic correlation enhances increasing reciprocity over time. Thus, reciprocity of attraction does increase over time when one accounts for two different levels of analysis and controls for roommate effects.