Samuel R. Sommers's research while affiliated with Tufts University and other places

Publications (71)

Preprint
Norton and Sommers (2011) assessed Black and White Americans’ perceptions of anti-Black and anti-White bias across the previous six decades—from the 1950s to the 2000s. They presented two key findings: White (but not Black) respondents perceived decreases in anti-Black bias to be associated with increases in anti-White bias, signaling the perceptio...
Article
Greater exposure to media coverage of traumatic events is associated with greater symptoms of post-traumatic stress. A new study by Dick et al. indicates that this relationship is stronger in youth with a specific pattern of brain activation that may make them more vulnerable to the effects of trauma.
Chapter
Racial majority and minority groups in the United States often differ in the extent to which they believe that racial bias—including stereotyping, expressions of prejudice, and discrimination— has and continues to influence the opportunities and outcomes of individuals and communities across a wide variety of domains. Communication and dialogue bet...
Article
Stereotype threat theory argues that reminders of negative stereotypes about one’s stigmatized identity can undermine performance, but few studies have examined this phenomenon among Black Americans. Drawing from the literature on the impact of mass media on stereotype activation, we examine whether exposure to rap music induces stereotype threat a...
Article
Full-text available
Violent encounters between police and Black people have spurred debates about how race affects officer decision-making. We propose that racial disparities in police–civilian interactions are amplified when police interact with Black civilians who are encountered in groups. To test this possibility, we analyzed New York City stop and frisk data for...
Article
Research suggests the Cross-Race Effect (CRE), the difficulty to remember faces from a different race relative to their own, is due to other race faces being processed featurally. It has been theorised that if individuals process other race faces the same as they do same race faces (globally) the CRE could be attenuated. Research inducing global pr...
Article
An increasing number of psychology students encounter electronic textbooks (e-texts), whether by personal choice or instructor adoption. Across two studies—one quasi-experimental and one experimental—we compared students’ experiences with print books versus e-texts. Study 1 capitalized on a naturally occurring comparison: the same course was taught...
Article
Full-text available
Multiracial research emphasizes hypodescent categorizations and relies on computer-generated stimuli. Four experiments showed that real biracial faces in a 2-Choice categorization task (White, Black) elicited hypodescent more than computer-generated faces. Additionally, Experiment 2 showed a 2-Choice categorization task with real biracial faces inc...
Article
Full-text available
People take longer to categorize racially ambiguous individuals, but does this perceptual complexity also affect social interactions? In Study 1, White participants interacted with a racially ambiguous confederate who was either labeled as biracial Black/White, monoracial Black, or given no racial label. White participants in the biracial condition...
Article
Full-text available
Across six studies, we demonstrate that exposure to biracial individuals significantly reduces endorsement of colorblindness as a racial ideology among White individuals. Real-world exposure to biracial individuals predicts lower levels of colorblindness compared to White and Black exposure (Study 1). Brief manipulated exposure to images of biracia...
Article
Recent studies have found that activating religious concepts via priming techniques can increase individuals’ anti-Black attitudes. To date, however, no research has examined whether priming religious images rather than words leads to similar effects, or whether activation of different components of religiosity produces comparable patterns of anti-...
Article
Objective: Recent studies have found that exposure to White religious iconography via priming techniques can increase White individuals' anti-Black attitudes. To date, however, no research has examined the influence of exposure to White religious iconography on Black individuals' intragroup and intergroup attitudes. We hypothesized that exposure t...
Article
Three studies assessed the impact of White individuals’ mere membership in racially diverse or homogeneous groups on conformity. In Study 1, White participants were randomly assigned to four-person groups that were racially diverse or homogeneous in which three confederates routinely endorsed clearly inferior college applicants for admission. Parti...
Article
Full-text available
Stereotypes often guide interracial interactions—both the stereotypes we hold about others, and the stereotypes we believe others hold about us (i.e., meta-stereotypes). In Black-White interactions, the stereotype that Whites are prejudiced is one of the most salient, but does this stereotype vary by gender? White women tend to express more positiv...
Article
A transcript of the Question and Answer session during the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform Symposium, Child Abuse Evidence: New Perspectives from Law, Medicine, Psychology & Statistics.
Article
In today’s demonstration, we explored the audience’s positive and negative associations with blacks and whites. The demonstration is an adaptation of the Implicit Association Test (www.projectimplicit.net), a computer-based task designed to explore mental connections between various concepts. Participants were presented with a list of concepts (ste...
Article
Full-text available
Categorizing racially ambiguous individuals is multifaceted, and the current work proposes social-motivational factors also exert considerable influence on how racial ambiguity is perceived, directing the resolution of ambiguity in a manner that is functionally beneficial to the perceiver. Four studies tested two motivations related to social belon...
Article
Full-text available
Research shows that I-sharing, or sharing subjective experiences with an outgroup member, positively shapes attitudes toward that outgroup member. We investigated whether this type of social experience would also promote a positive interracial interaction with a novel outgroup member. Results showed that White and Black participants who I-shared wi...
Article
Full-text available
The United States, like many nations, continues to experience rapid growth in its racial minority population and is projected to attain so-called majority-minority status by 2050. Along with these demographic changes, staggering racial disparities persist in health, wealth, and overall well-being. In this article, we review the social psychological...
Article
This review explores social psychological perspectives on the complex relationship between religion and anti-Black prejudice in the United States. We examine the different ways in which religiosity has been conceptualized by behavioral scientists. We consider the methodological limitations of previous research, as well as how the advent of priming...
Article
Full-text available
Psychological threat experienced by students of negatively stereotyped groups impairs test performance. However, stereotype boost can also occur if a positively stereotyped identity is made salient. Biracial individuals, whose racial identities may be associated with both negative and positive testing abilities, have not been examined in this conte...
Article
Full-text available
Rigid thinking is associated with less creativity, suggesting that priming a flexible mindset should boost creative thought. In three studies, we investigate whether priming multiple social identities predicts more creativity in domains unrelated to social identity. Study 1 asked monoracial and multiracial participants to write about their racial i...
Article
Life-altering decisions are made every day in the legal world. Police officers make split-second judgments about whether an individual poses a threat. Prosecutors sort through conflicting accounts of an event in determining whether to charge a suspect. Juries try to reconcile complex evidence in criminal trials and render a unanimous verdict. These...
Article
Children prefer learning from, and affiliating with, their racial ingroup but those preferences may vary for biracial children. Monoracial (White, Black, Asian) and biracial (Black/White, Asian/White) children (N=246, 3-8 years) had their racial identity primed. In a learning preferences task, participants determined the function of a novel object...
Article
Full-text available
Past research shows that adults often display poor memory for racially ambiguous and racial outgroup faces, with both face types remembered worse than own-race faces. In the present study, the authors examined whether children also show this pattern of results. They also examined whether emerging essentialist thinking about race predicts children's...
Article
In two studies we investigate how the fluid identities of biracial individuals interact with contextual factors to shape behavior in interracial settings. In Study 1, biracial Black/White participants (n = 22) were primed with either their Black or White identity before having a race-related discussion with a Black confederate. Study 2 (n = 34) ass...
Article
In a multi-phase research design over two academic semesters, White college students assigned to either a same-race or other-race roommate were tracked across two survey phases and a third phase involving an interracial interaction with a Black stranger. After four months, Whites who lived with an other-race roommate came to have more diverse frien...
Article
Full-text available
The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa generated extensive controversy over spectators’ use of the African vuvuzela trumpet. We asked 123 White American participants about their opinions of vuvuzelas as well as their attitudes towards a variety of racial/ethnic minority groups including immigrants, African Americans, and Latinos. We found that the...
Article
In three studies, we examined the effects of racial diversity on gender dynamics in small mixed-sex groups. In all-White groups in Study 1, White men spoke significantly more than White women and were rated as more persuasive; however, in racially-diverse groups, White women and White men spent equal amounts of time speaking and were rated as equal...
Article
In this article, we examine the pervasive endorsement of racial color blindness—the belief that racial group membership should not be taken into account, or even noticed—as a strategy for managing diversity and intergroup relations. Despite research demonstrating the automatic perception of race (and thus the seeming improbability of actual color b...
Article
Full-text available
This meta-analysis examined over 40 years of research on interracial interactions by exploring 4 types of outcomes: explicit attitudes toward interaction partners, participants' self-reports of their own emotional state, nonverbal or observed behavior, and objective measures of performance. Data were collected from 108 samples (N = 12,463) comparin...
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies indicate that interracial interactions frequently have negative outcomes but have typically focused on social contexts. The current studies examined the effect of manipulating interaction context. In Study 1, Black and White participants worked together with instructions that created either a social focus or a task focus. With a ta...
Article
Although some have heralded recent political and cultural developments as signaling the arrival of a postracial era in America, several legal and social controversies regarding "reverse racism" highlight Whites' increasing concern about anti-White bias. We show that this emerging belief reflects Whites' view of racism as a zero-sum game, such that...
Article
Full-text available
Despite receiving little empirical assessment, the color-blind approach to managing diversity has become a leading institutional strategy for promoting racial equality, across domains and scales of practice. We gauged the utility of color blindness as a means to eliminating future racial inequity--its central objective--by assessing its impact on a...
Article
We exposed some mock jurors to pretrial publicity (PTP) biased against the defendant a few days before they read the trial transcript and rendered individual verdicts. Exposure to the PTP prejudiced the jurors toward voting “guilty,” unless they read information within the PTP that indicated that the defendant was African American and that raised s...
Article
Full-text available
Both Black and White jurors exhibit a racial bias by being more likely to find defendants of a different race guilty than defendants who are of the same race. Sommers & Ellsworth (2000, 2001) found that salient racial issues in a trial reduced White juror racial bias toward a Black defendant. We examined if race salience could reduce White juror ra...
Article
In two frequently cited articles, Sommers and Ellsworth (2000, 2001) concluded that the influence of a defendant's race on White mock jurors is more pronounced in interracial trials in which race remains a silent background issue than in trials involving racially charged incidents. Referring to this variable more generally as "race salience," we pr...
Article
Full-text available
Exponential increases in multiracial identities, expected over the next century, create a conundrum for perceivers accustomed to classifying people as their own- or other-race. The current research examines how perceivers resolve this dilemma with regard to the own-race bias. The authors hypothesized that perceivers are not motivated to include amb...
Article
Across numerous domains, research has con- sistently linked decreased capacity for executive control to negative outcomes. Under some conditions, however, this deficit may translate into gains: When individuals' regulatory strategies are maladaptive, depletion of the resource fueling such strategies may facilitate positive outcomes, both intra- and...
Article
Across numerous domains, research has consistently linked decreased capacity for executive control to negative outcomes. Under some conditions, however, this deficit may translate into gains: When individuals' regulatory strategies are maladaptive, depletion of the resource fueling such strategies may facilitate positive outcomes, both intra- and i...
Article
One of the ideals underlying any jury system is that those groups of citizens charged with the responsibility of deciding cases should be representative of the communities from which they are selected. Anecdotal and empirical data suggest that reality often falls short of this ideal, however, as many empanelled juries are less diverse than communit...
Article
One strategy practiced by many Whites to regulate the appearance of prejudice during social interaction is to avoid talking about race, or even acknowledging racial difference. Four experiments involving a dyadic task investigated antecedents and consequences of this tendency. Observed colorblindness was strategic in nature: Whites' acknowledgment...
Article
The legal system is a domain of potential relevance for psychologists, whether in the capacity of expert witness or citizen juror. In this article, the authors apply a psychological framework to legal debate surrounding the impact of race on the process of jury selection. More specifically, the authors consider race and the peremptory challenge, th...
Article
Full-text available
The present research identifies an anomaly in sociocognitive development, whereby younger children (8 and 9 years) outperform their older counterparts (10 and 11 years) in a basic categorization task in which the acknowledgment of racial difference facilitates performance. Though older children exhibit superior performance on a race-neutral version...
Article
This chapter examines the processes by which a group's racial composition affects its performance and the social-cognitive tendencies of its individual members. Drawing on published and unpublished experiments regarding group composition and interracial interaction, this review demonstrates that the information exchange perspective on diversity – i...
Article
Two experiments tested the hypothesis that mere anticipation of membership in a racially heterogeneous group can lead White individuals to exhibit more thorough information processing. In Study 1 White participants who expected to discuss a race-relevant topic with a racially diverse group exhibited better comprehension of topical background readin...
Article
The United States Supreme Court has restricted attorneys from considering the gender and race of potential jurors in their use of peremptory challenges—the practice by which jurors may be removed from a jury without explanation or evidence of potential bias. We propose that forbidding peremptories based on social category information not only fails...
Article
The relationship between race and jury decision making is a controversial topic that has received increased attention in recent years. While public and media discourse has focused on anecdotal evidence in the form of high-profile cases, legal researchers have considered a wide range of empirical questions including: To what extent does the race of...
Article
Practically speaking, the peremptory challenge remained an inviolate jury selection tool in the United States until the Supreme Court's decision in Batson v. Kentucky. 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Batson's prohibition against race-based peremptories was based on two assumptions: (1) a prospective juror's race can bias jury selection judgments; (2) requiring...
Article
Purpose. The nascent field of alibi evaluation research has produced interesting and inconsistent findings. We focus on a heretofore unexamined variable that may play a critical role in alibi evaluation: context. Specifically, two experiments tested the hypothesis that the same alibi can be evaluated differently when presented in the context of a p...
Article
Two experiments explored the ramifications of endorsing color blindness as a strategy for appearing unprejudiced. In Study 1, Whites proved adept at categorizing faces on the basis of race, but understated their ability to do so. In Study 2, Whites playing the Political Correctness Game--a matching task that requires describing other individuals--w...
Article
We analyze three aspects of media depictions of Hurricane Katrina, focusing on the relationship between race and coverage of the crisis. Examination of media language use explores the debate surrounding the terms “refugees” and “evacuees”—as well as descriptions of “looting” versus “finding food”—in light of the predominantly Black demographic of t...
Article
This research examines the multiple effects of racial diversity on group decision making. Participants deliberated on the trial of a Black defendant as members of racially homogeneous or heterogeneous mock juries. Half of the groups were exposed to pretrial jury selection questions about racism and half were not. Deliberation analyses supported the...
Article
Recent high-profile court rulings addressing the influence of illegitimate information--such as race--on decision making have highlighted the difficulty of establishing whether and when discrimination has occurred. One factor complicating such efforts is that decision makers are often simultaneously influenced by racial and nonracial information. T...
Article
Psychological theories of racial bias assume a pervasive motivation to avoid appearing racist, yet researchers know little regarding laypeople's theories about what constitutes racism. By investigating lay theories of White racism across both college and community samples, we seek to develop a more complete understanding of the nature of race-relat...
Chapter
(from the chapter) Over a century ago, William James (1890) proposed that the impact of success and failure on self-esteem depends on the domains in which self-esteem is invested. In this chapter, we review a relatively new programme of research that aims to (a) develop and validate a measure of this construct, (b) develop the implications of James...
Book
Over a century ago, William James (1890) proposed that the impact of success and failure on self-esteem depends on the domains in which self-esteem is invested. In this chapter, we review a relatively new programme of research that aims to (a) develop and validate a measure of this construct, (b) develop the implications of James's idea for psychol...
Article
Notes that W. James argued that self-esteem fluctuates around a typical level in response to successes and failures in domains on which self-worth is staked. In a test of James's hypothesis, 32 students applying to graduate school completed a measure of contingencies of self-worth, and then for 2 mo reported global self-esteem twice a week and any...
Article
A mock juror study tested three hypotheses: (a) Jurors comply selectively with instructions to disregard inadmissible testimony, (b) this effect is greater among jurors who are high rather than low in the need for cognition (NC), and (c) high-NC decision makers sometimes overcorrect against the perceived biasing agent of inadmissible testimony. Par...
Article
Racial prejudice in the courtroom is examined through a historical sketch of racism in the legal system, a review of psychological research on White juror bias, and a study investigating White mock jurors' judgments of a fictional trial summary. The central hypothesis is that salient racial issues at trial activate the normative racial attitudes he...
Article
The present studies compare the judgments of White and Black mock jurors in interracial trials. In Study 1, the defendant's race did not influence White college students' decisions but Black stu- dents demonstrated ingroup/outgroup bias in their guilt ratings and attributions for the defendant's behavior. The aversive nature of modern racism sugges...
Article
Full-text available
The present study tested the hypothesis that jurors comply selectively with instructions to disregard inadmissible evidence. A total of 81 mock jurors read a murder trial summary in which a wiretap was ruled admissible, inadmissible because it was not reliable, or inadmissible because it was illegally obtained (there was also a no-wiretap control g...

Citations

... Black disadvantage) is associated with more collective guilt (Powell, Branscombe, & Schmitt, 2005). Attributing disparities to cultural deficiencies and minorities' allegedly poor choices likely absolves blame related to considering how the same systems that harm people of color benefit White people (Babbitt, Toosi, & Sommers, 2016). Consequently, avoiding this guilt may hinder individuals' ability to take the perspective of minorities' experiences of racial discrimination (i.e., intergroup empathy; Mekawi, Bresin, & Hunter, 2017;Spanierman, Todd, & Anderson, 2009). ...
... We propose large-scale structural changes that emerged during COVID-19 (e.g., stay-at-home orders) increased awareness of how social structures affect individuals, particularly people of color. This awareness may have shifted viewing racism as personal, explicit animus towards Blacks to recognition that structures, policies, and cultural tropes maintain systems of oppression (e.g., Maddox et al., 2020;PRRI, 2020). ...
... In contrast, stereotype threat seems to remain robust with race categories in the U.S. (Howard, Hennes, & Sommers, 2020). However, failed replications in one domain do not provide evidence that the stereotype threat paradigm as a whole is invalid and indeed stereotype threat interventions have been found to be effective in a recent meta-analytic review (Liu, Liu, Wang, & Zhang, 2020 if the performer believes that an evaluator holds the view that "My group is bad at this task"then this is likely to affect the performance along the lines described earlier (e.g. ...
... While there are valid theoretical concerns of judging a subject's race or ethnicity based on their appearance, questions regarding racial bias in policing (as well as other institutions) cannot be accurately explored if these data are not consistently recorded. Additionally, while there is concern regarding officers' ability to judge a subject's race or ethnicity based on appearance, an officer's perception of a citizen's race may still influence that officer's actions towards the citizen due to the influence of implicit biases and outgroup stereotypes (Cooley et al., 2020;Kahn et al., 2017;Mears et al., 2017). Therefore, while a perfect recording of race or ethnicity may not be possible, these data are still helpful in measuring officers' actions based on perceptions, and are far superior to colorblind reporting methods that leave vital questions of racial justice unanswered and therefore continuously unaddressed. ...
... The influence of race on perception and decision making Race can shape our thoughts, attention, and inferences of other people (Marotta, Howard, & Sommers, 2019). For example, due to cultural stereotypes associated with Black individuals, an ambiguously aggressive act performed by a Black person is more likely to be perceived as aggressive behavior than when that identical ambiguous act is performed by a White person (Duncan, 1976;Sagar & Schofield, 1980). ...
...  Describe the process of assessing such behavior and the most used systems for classifying psychological disorders. (Sommers et al., 2019). In addition to this text, I also embed content from OER commons, Lumen Learning, the Centers of Disease Control, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. ...
... Furthermore, a cognitive load heightened this difference, suggesting that it requires more cognitive resources to consider the possibility that someone identifies in a way that challenges discrete binary conceptions of race. In another study, Chen and Hamilton found that increasing essentialist views of race made it less likely that Black/White biracial faces were categorized as biracial, suggesting an important link between the categorization process and conceptions of race (see Gaither et al., 2019). ...
... The Virtual Special Issue itself is organized according to topics, each with several representative articles from the past ten years of JESP. We thought it important to sample research on: how people perceive and label racial identities (Gaither et al., 2018;Hall et al., 2015); the entanglement of the concept of race with social ideologies about wealth and power Hudson et al., 2019); racial perceptions that enable and react to lethal force in law enforcement Mekawi & Bresin, 2015); how people react to expressions and explanations of prejudice (Daumeyer et al., 2019;Thai et al., 2019); how White people deal with racial advantage (Carter & Murphy, 2017;Phillips & Lowery, 2015); and the challenges arising at the intersection of Blackness and other identities (Petsko & Bodenhausen, 2019;Pietri et al., 2018;Rosette & Livingston, 2012). ...
... Further, researchers have demonstrated that exposure to biracial individuals significantly reduces endorsement of colorblindness as a racial ideology among White individuals (Gaither et al., 2019), providing additional support for the unique advantages of friendships with individuals whose heritage combines at least two monoracial identities. Moreover, including biracial and multiracial participants in research studies on cross-race friendships will provide novel information about the role of heterogeneous cultural contexts on how children think about racial categorization (Pauker et al., 2016). ...
... The conflation of purity and whiteness rendered Black women as the opposite of the white woman purity norm. This nuanced finding contributes to literature that highlights the ways in which priming religious symbols, such as the ideal pure [white] woman, produce patterns of anti-Black prejudice similar to that of white Jesus iconography (Howard & Sommers, 2019). These results further elucidate the ways in which racism and oppression are located within the dominant hegemony of purity culture and exposure to notions that equate purity with whiteness reinforces white supremacist ideology. ...