Conservatives See Mixed People Differently

Your ideology may determine what you see in her.

Your ideology may determine what you see in her.

Now why am I not surprised by this?

Disturbing new research suggests the answer to that question may depend on your political ideology.

In three experiments, “we found that conservatives were more likely than liberals to categorize a racially ambiguous person as black than white,” a research team led by New York University psychologist Amy Krosch writes in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology…

…Specifically, “conservatism was associated with a lower threshold for categorizing racially ambiguous faces as black,” the researchers report.

The third experiment, featuring 62 participants (all white), was identical to the first two, except that half the faces were identified as “Canadian.” They were presented against a red background, while “Americans” were seen against a blue background.

The results: “Political conservatism was associated with a lower threshold for categorizing racially ambiguous faces as black when it came to American, but not Canadian, faces.” Whatever impulse that led conservatives to think “black” was negated when they were told they were dealing with residents of a different country.

“There are several possible explanations” for these findings, the researchers write. “Conservatives exhibit stronger preferences for order, structure, and closure, and greater intolerance of ambiguity in comparison with liberals.” Thus they “might be more motivated to resolve racial ambiguity, and to resolve it in the most common or culturally accessible manner.”

Beyond that, Krosch and her colleagues suspect this reflects a phenomenon coined by New York University psychologist John Jost (a co-author of the paper): system justification theory. The term refers to the tendency, which is particularly pronounced among conservatives, to rationalize the sociopolitical system one inhabits as inherently fair and just.

In that context, these results “may reflect, among other things, the motivation to defend and uphold traditional racial divisions that are part of the historical legacy of the United States,” writes the research team, which also included Leslie Berntsen, David Amodio and Jay Van Bavel.

In other words, sometimes conservative people see what they want to see. Read more of this interesting article and study here.

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11 thoughts on “Conservatives See Mixed People Differently

  1. Was the photo above used? She isn’t really that racially ambiguous.

    One thing that I noticed from conservative Americans is that they would usually be quick to point out that I’m not ‘just’ black. I always just checked black in the census box, and while I see traits from different races of ancestors I never think that I’m anything but. I honestly got more offended when people felt that pointing out my other possible races ‘softened the blow’ of me being a black girl in the Great Plains area.

    • Earnest Harris says:

      Yeah that is another curious thing as well. You are right, I have seen or heard of that too, that some conservatives prefer mixed people not refer to themselves as black only. I’ve always thought that was due to a need to find a part of the person they could connect to and as you say, they think it is better for you not to be “just black” as if that is not a good thing to be. I imagine your experiences in the Great Plains area are quite interesting.

      • Yeah, they were interesting. I was the ‘token black girl’. I grew up in an all white city in Oklahoma, and moved to Arkansas. The states are neighbors but it’s a lot different here. I don’t look like the pictures that their grandparents drew so they are pretty interested in me. lol.

      • Earnest Harris says:

        That’s too funny. Sometimes it’s fun to be in that position though because you can mess with people’s stereotypes! LOL

      • Oh yeah. Its crazy what I can get away with saying because I’m the sassy black girl with the afro.

      • Earnest Harris says:

        Indeed. Have fun with it.

  2. ericjbaker says:

    I categorize the woman in the photo as “fine.”

    Wait. Hold old is she? Should I be backpedaling?

    A quote from the story was interesting to me:

    “Conservatives exhibit stronger preferences for order, structure, and closure, and greater intolerance of ambiguity in comparison with liberals.”

    On the latter point… isn’t that called “being simpleminded”? People dislike ambiguity because it hurts their brains and challenges the knee-jerk reactionary thinking style to which they are sadly limited. Getting those synapses firing is tough business for some.

    • Earnest Harris says:

      Yeah I’ve always thought that’s why people try to fit everyone into little boxes so that they don’t have to think or experience something out of their norm. Chosen ignorance I call it.

      Yeah the woman in the photo is indeed nice to look at. You may be OK on her age. LOL

    • Lisa says:

      Ambiguity is often seen as confusing and sometimes ambiguous people aren’t seen as trustworthy partners and/or spouses. Even the media stereotypes them negatively as well.

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