Tag Archives: social cognition

Racial Categorizations Change Based on Social Status Markers

Aliya Saperstein

Aliya Saperstein

Race is a changeable status marker of rather than a fixed individual attribute, according to Stanford’s Aliya Saperstein and Andrew Penner of University of California, Irvine.

Andrew Penner

Andrew Penner

Racial fluidity” – or changeable racial categorization – influences and is influenced by racial inequality in the United States, noted Saperstein and Penner.

They analyzed longitudinal U.S. national survey data collected over two decades and found that individuals’ racial classification, both rated by themselves and by others, changed over time in response to changes in social position.

In these data, unemployed, incarcerated, or impoverished Americans were more likely to be seen and self-identify as Black, even if the same individuals were originally classified in a different racial category.

Jonathan Freeman

Jonathan Freeman

Racial self-perception and racial perceptions by others depend on social position, even though most people believe that race is perceived in facial features, such as skin color.
However, social status cues around a face systematically change the perception of race, found Dartmouth’s Jonathan B. Freeman, Matthias Scheutz of Tufts, with Penner, Saperstein and her Stanford colleague, Nalini Ambady.

Matthias Scheutz

Matthias Scheutz

Participants categorized 16 computer-generated face identities (8 male) that were morphed along a 13-point race continuum, from White (morph −6) to Black (morph +6).
Developed by Max Planck Institute’s Volker Blanz and Thomas Vetter, this program generated 3D models based on laser scans of human faces.

Volunteers saw faces in a randomized order and evaluated them as White or Black using the keyboard, which recorded and analyzed mouse movement with MouseTracker software.

Participants rated the race of faces along “White–Black morph continua” when they saw faces with “high-status” attire (suit) or “low-status” attire (maintenance uniform).

“Low-status” attire increased the likelihood of categorization as Black, whereas “high-status” attire increased the likelihood of categorization as White, and this effect increased as physical characteristics associated with each race became more ambiguous.

The team  also monitored hand movements to determine hesitation in making a racial category decision.

They noted hesitation and shifting between choices when participants categorized faces with high-status attire as “Black” or faces with low-status attire as “White.”
Stereotypes interact with contextual and physical cues to shape “neutrally- plausible” person categorization, concluded Freeman and team.

When stereotypes associated with race and occupation categories overlap, contextual cues to occupation can activate social status stereotypes, then exert “top-down pressure” on the race categorization process.

For example, business attire can activate high-status stereotypes that influence visual processing of race-categorization.
Race categorization, therefore, could be driven by both “bottom-up” processing of facial features, and “top-down” stereotypes activated by contextual cues.

Racial fluidity reinforces stereotypic status differences by classifying “successful” or high-status people as “White” or “not Black” and “unsuccessful” or low-status people as “Black” or “not White.”

“Social cognition” can influence visual perception because “person perception…makes compromises between how other people “actually” appear and the stereotyped expectations dictating how they ‘should’ appear,” noted Freeman and team.

Aaron Gullickson

Aaron Gullickson

The U.S. briefly fluidity and ambiguity in racial classification when it adopted a “mulatto” category for the U.S. Census between 1870 and1920.

Saperstein and University of Oregon’s Aaron Gullickson noted that people categorized as “mulatto” in one census were re-categorized as Black in the next census, particularly when Southern men’s occupational status changed “downward” between censuses.

Like clothing, another non-racial factor – cause of death – influences racial classification, and can bias official U.S. statistics, according to Penner and UC Irvine colleague
Andrew Noymer with Saperstein in their analysis of a representative sample of U.S. death certificates.

Andrew Noymer

Andrew Noymer

They controlled for existing statistical reports by interviewing decedents’ next-of-kin regarding cause of death and racial classification.

Noymer’s team reported significant discrepancies between the two racial classifications by cause of death, with cirrhosis decedents more likely to be recorded as Native American and homicide victims more likely to be recorded as Black.

These findings are another example of interaction between changeable indicators of social status and seemingly fixed characteristics like physical appearance of race – both in forming perceptions of others and in defining oneself.

-*How have you adjusted your self-categorization based on occupational role and status over time?

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Spreading Good News Feels Good, Especially When It’s About You

Christian Science Monitor has long provided a counterpoint to mainstream media’s “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to providing shocking, scandalous, depressing, or scary news.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Wharton’s Jonah Berger and Katharine Milkman found that the Christian Science Monitor might have a savvy business model:  they found that good news spreads more widely than bad.

Word of Mouth Marketing AssociationMembers of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Take note…

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

Berger and Milkman evaluated a random sample of 3,000 of more than 7,500 articles published in the New York Times online from August 2008 to February 2009.

They judged each article’s “popularity” based on number of times it was forwarded to others, after controlling for online publication time, section, and degree of promotion on the home page.
Independent readers rated each article for practical value or surprise, and ratio of positive vs negative emotion words in each news item.

Most-forwarded posts were positive, funny, exciting and featuring intellectually challenging topics, like science, that “inspire awe” (“admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self”).

Readers shared articles that typically provoke negative emotions like anger and anxiety, but not sadness.
-*Why this bias against sending “downer” messages?

Emily Falk

Emily Falk

Michigan’s Emily Falk, with UCLA colleagues Sylvia Morelli, B. Locke Welborn, Karl Dambacher,and Matthew Lieberman found that people consider what appeals to others, possibly as a means of building relationships, indicated by increased activation in brain regions (temporoparietal junction, or TPJ and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) associated with “social cognition,” or thoughts about other people, measured by fMRI.

When those regions were activated, people were more likely to talk about the idea with enthusiasm, and the idea would spread by word-of-mouth.

Falk noted that the team mapped  brain regions “associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good ‘idea salesperson.'”
She plans to use these brain maps “to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.”

Diana Tamir

Diana Tamir

People also like to spread good news about themselves.
Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, then of Harvard, illustrated that brain regions associated with reward (mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area) are activated when people share information about themselves.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that people will sacrifice monetary rewards for this opportunity.

Mor Naaman

Mor Naaman

In fact, Rutgers’ Mor Naaman with Jeffrey Boase, now at Ryerson University and Chih-Hui Lai, now of University of Akron found that 80 percent of Twitter users tweet primarily about themselves.
One reason may be that people say more positive things when they’re talking to a bigger audience, like Twitter followers, according to Berger’s research suggests. As a result, social media users are likely to convey positive information about themselves.

Jeffrey Boase

Jeffrey Boase

However, this positive self-presentation may not result in a positive mood if communicators spend longer on social media platforms like Facebook.
Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge of Utah Valley University found that those with longer visits to Facebook say they are less happy than their Facebook Friends.

They found that Facebook users tend to form biased judgment based on easily-recalled examples (availability heuristic) and erroneously attribute positive Facebook content to others’ personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.

Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova

Corroborated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Hanna Krasnova and her team from Technische Universität Darmstadt, these researchers observed “invidious emotions” and “envy” among people who spend longer time on Facebook.

These findings have relevance to members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Spread the good word – or at least the emotional word – and spend less time on Facebook and other social media that might invite social comparison and the potential for envious dissatisfaction.

-*How you build “buzz” via “Word of Mouth”?

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