Social belonging motivates categorization of racially ambiguous faces


Journal Article

© 2016 Guilford Publications, Inc. 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 belonging: belonging needs and racial identification. Greater need to belong and racial identification (Study 1), and two types of social belonging threats - social exclusion (Studies 2a and 2b) and racial identity threat (Study 3) - predicted more categorizations of racially ambiguous Black/White faces as Black, with White participants more likely to categorize ambiguous faces as outgroup members (i.e., Black; Studies 1, 2a, 2b, and 3) and Black participants more likely to categorize ambiguous faces as ingroup members (Study 2b). Results also demonstrated that self-affirmation mitigated this motivated categorization for Whites (Study 3), illustrating the malleability of social categorization and its dependency on serving self-relevant goals.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gaither, SE; Pauker, K; Slepian, ML; Sommers, SR

Published Date

  • April 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 34 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 97 - 118

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0278-016X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1521/soco.2016.34.2.97

Citation Source

  • Scopus