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Biased Allocation of Faces to Social Categories

Biased Allocation of Faces to Social Categories

Three studies show that social categorization is biased at the level of category allocation. In all studies, participants categorized faces. In Studies 1 and 2, participants overallocated faces with criminal features—a stereotypical negative trait—to the stigmatized Moroccan category, especially if they were prejudiced. On the contrary, the stereotype-irrelevant negative trait stupid did not lead to overallocation to the Moroccan category. In Study 3, using the stigmatized category homosexual, the previously used negative trait criminal—irrelevant to the homosexual stereotype—did not lead to overallocation, but the stereotype-relevant positive trait femininity did. These results demonstrate that normative fit is higher for faces with stereotype-relevant features regardless of valence. Moreover, individual differences in implicit prejudice predicted the extent to which stereotype-relevant traits elicited overallocation: Whereas more negatively prejudiced people showed greater overallocation of faces associated with negative stereotype-relevant traits, they showed less overallocation of faces associated with positive stereotype-relevant traits. These results support our normative fit hypothesis: In general, normative fit is better for faces with stereotypical features. Moreover, normative fit is enhanced for prejudiced individuals when these features are evaluatively congruent. Social categorization thus may be biased in itself.

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Categories: Stereotype
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