Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Sociology

First Advisor

Alison J. Bianchi

Abstract

Social psychological theorizing assumes that 1) members of dominant and oppressed racial groups subscribe to the same set of cultural beliefs regarding the racial hierarchy in the United States and 2) that patterns of deference in task groups reflect broader patterns of inequality in society. With the use white and black research participants at two research sites, this thesis examines these assumptions with regards to the proposed tri-racial hierarchy of the Latin Americanization Thesis, which asserts that the racial hierarchy in the U.S. is now primarily determined by phenotype, as opposed to traditional racial and ethnic boundaries.

Do White and Black Americans associate similar perceptions of status with members of the proposed tri-racial hierarchy? In addition, skin tone is associated with socioeconomic status among blacks in the U.S., but do research participants defer to members of the pigmentocracy in a manner consistent with these broader patterns of inequality? These questions are assessed by matching white and black research participants with either a white, light-skinned black, or dark-skinned black partner for the completion of a joint task.

The results of the multi-site experiment suggest that there is racial invariance with the perceived status associated with members of the pigmentocracy. More generally, whites exhibit patterns of active denial and report that most others believe dark-skinned blacks are more competent than light-skinned blacks, who most others believe are more competent than whites. Whites purportedly personally subscribe to these pattern of beliefs. Blacks, however, exhibit a pattern of active resistance to stigmatizing beliefs: while they report that oppressed members of the pigmentocracy are held in lower regard by most others in society, they refuse to personally endorse these stigmatizing beliefs.

These attitudinal reactions had implications for the patterns of deference that emerged when jointly completing the group task. While patterns of influence emergent in group tasks generally reflect broader patterns of stratification in society, this failed to be the case when participants interacted with members of the pigmentocracy most phenotypically distinct from themselves. That is, when racial distinctions were most salient, research participants consciously reacted against the pigmentocracy, obstructing the activation of the status generalization process. The implications of these results for model testing and development, and for identifying racial biases in the current racial climate are discussed.

Public Abstract

Race scholars assert that the racial hierarchy in the United States is now primarily determined by phenotype, as opposed to traditional racial categories. This thesis assesses this claim by examining the attitudinal and behavioral reactions to individuals who differ by skin tone when jointly completing a group task. White and black research participants at two research sites were paired with either a white, light-skinned black, or a dark-skinned black partner to examine the differential patterns of deference and perceptions of status associated with these phenotypically distinct group members.

White and black participants had distinct attitudinal reactions to these group members. A pattern of active denial emerged among whites, as they report that most others believe dark-skinned blacks are more competent than light-skinned blacks, who are more competent than whites. Whites purportedly personally subscribe to these beliefs. Blacks, however, assert that most others believe whites are more competent than light-skinned blacks, who are believed to be held in higher esteem than dark-skinned blacks. Interestingly, they actively resist these stigmatizing societal beliefs and report that whites are actually less competent than light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks.

These differential attitudinal reactions had implications for the emergent patterns of deference within the task groups. While patterns of influence in group encounters generally reflect broader societal patterns of inequality, this was not the case when participants interacted with group members most unlike them in terms of racial distinctions. The implications of these results for theoretical testing and development are discussed.

Keywords

publicabstract, colorism, group processes, latin americanization, skin tone inequality, social psychology, status processes

Pages

xiv, 201

Bibliography

188-201

Copyright

Copyright 2015 David Edward Biagas Jr

Included in

Sociology Commons

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