Health Inequities Research Interest Group. December 14, 2009. Political partisanship influences perception of biracial candidates' skin tone. Eugene Caruso et al. (2009). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
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December 14, 2009
Political partisanship influences people's visual representations of a biracial political candidate's skin tone.
“We expected these biased visual representations to reflect nonconscious associations with skin tone, whereby White is associated with good and Black is associated with bad.”
In three studies, participants rated the representativeness of photographs of a hypothetical (Study 1) or real (Barack Obama;
Studies 2 and 3) biracial political candidate.
Unbeknownst to participants, some of the photographs had been altered to make the candidate's skin tone either lighter or darker than it was in the original photograph.
Participants whose partisanship matched that of the candidate they were evaluating consistently rated the lightened photographs as more representative of the candidate than the darkened photographs, whereas participants whose partisanship did not match that of the candidate showed the opposite pattern.
For evaluations of Barack Obama, the extent to which people rated lightened photographs as representative of him was positively correlated with their stated voting intentions and reported voting behavior in the 2008 Presidential election.
This effect persisted when controlling for political ideology and racial attitudes.
These results suggest that people's visual representations of others are related to their own preexisting beliefs and to the decisions they make in a consequential context.
The study's result "goes along with sort of these cultural ideas that we have about things that are light versus things that are dark as being either good or bad, positive or negative," says Keith Maddox, a psychology researcher at Tufts University who has studied how people perceive skin tone.
White-Means, S. et al. Med Care Res Rev. 2009 Aug;66(4):436-55.. Cultural competency, race, and skin tone bias among pharmacy, nursing, and medical students: implications for addressing health disparities.
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Borrell LN et al. Soc Sci Med. 2006 Sep;63(6):1415-27. Self-reported health, perceived racial discrimination, and skin color in African Americans in the CARDIA study.
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