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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How African American Male Typicality Affects In-Group Stereotyping and Belonging: A Cross-Sectional Analysis

  • Author(s): Wilson, Antoinette Rina
  • Advisor(s): Cooper, Catherine R
  • Leaper, Campbell
  • et al.

Although ethnic-racial typicality is often considered as either phenotypic (e.g., facial features, skin tone) or behavioral (e.g., “acting Black” or “acting White”), little research has investigated the interaction of these two dimensions. The present study built on social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979), phenotypic bias models (Maddox, 2004), and related empirical research to examine how phenotypic and behavioral ethnic-racial typicality relate to in-group belonging and stereotyping among African American adolescents and young adults. Eighty-two participants, 40 African American adolescents (Mage = 15.38, SD = .81) and 42 college students (Mage = 19.55, SD = 1.35), watched animated clips of African American male characters varying in phenotypic and behavioral typicality. Participants rated the character’s stereotypical traits, academic potential, and likelihood of intra-ethnic/racial group belonging. They then completed a survey measuring multiple dimensions of ethnic- racial identity (self-perceived ethnic-racial phenotypicality, felt ethnic-racial behavioral typicality, centrality, private regard, nationalism, humanism, and assimilation) and experiences with intra-ethnic/racial discrimination. Participants rated characters who were typical in behavior as having higher average stereotypical traits, fewer counter-stereotypical traits, and lower academic potential than were characters with less typical behaviors; these characters were also rated as more likely to belong than those showing less typical behavior, regardless of their phenotype. Participants’ endorsement of nationalist ideology was positively related to their attributing positive traits to the target character, whereas endorsement of assimilation was negatively related to such attributions. Finally, participants’ felt behavioral typicality and perceived skin tone were positively related to their ethnic-racial centrality. This study advances both theoretical and practical understanding of the role of ethnic-racial typicality in stereotyping and in-group belonging among African American youth.

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