Project Details


The number of Americans who self-identify as belonging to more than one race has grown to over 9 million, emerging as one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the United States. There has been much discussion, in both academic disciplines and public forums, about the impact of mixed-race population growth on peoples' stereotypes and prejudices about racial groups, and particularly how biracially-identified individuals may challenge underlying beliefs about racial categories themselves. This project will examine the impact of exposure to biracial identified, racially ambiguous individuals on White perceivers' beliefs about social categories. Using a naturalistic longitudinal study of recent arrivals to Hawaii (a largely multiracial context) and a series of laboratory experiments in the U.S. mainland, this project tests whether Whites' exposure to biracially identified individuals causes Whites to believe that society is moving away from biological, discrete views of racial categories and to subsequently decrease their personal endorsement of essentialism. Moreover, this proposal tests two seemingly contradictory consequences of essentialist belief change. On the one hand, essentialism reduction should lead to more favorable attitudes towards racial minorities and less use of social categories in judgment. On the other hand, recognizing that society has become less essentialist may increase perceptions of racial equity and racial progress and lower support for diversity policies (e.g., affirmative action). By identifying the positive and negative consequences of reduced essentialism and the conditions under which reductions occur, this project will aid in identifying potential intergroup interventions that involve naturally occurring challenges to essentialism (e.g., biracial exposure) and help us understand how they operate (e.g., through changing beliefs about societal norms and expanding individuals' cognitive flexibility).
Effective start/end date9/1/128/31/15


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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