The majority of social perception research to date has focused on perceptually obvious and prototypical representations of social categories. However, not all people belong to social categories that are easily discernable. Within the past decade, there has been an upsurge of research demonstrating that multifaceted identities (both one's own and perceptions of others' identities) influence people to think about social categories in a more flexible manner. Here, we specifically review research on multiracial identity and perceptions of multiracial individuals as 2 domains where researchers have documented evidence of the flexible nature of social identities and social categorization. Integrating frameworks that argue race is a dynamic and interactive process, we provide evidence that studying multiracial perceivers and targets helps reveal that race changes across situations, time, and depending on a number of top-down factors (e.g., expectations, stereotypes, and cultural norms). From the perspective of multiracial individuals as perceivers, we review research showing that flexible identity in multiracial individuals influences the process of social perception driven by a reduced belief in the essential nature of racial categories. From the perspective of multiracial individuals as targets, we review research that top-down cues influence the racial categorization process. We further discuss emerging work that reveals that exposure to multiracial individuals influences beliefs surrounding the categorical (or noncategorical) nature of race, itself. Needed directions for future work are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology