How our own identity impacts how we judge others

People most likely to be stereotyped based on racial-gender combination were less likely to hold certain race-gender stereotypes against others
Published: 8 February 2023

How does our own identity impact how we perceive and judge others? Research from McGill University has found that those who are most likely to be stereotyped based on their combined racial and gender identity, such as Black women and Asian men, were less likely to hold certain stereotypes against others.

The researchers, led by McGill Assistant Professor Jordan Axt in the Department of Psychology, tracked the computer mouse movements of 1,300 participants to study how stereotypes of people from certain races have a gender component to them.

In prior studies, participants who were asked to categorize photos of Black women and East Asian men by gender tended to pull their computer mouse toward the incorrect response before eventually choosing the correct option. “These results show a very quick, perhaps automatic association between race and gender that people have a hard time controlling,” said Axt.

This is known as the “race is gendered” effect.

Do the same stereotypes hold in America and China?

These earlier studies have largely focused on white participants in a North American context. Axt and his team focused on American participants who identified as either white, Black, East Asian, or Hispanic. The researchers then compared American participants who identified as East Asian to participants living in China who identified as ethnically Chinese.

These studies allowed them to see if the same race-gender associations existed across various racial groups and in other cultures. They found that the “race is gendered” effect was weaker among East Asian men and Black women when categorizing the gender of people of their own race, with the same effect emerging among East Asian men in both the US and China.

“This means Black men participants showed the same effect as seen in prior work, but Black women participants showed a reduced association between ‘man’ and ‘Black.’ The same was true for East Asian men, who showed a reduced association between ‘woman’ and ‘Asian,’” Axt said.

Reducing race-gender stereotypes

The researchers hope this work underscores the importance of considering multiple intersections of social identity, such as race and gender, when studying how people express bias toward others.

“We also think this work will spur future studies that help us better understand race-gender associations, such as how they develop over time and how they may be reduced,” Axt said. “More broadly, we hope this work highlights how combinations of social identities generate unique experiences across people.”

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