Colorism in Context: Exploring Differential Effects of Gender on Skin Tone Bias

Bart-Plange, Diane-Jo, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Trawalter, Sophie, BA-Frank Batten School, University of Virginia

Psychological research on racism and discrimination largely focuses on Black (vs. White) men because Black and White men are seen as the prototype for their respective racial groups. This has led to an incomplete--and possibly incorrect--understanding of how Black women experience discrimination. In the present work, I move away from the Black-White paradigm of racism and consider skin tone bias, also known as colorism. In addition, I examine how gender and skin tone, independently and/or jointly, contribute to racial bias in categorization and social judgments. In four studies, I test the prediction that skin tone bias will be especially pronounced for Black women relative to men. In Studies 1-3, participants categorized light- and dark-skinned Black male and female targets, and White male and female targets by race (Studies 1-3) and gender (Studies 2 and 3). Although joint effects of skin tone and gender were mixed for racial categorization, results were consistent for gender categorization. Consistent with predictions, participants were significantly faster as categorizing light- vs. dark-skinned Black women as women. The reverse was true for light- vs. dark-skinned Black men. In Study 4, participants evaluated light- and dark-skinned male and female targets on various social dimensions (e.g., How much do you think you would like this person?). Consistent with predictions, participants evaluated light- vs. dark-skinned targets more favorably, and this was especially true of light- vs. dark-skinned female targets. Taken together, these results add important insight to the nature of discrimination for Black men and women by understanding how, skin tone influences the perception and categorization of Black people.

MA (Master of Arts)
colorism, skin tone bias, categorization, social evaluation, race, gender
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