New study by Rutgers professor finds link between perceptions of racism and sexism
Entitled “Stigma by Prejudice Transfer: Racism Threatens White Women and Sexism Threatens Men of Color,” new research conducted by Rutgers professors provides evidence that confirms a connection between perceived sexism and racism among minority groups.
Diana Sanchez, a professor in the Department of Psychology, in partnership with colleagues Kimberly Chaney and Sara Manuel, hypothesized that minority groups experience identity threats when confronted with prejudice toward another minority group.
Through the organization and completion of five separate studies, the trio set out to prove their assertions.
At the end of the research, the team of professors coined the term stigma-by-prejudice-transfer effect to describe their findings. Sanchez’s hypothesis was correct — subjects from stigmatized groups would assume that a person is prejudiced toward their identity after witnessing that person express prejudice views about a different stigmatized group.
Sanchez said that her primary motivation behind the research was to gain a better insight into how minority groups identify with and react to the discrimination of other minority groups. She theorized that stigmatized groups would feel threatened by prejudice toward other said groups, but could not find evidence of this in any pre-existing study.
“There’s already a lot of research out there about how people who are prejudiced, can be prejudiced toward more than one group,” Sanchez said. “But the literature had not really explored whether the stigmatized groups themselves, like white women, black men and latino men, were aware of that correlation and relationship between sexism and racism.”
Aware of this gap in information, she decided to pursue the topic with the help of her colleagues Chaney and Manuel. Sanchez said that it is important to understand that prejudice against one group can be felt in others because it directly affects the process of coalition building.
“I wanted to become more knowledgeable about how you can get minority groups to work together,” she said. “I pondered how much of a common experience these groups shared. We know minority groups all experience discrimination. But do they actually experience the harmful effects of discrimination when it targets minority groups other than themselves?”
Sanchez said the vital aspects of coalition building among minority groups is important. Coalition building is the key to combatting prejudice in today’s society. By pinpointing what makes minorities support each other, she can better grasp the nuances of a group resistance to prejudice.
Over the course of her research, Sanchez set out to prove her hypothesis. She and her team utilized a number of different methods and samples to test the theory. Utilizing confederates, or paid actors, she first wanted to make the subject feel like they were being evaluated.
“The research published in 'Psychological Science' is composed of five studies,” Sanchez said. “Over the course of the experiment, we used a variety of methods that involved bringing people into the laboratory. We tried to simulate evaluation scenarios where we wanted them to feel like they were engaged in a real evaluation with a real person.”
In order to measure the participant’s reaction, she said she first needed to convince the subject that the confederate in the evaluation was prejudice toward another group. Afterward, the participant would be surveyed by the researchers as to whether they thought the confederate was prejudice toward the minority group the participant belongs to.
Subjects experienced this through both in-person and online evaluations. The research team drew from a pool of Introductory Psychology undergraduate students as well as Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) online survey takers when organizing. Despite the wide diversity
“We found the same thing across all five studies,” Sanchez said. “However, the stigma-by-transfer effect is stronger when the subject was face-to-face with the confederate, like in a laboratory setting when they think that they are actually interacting with another person. The order, in terms of strongest to weakest effect, would start with face-to-face interaction followed by online interaction.”
While her initial theory proved to be correct, Sanchez said her work in regards to prejudice and coalition building is far from over. While this research only focused on racism and sexism in the eyes of minority groups, the subject’s reactions to prejudice likely extends to cover a broader spectrum.
This study was the tip of the iceberg, she said.
Sanchez said past studies about businesses appearing non-prejudiced are currently being used to conduct new research regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and religion. Prejudice toward any group tends to affect a larger population outside of that group as well.
“In the past, we published a study that found that companies with accolades for African-Americans made women feel more comfortable and less likely to experience sexism and vice versa,” Sanchez said. “Now we’re doing the same thing in that we are looking at how companies that support LGBTQIA policies, such as gender neutral bathrooms. We’re interested to see if that means that white heterosexual women feel comfortable working in places like that as a result.”
In terms of Rutgers, Sanchez said that due to the diversity of the University, students often encounter an array of students from different minority groups.
This work can be used to help build a better sense of community among students by allowing for a better understanding of prejudice against stigmatized groups, she said.
“We believe that the study can be applied to other forms of discrimination like homophobia for instance,” Sanchez said. “A lot of the work that we are doing in the lab is following up these findings to show that sexism and racism do not just affect women and racial minorities. It actually can go beyond that. Our work is meant to illustrate this, as well as to better understand the mechanics and the importance of coalition building as a reaction to prejudice and discrimination.”
Daniel Israel is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.