Negative stereotypes can cancel each other out on resumes

May 15, 2014

Stereotypes of gay men as effeminate and weak and black men as threatening and aggressive can hurt members of those groups when white people evaluate them in employment, education, criminal justice and other contexts.

But the negative attributes of the two stereotypes can cancel one another out for gay in the employment context, according to research by a Princeton University graduate student in sociology, challenging the commonly held idea that membership in multiple marginalized groups leads to more discrimination than being a member of a single such group.

Sociologist David Pedulla asked 231 white participants in a nationwide survey to suggest a starting salary for an applicant for a fictional job as an assistant manager at a large retail store.

Each participant was shown one of four résumés, which were identical except for two items. Half used a white-sounding name, Brad Miller, and half used a black-sounding name, Darnell Jackson. In addition, half noted the applicant's role as president of the "Gay Student Advisory Council" in college while the other half listed his role as president of the "Student Advisory Council."

The result was that each participant suggested a starting salary for an applicant portrayed as a straight white man, a gay white man, a gay black man or a straight black man. Participants were also asked questions about the applicant that Pedulla used to measure how "threatening" they perceived the applicant to be.

The survey participants recommended lower starting salaries for straight black men and gay white men than for straight white men, indicating a salary penalty for being black or for being gay, Pedulla said.

"However, there is no salary penalty for gay black men, who receive higher salary recommendations than straight black men and salary recommendations on par with straight white men," Pedulla said. "There is some evidence that gay black men are perceived as less threatening than straight black men and that this difference accounts for a piece of the salary recommendation difference between these two groups."

The research is described in a paper titled "The Positive Consequences of Negative Stereotypes: Race, Sexual Orientation and the Job Application Process" that was published in March in Social Psychology Quarterly.

Robb Willer, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University, said Pedulla's research is "cutting-edge theoretically."

"Several lines of work in the social sciences would suggest that membership in disadvantaged social categories combine in simple, straightforward ways," said Willer, whose research interests include status hierarchies. "But Pedulla's work suggests the process is more complex and that the contents of the stereotypes of different disadvantaged groups can counteract one another, leading to less total disadvantage than would have previously been expected."

Willer also noted the study was "highly rigorous."

"Survey experiments of this sort combine the descriptive strength with very high levels of control, allowing the researcher high confidence in making inferences of causality to larger populations," he said.

Tamar Kricheli-Katz, who is an assistant professor at the Buchman Faculty of Law and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, said it is important to note that being a member of two disadvantaged groups may not always be beneficial.

"The effect depends on the content of the contradicting stereotypes and on the context and its cultural meanings," said Kricheli-Katz, whose research interests include inequality, anti-discrimination law and employment law. "As a result, the same group of people (like black men) may be disadvantaged in some contexts while advantaged in others."

Along with exploring what other stereotypes might interact in unexpected ways, Pedulla said, "I would be interested in conducting an experimental audit study of real job openings in the labor market where the race and sexual orientation of the job applicants were experimentally manipulated."

Explore further: Study suggests sexual orientation unconsciously affects our impressions of others

More information: Paper: spq.sagepub.com/content/77/1/75.short

Related Stories

Study suggests sexual orientation unconsciously affects our impressions of others

September 2, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Studies by psychologists at the University of Toronto reveal that when it comes to white men, being straight may make you more likable but in the case of black men, gays have a likeability edge.

'Gaydar' automatic and more accurate for women's faces, psychologists find

May 16, 2012
After seeing faces for less than a blink of an eye, college students have accuracy greater than mere chance in judging others' sexual orientation. Their "gaydar" persisted even when they saw the photos upside-down, and gay ...

Employers less likely to interview openly gay men for job openings: study

October 3, 2011
A new study suggests that openly gay men face substantial job discrimination in certain parts of the U.S.

Trustworthy mating advice deepens bond between straight women and gay men

February 20, 2013
Why do straight women and gay men form close relationships with one another? A new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin suggests the glue that cements these unique relationships is honest, unbiased relationship ...

Services lacking for young gay black men

September 18, 2013
Physical, sexual and emotional abuse among young gay black men is a pervasive problem, yet there remains a lack of social services and resources available to help them, a Michigan State University scholar argues in a new ...

Recommended for you

Heart rate study tests emotional impact of Shakespeare

July 26, 2017
In a world where on-screen violence has become commonplace, Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company is turning to science to discover whether the playwright can still make our hearts race more than 400 years on.

Talking to yourself can help you control stressful emotions

July 26, 2017
The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people ...

Do all people experience similar near-death-experiences?

July 26, 2017
No one really knows what happens when we die, but many people have stories to tell about what they experienced while being close to death. People who have had a near-death-experience usually report very rich and detailed ...

Risk for bipolar disorder associated with faster aging

July 26, 2017
New King's College London research suggests that people with a family history of bipolar disorder may 'age' more rapidly than those without a history of the disease.

Visual clues we use during walking and when we use them

July 25, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of Texas and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered which phase of visual information processing during human walking is used most to guide the feet accurately. ...

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

July 25, 2017
Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.