THE ROLE OF ESSENTIALIST RACE BELIEF ON SELF AND IDENTITY PROCESSES
Professor Hong’s research project examines the essentialist race belief (the belief that race is determined genetically, is unchangeable, and is indicative of abilities and traits) and its links to both majority and minority racial members’ self and identity processes.
Previous work in Professor Hong’s laboratory suggests there are such links and that they are significant. One study, for example, found that the stronger the Chinese-American participants endorsed racial essentialism, the more difficult it was for them to “pass between” cultures and the more they displayed emotional reactivity. Also, individuals who believed in race as essentialist tended to form stereotypes and prejudice against racial minority groups.
The goal of her current research project is to understand how individuals holding the essentialist race belief process social information. She hypothesizes that the essentialist race belief orients individuals (majority and minority members) to categorize others along racial dimensions and to avoid “false inclusion” of racial outgroups into the ingroup. A second hypothesis is that minority individuals who believe in essentialist race theory perceive the interracial boundary as impermeable, and thus have a harder time navigating between ethnic/cultural boundaries and show over-sensitivity toward potential racial rejection.
During her Center appointment Professor Hong will conduct four experiments to test these hypotheses. This project will provide a basis for understanding the impact of human genome research on race and ethnicity and, in the long run, will help to formulate interventions that seek to eliminate the misconception that race is determined genetically. Although research on genomics has shown that different races do not possess distinctive genomes, but rather share variations of a single genome, the belief that race is determined genetically nonetheless is held widely by lay people.