Unequal equality: The impact of differing perspectives on race-based choices
The issue of race in the United States is complex at best. Ongoing racial disparities provide confirmation for the ongoing relevance of race in our communities. As racism has shifted from overt to less obvious forms, it has become more difficult to gauge exactly how much progress we have made. Measuring racial biases is even more complicated, especially as racial biases have become increasingly subtle. One way to measure authentic behavior is through the use of field experiments, which include elements of deception. The present study utilizes field experiment methodology to measure subtle biases in judging a scholarship contest. A fictional scholarship organization was created to examine choice and perceived progress toward racial equality through the lens of prospect theory and the adjustment and anchoring heuristic. Undergraduate students at Wichita State University were randomly selected to participate as judges in a scholarship contest between two fictional finalists who had mixed qualifications. Within-group variance among students who identify as white (N =655) was examined to view how reference points influence choice. Results indicate that choices relied on actual information in each profile, with preference for the higher GPA rather than the race of the finalist. Race was a factor when participants viewed progress differently and when they used a future reference point for making an assessment of progress. Several demographic variables also influenced the rating of each finalist. The findings of the present study provide some support for prospect theory and the adjustment and anchoring heuristic. It is clear that subtle biases are present, although complicated to detect. Implications for future research are discussed, as well as suggestions for interventions that address racial divisions in communities.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology