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Exploring Perceptions of Racial/Ethnic Groups Outside of a Majority White Population

As compared to the contiguous or conterminous United States, which refers to the 48 states on the North American continent, Hawai‘i does not have a majority White population. Instead, the racial breakdown of the state includes people that are mixed race, White, Filipino, Japanese, Hawai‘ian, Chinese, Korean, African American, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander and more.

Dr. Chanel Meyers, Kayla Uyeda and Dr. Kristin Pauker are examining social perceptions of racial and ethnic groups in Hawai‘i. Specifically, they explored perceptions of Native Hawai‘ians, Japanese, Whites, Filipinos and Micronesians.

They found that Native Hawai‘ians were viewed as the highest on warmth, while Whites and Micronesians were seen as being the least warm. Japanese and Whites were rated as the most competent and most superior, but Whites were also seen as the most foreign.

The researchers measured opinions of warmth, competence, status and competition of these groups, according to the stereotype content model. The stereotype content model is a theory in psychology that explains how a lack of competition from a group leads to perceptions of warmth, and how having high status as a group leads to perceptions of high competence of the group.

By conducting research outside of places where being White is considered the default, researchers may see how various racial and ethnic groups are perceived in a new context.

Meyers, Uyeda and Pauker also disaggregated racial and ethnic groups in their analysis. Typically, researchers within the continental United States group Native Hawai‘ians and Pacific Islanders together in studies, but Native Hawai‘ians have their own culture and language, and Micronesians represent the largest and most recent migrants to Hawai‘i.

“As our society grows more diverse, it's important to examine contexts and groups that are underrepresented in social psychology,” Meyers said. “Starting to include these groups in our research will become imperative as our society in the U.S. will soon reflect this diversity. Furthermore, this work highlights the importance of contextualizing our research and conducting more descriptive work to better understand the targets and samples in our research.”

These findings shed light on perceptions of racial and ethnic groups outside of populations that are comprised of a majority of White individuals.


Written by: Hannah Snidman, Experimental Psychology Doctoral Student at Texas Tech University

Session:Living in Paradise: Social Perceptions of the Major Racial/Ethnic Groups in Hawai’i,” part of Diversifying Research on Diversity: Insights on Understudied Racial Groups, held Friday, February 28th, 2020.

Speaker: Chanel Meyers, Ph.D., York University