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IDEAS

Social Studies: Perceptions about status and competence; comfort in incumbents

Research indicates that people attribute higher levels of competence to photo subjects seen in fancy clothes or other markers of high income.
Research indicates that people attribute higher levels of competence to photo subjects seen in fancy clothes or other markers of high income.Shutterstock/AS Inc

All in the family

Psychologists found that Americans in romantic relationships lacking complete trust tended to have more faith in incumbent political leadership (Trump and Republicans when this study was done) after experiencing unexpected events in their personal lives. Conversely, they tended to have more faith in their personal relationships after unexpected news events. In other words, among those who are unsure of their personal relationships, faith in the “system” can be a substitute for faith in relationships, and vice versa.

Murray, S. et al., “The Social-Safety System: Fortifying Relationships in the Face of the Unforeseeable,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (forthcoming).

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Poor rich whites

Surveys found that white people tended to assume their socio-economic status was lower than that of most other white people, whereas Black people tended to rate their individual socio-economic status as higher than those of other Black people. In turn, white people who discounted their own status relative to other white people reported worse mental and physical health, even after controlling for age, gender, income, and education.

Cooley, E. et al., “Investigating the Health Consequences for White Americans Who Believe White Americans Are Wealthy,” Social Psychological and Personality Science (forthcoming).

Court of public opinion

A California judge was recently recalled — voted out of office — for imposing a sentence that was widely criticized for being too lenient on a Stanford student convicted of sexual assault. Political scientists at New York University analyzed thousands of sentences imposed by judges in six California counties during the controversy and found that there was “an instantaneous increase in average sentence length of over 30 percent in the immediate aftermath of the recall petition announcement.” This increase, which was conclusive only in sentences for non-sexual violent crimes, may have exacerbated sentencing disparities for minorities.

Gordon, S. & Yntiso, S., “A Silent Corrupting Force? Criminal Sentencing and the Threat of Recall,” New York University (June 2020).

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NIMBY news

In Swedish municipalities that were assigned to receive more refugees per capita during the refugee surge of 2015, Web traffic declined for newspaper articles about the refugees — particularly articles with a sympathetic tone. Data from the Church of Sweden also suggests that the decline in readership for refugee-sympathetic articles was associated with less engagement in refugee-friendly activities.

Freddi, E., “Do People Avoid Morally Relevant Information? Evidence from the Refugee Crisis,” Review of Economics and Statistics (forthcoming).

High fashion

In several experiments, participants judged the competence of individuals simply from viewing full-body photos. Individuals whose attire indicated higher levels of status or income were deemed to have higher levels of competence.

Connor, P. et al., “Social Class Competence Stereotypes Are Amplified by Socially Signaled Economic Inequality,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (forthcoming).