The proposed research will evaluate the relative influence of genomic, phenotypic, social attributes, and social context in shaping how individuals perceive other people’s race, to determine how genomic information is influencing societal norms of racial classification. The study will create a novel design, using a conjoint survey experiment that includes unique morphed photographs, information about genetic ancestry test (GAT) results, and social attributes like racial self-identification before and after testing, to influence the racial classification of others by White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian respondents. We will test several hypotheses corresponding to our specific aims. Aim 1: Assess the relative influences of genomic, phenotypic, and social attributes in racial perception. Hypotheses: Based on past studies [1–4], we expect respondents to accept the racial self-identification claimed by profiled individuals based on their GAT results unless their phenotype does not reflect the claimed identity. We expect GAT results to have the strongest effects when phenotype is racially ambiguous. In this case, when the GAT results and post-test racial self-identification point in different directions, we expect the GAT results to be more influential. Aim 2: Analyze the impact of the social context in which racial classifications are made. We will analyze the impact of 3 randomly varied social contexts: the profiled person is applying to college, applying to join a social club intended for members of one racial group, or a neutral context. Hypotheses: Based on Realistic Group Conflict Theory [5,6], we expect all respondents to classify more mixed-race individuals as White in the college context to minimize access to scarce resources. In the social club context, we expect Whites to increase non-White classifications, based on their embrace of “symbolic” ethnic or racial identities [1,7]. We expect that using genetic information to claim a minority identity will trigger concerns about legitimacy among non-White respondents, leading to increased White classifications. Aim 3: Analyze the impact of observer characteristics and beliefs. We will analyze how respondents’ characteristics impact their weighting of genomic, phenotypical, and social attributes in classifying a person’s race. These include: their demographic characteristics (race, region, education, age, gender, and local racial composition); their belief in genetic essentialism (that genes determine a person’s race and that races have genetically-determined essential traits ); and their racial and policy attitudes (support for affirmative action, belief in zero sum racial competition). Hypotheses: We expect GAT results to have stronger effects among those with stronger beliefs in genetic essentialism and zero sum racial competition, and those with lower education.
The proposed research will evaluate the relative influence of genomic, phenotypic, social attributes, and social context in shaping how individuals perceive other people’s race, to determine how genomic information is influencing societal norms of racial classification. The larger project will conduct a conjoint survey experiment that includes unique morphed photographs, information about genetic ancestry test (GAT) results, and social attributes like racial self-identification before and after testing, to influence the racial classification of others by White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian respondents. The pilot project will develop and test the morphed photographs to be used as the visual stimuli in the experiment. GATs are one of the most common ways that genomic awareness has increased in the public sphere. Many scholars believe GATs will shape individuals’ beliefs about race, including beliefs in essential racial differences and that races are genetically determined. Recent research shows that GATs lead some people to change their racial identity based on the reported genetic information. However, we know little about whether those genetically-influenced identity claims are accepted by others or whether information about an individual’s genetic ancestry influences how their race is perceived. Increased genomic knowledge may be shifting norms of racial classification. This could have significant social implications ranging from demographic shifts and identity-based political mobilization to changing patientprovider interactions and assessments in healthcare settings. In everyday life, people typically rely on phenotype to racially classify others, often using it as a proxy for ancestry. However, we know little about how the perception of phenotype interacts with information about ancestry, which we will test using photographs of human faces and hypothetical GAT results. In addition, an abundant scholarship has shown that race is shaped by social context. Nevertheless, most studies have been observational and may be afflicted by endogeneity. We will provide rigorous experimental evidence for how the social context influences racial classifications: some respondents will be asked to categorize individuals seeking membership in a cultural affinity group; others will be told the individual is applying to college, priming a context of competition for scarce resources; the remainder will be given a neutral context. Last, our nationally representative survey will sample Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic respondents, which will allow us to test how racial perceptions vary across the U.S. and among the nation’s largest ethnoracial groups. This project will develop a research protocol and preliminary data for a larger future study focusing on how genomic information shapes healthcare providers’ racial perceptions and clinical assessments of patients.