(In)visibility of Black women: Drawing attention to individuality
Sesko, Amanda Kate
University of Kansas
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Invisibility is defined as a lack of individuation of or lack of differentiation between group members, and is evident in poor recognition of individual faces. The current work tests the hypothesis that the non-prototypicality of Black women's race and gender results in their ``invisibility" relative to White women and Black and White men. Studies 1 and 2 hypothesized that invisibility would be highest when Black women were depicted as non-prototypical of their race and/or gender groups, but reduced when more prototypical of the group "women" and/or "Black." To manipulate prototypicality, Study 1 varied the numerical representation of Black women within the group "women" to be low (10 out of 80 photos in an array) or equal relative to White women, and Study 2 varied the trait overlap of Black women to be low (25%) or high (75%) relative to White women and/or Black men. Invisibility was measured by a subsequent face recognition task. Rather than invisibility being reduced under conditions of equal numerical representation and high trait overlap, the direct opposite occurred: Low numerical representation and low trait overlap increased recognition of faces. Studies 3 and 4 tested alternative explanations. Study 3 addressed the possibility that the women in Study 1 looked powerful by manipulating perceived power of the women in the photo array (labeled as "secretaries" or "managers"). There was no evidence that power played a role. Study 4 tested the hypothesis that Studies 1 and 2 primed a focus on how Black women are different or unique compared to White women and Black men in the low numerical representation and trait overlap conditions. As predicted, participants who were procedurally primed to focus on similarities were worse at recognizing Black women in a subsequent face recognition task. This effect was attenuated among participants who were procedurally primed to focus on differences. Mirroring the results of Study 1 and 2, Study 4 suggested a difference focus can lead to a reduction in use of category based information and an increased use of individuating information, reducing invisibility. Implications for reduction of invisibility are discussed.
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- Psychology Dissertations and Theses 
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