Race and Religion`s Role in Stereotypes and Perceived Social Standings
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
SMITH, J. W. (2001). Race and Religion`s Role in Stereotypes and Perceived Social Standings . National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Race and Religion`s Role in Stereotypes and Perceived Social Standings
JAMES W. SMITH
-NONE- PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
There are two basic stereotypical perceptions held about members from virtually every race. When these stereotypes are confirmed do they become stronger in our minds? Research haas shown that if a stereotype exists it may be activated without the knowledge of the perceiver. The purpose of this study was to see if two separate characteristics of a person that could be looked at as stereotypical would excite a prejudice response out of participants. The participants ranged in age from 17 to 26. THe participants were informed to look at a picture of a man. The man was of either Middle Eastern, African American or Caucasian descent. An eight item scale was handed out to the participants that had a story attached to it. The had stereotypical statements about each of the chosen races. Half of the participants received a story that depicted the man in the picture as Muslim and the other half received a story that depicted the man as Christian. It was found that participants held stereotypical views concerning African Americans and Middle Eastern people and the United States government.

INTRODUCTION
Race and Religion’s Role in Stereotypes and Perceived Social Standing On September 11, 2001 a tragedy of colossal magnitude took place on United States’ soil. Terrorists hijacked four airplanes. Two of these planes were crashed into the World Trade Center buildings and one was crashed into the pentagon. The remaining plane was crashed somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. The terrorists who carried out this plan of mass destruction were of Middle Eastern descent. It was later learned that this handful of terrorists was part of a larger terrorist syndicate that has had men in the United States plotting this attack for several months. These events seemed particularly disturbing to many Americans because these terrorists are men that they could have passed several times without having a clue about their true intentions. This tragedy raises many questions concerning the processes that take place in one’s mind when confronted with a man of Middle Eastern descent. Research dealing with perceptions and stereotypes (Sager & Schofield, 1980) has shown that in instances where an African American male carries out an ambiguously aggressive act this act is viewed as violent and threatening. This raises some questions when that same basic theory is applied to any race. There are basic stereotypical perceptions held about people from virtually every race. African American people are sometimes viewed as being aggressive and athletic, while German people are viewed as being industrious and studious. When a small percentage of a certain race of people confirms this stereotype does the stereotype become stronger? Across the country innocent Middle Eastern people have been harassed and pre-judged since the events of September 11. In some cases the person who is doing the prejudging is not doing it purposely. Research has shown that if a stereotype exists it may be activated without the knowledge of the perceiver (Devine, 1989). Upon seeing a Middle Eastern man board an airplane a person of another race may begin to feel sick and decide not to fly for apparently no reason. In a research study carried out by Chiricos, McEntire & Gertz (2001) Caucasian people living in Florida were asked if they thought a crime would happen to them during the coming year. Caucasian participants living in areas where African American and Hispanic people lived nearby perceived a greater risk of crime than those who did not live around either minority. On the other hand, African American and Hispanic people did not perceive greater risk based on racial and ethnic composition of the neighborhood they lived in. This is an important study to present research. It shows that stereotypical views may not be reciprocated from one race to another race. The question that most previous research does not answer is one that consists of another variable. What will happen to people’s perceptions when a religion is added on top of race? It is very easy for someone to “hide” a stereotypical view if that view is not a popular one. When there are two separate facets that produce stereotypical views it may not be as easy for a person to simply overlook their perception.I believe that when faced with a person who fits some preconceived notions we hold about a certain race, we will expect them to have other characteristics that are also stereotypical of that race. For instance, when faced with a Caucasian male who wears glasses and has the ability to type well, we may assume that they hold a career in computer programming or computer maintenance.Stereotypical perceptions are very common in college settings. College students tend to hold many different views about current events as well as people linked to current events. In some cases these views are nothing more than unvoiced opinions.The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect that a person’s religion and racial or ethnic background has on our societal views of that person. With the recent tragedy I expect for people to have a heightened awareness about the role that one’s religion and race can play in the assumed characteristics that that person might have.


INTRODUCTION
Race and Religion’s Role in Stereotypes and Perceived Social Standing On September 11, 2001 a tragedy of colossal magnitude took place on United States’ soil. Terrorists hijacked four airplanes. Two of these planes were crashed into the World Trade Center buildings and one was crashed into the pentagon. The remaining plane was crashed somewhere in rural Pennsylvania. The terrorists who carried out this plan of mass destruction were of Middle Eastern descent. It was later learned that this handful of terrorists was part of a larger terrorist syndicate that has had men in the United States plotting this attack for several months. These events seemed particularly disturbing to many Americans because these terrorists are men that they could have passed several times without having a clue about their true intentions. This tragedy raises many questions concerning the processes that take place in one’s mind when confronted with a man of Middle Eastern descent. Research dealing with perceptions and stereotypes (Sager & Schofield, 1980) has shown that in instances where an African American male carries out an ambiguously aggressive act this act is viewed as violent and threatening. This raises some questions when that same basic theory is applied to any race. There are basic stereotypical perceptions held about people from virtually every race. African American people are sometimes viewed as being aggressive and athletic, while German people are viewed as being industrious and studious. When a small percentage of a certain race of people confirms this stereotype does the stereotype become stronger? Across the country innocent Middle Eastern people have been harassed and pre-judged since the events of September 11. In some cases the person who is doing the prejudging is not doing it purposely. Research has shown that if a stereotype exists it may be activated without the knowledge of the perceiver (Devine, 1989). Upon seeing a Middle Eastern man board an airplane a person of another race may begin to feel sick and decide not to fly for apparently no reason. In a research study carried out by Chiricos, McEntire & Gertz (2001) Caucasian people living in Florida were asked if they thought a crime would happen to them during the coming year. Caucasian participants living in areas where African American and Hispanic people lived nearby perceived a greater risk of crime than those who did not live around either minority. On the other hand, African American and Hispanic people did not perceive greater risk based on racial and ethnic composition of the neighborhood they lived in. This is an important study to present research. It shows that stereotypical views may not be reciprocated from one race to another race. The question that most previous research does not answer is one that consists of another variable. What will happen to people’s perceptions when a religion is added on top of race? It is very easy for someone to “hide” a stereotypical view if that view is not a popular one. When there are two separate facets that produce stereotypical views it may not be as easy for a person to simply overlook their perception.I believe that when faced with a person who fits some preconceived notions we hold about a certain race, we will expect them to have other characteristics that are also stereotypical of that race. For instance, when faced with a Caucasian male who wears glasses and has the ability to type well, we may assume that they hold a career in computer programming or computer maintenance.Stereotypical perceptions are very common in college settings. College students tend to hold many different views about current events as well as people linked to current events. In some cases these views are nothing more than unvoiced opinions.The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect that a person’s religion and racial or ethnic background has on our societal views of that person. With the recent tragedy I expect for people to have a heightened awareness about the role that one’s religion and race can play in the assumed characteristics that that person might have.


METOHDS

PARTICIPANTS
The data were collected from three psychology 101 classes. The classes were taken at a Missouri college. The participants ranged in age from 17 to 26. Each class made up a condition in the experiment.

MATERIALS
A scale measuring stereotypical attitudes that college students might have was used (see Appendix). The scale asked questions about characteristics that the person in question might have. There was also a different picture used in each of the separate conditions. The pictures depicted average, middle-age men from three different racial backgrounds (see Appendix). Men of Middle Eastern, African American, and Caucasian race were used.

PROCEDURE
Each class was shown one picture of one of the chosen races. One half of the class was given a story depicting the man in the picture as a Christian. The other half of the class was given a story depicting the man in the picture as a Muslim. Upon looking at the picture and reading the story the students were then asked to complete the scale. After completing the scale the students were debriefed.


RESULTS
How the participants responded on the questionnaire was compared to the picture they looked at and the story they read. A chi-square of independence was calculated comparing the effects of race (Caucasian, African American, Middle Eastern) and religion (Christian, Muslim) on an eight-item scale. A significant interaction was found on questions two (chi-square(1) = 5.00, p = .025), three (chi-square(2) = 8.89, p=.012), and five (chi-square(2) = 6.41, p = .040). African American and Middle Eastern males were rated as more likely to hate the United States government. Muslims were rated as more likely to grow up in another country. Middle Eastern males were rated as more likely to prefer a hot, dry climate.


DISCUSSION
In this study there were three stereotypes that were supported by the data collected. The first stereotype found was that African American and Middle Eastern males hate the government. These results were expected because this is one of the stronger stereotypes in American culture. Normally when a minority group has been mistreated by society a lot of the blame is placed on the government and not on the people in the society. There were times when African Americans were severely mistreated. This along with media like television and radio can give people the perception that African Americans are still holding a grudge against the United States government. The second stereotype found was that Muslim people were more likely to grow up in another country. A result of this study that was surprising was that all of the different races were subject to this stereotype. This stereotype was not expected to gain support because of the growing number of Muslims in the United States, both African American and Middle Eastern. The expected results for this statement were that Middle Eastern Muslims would most likely be from another country.The third stereotype that was supported was the idea that Muslims prefer a hot, dry climate. These results seem to also support the stereotype that Muslims are from another country. While there are hot, dry climates in the United States the Middle East is known for its deserts.While not all of the results were significant there was a trend in the data that is worth discussing. The first item on the scale asked the participants if they thought the man on the picture participated in any sports. When the man in the picture was an African American man 43 out of the 66 respondents said that he most likely played sports in high school. This data supports the stereotype that African Americans are more athletically inclined that other races.While this study did receive some significant results there are a few things that can be done next time to improve the chances of finding results that are more pertinent to the construct being measured. The scale that was used was an accurate measure of stereotypical attitudes but in order to allow it to measure the construct even better a longer scale could be used that asks more questions about the chosen stereotypes. More demographic data could be collected next time to see if there are any other relationships that correlate with the study. Gender and race of the participant might play a major role in how the participants respond to questions.


REFERENCES
Al-Timimi, N. & Erickson, C. (2001). Providing mental health services to Arab Americans: Recommendations and considerations. Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 7, 308-327.Chiricos, T., McEntire, R. & Gertz, M. (2001). Perceived racial and ethnic composition of neighborhood and perceived risk of crime. Social Problems, 48, 322-340.Devine, P. (2001). Implicit prejudice and stereotyping: How automatic are they? Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 81, 757-759.Fries-Britt, S. (2001). Facing stereotypes: A case study of Black students on a White campus. Journal of College Student Development, 42, 420-429.Sagar, H. & Schofield, J. (1980). Racial and behavioral cues in Black and White children’s perceptions of ambiguously aggressive acts. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. 39, 590-598.Wheeler, C.S. & Petty, R. (2001). The effects of stereotype activation on behavior: A review of possible mechanisms. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 797-826..


APPENDIX

Submitted 11/29/2001 12:03:03 PM
Last Edited 11/29/2001 12:27:10 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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