Behavioral Indicators of Discrimination in Social Interactions
- Abigail R. Corrington, Abigail R. CorringtonDepartment of Psychology, Rice University
- Mikki HeblMikki HeblDepartment of Psychology, Rice University
- and Jo-Ann TsangJo-Ann TsangDepartment of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University
A growing number of studies are utilizing different sorts of behavioral indicators as measures of prejudice and discrimination. Although there are few foolproof behavioral indicators of discrimination (cf. verbal articulations of overt discrimination), patterns of behaviors can often be reliable indicators of discrimination. There are three sets of behavioral indicators. First, there are verbal behaviors such as overt insults or the use of pejorative words to describe stigmatized individuals. Such verbal statements, particularly when overt, make attributions of perceiver prejudice very straightforward. Such exchanges appear to be on the rise and are particularly worthy of study following the apparent 2016 “whitelash” and resistance to acting in ways deemed to be “politically correct.” Other forms of verbal behaviors involve more indirect expressions of prejudice, such as ambiguous comments and subjective references. Second, there are paraverbal behaviors that may index discrimination. For instance, individuals’ tone and pacing of speech may intentionally or unintentionally signal their disapproval or dislike of a stigmatized target. These behaviors are less commonly studied by social scientists but provide indicators about an individual’s intentions toward a stigmatized target. Third and finally, there are both nonverbal microbehaviors (e.g., gestures, eye contact) and macrobehaviors (e.g., avoidance, helping behavior). Behavioral measures—both classic and more state-of-the-art—that might serve as indicators of discrimination have been identified in recent research, and researchers should continue to learn more about them and use them.