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Friday, March 6 • 3:45pm - 4:45pm
The perception of aggression in women across ethnic groups

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The proposed study examines the difference in the actual versus the perceived level of aggression in women of color. The principles of social cognition have provided a valuable tool in the study of the perception and the interpretation of aggression. It is sometimes said that we see what we expect to see. It is the experiences and events we least expect that stand out most in our perception of the world and in our memory. However in ambiguous situations, and when we have little information, we are likely to interpret events in a manner that is consistent with our expectations or schemas. Once a schema has been activated, people are likely to look for, notice, and recall anything in their experience that is clearly consistent with that schema. So, what is the overall effect of these cognitive processes? Well, our expectations sometimes lead us to see what we expect to see even when it is not there. These expectations could nonetheless lead to inaccuracies in people’s perception of specific individuals and incidents. This study investigates how the racial/ethnic identity of the aggressor, and observer influences the perception and evaluation of aggression. A quasi experimental design examines whether assertive behavior in women triggers stereotypes of aggression, passivity, or assertiveness. Deception will be used to conceal the true nature of the study in order to account for race related biases. Participants, women and men over the age of 18, will be randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatment groups containing video vignettes that demonstrate an ambiguous assertive act performed by a woman. The aggressor-target race combinations and the assertive act will be varied. Hypotheses were formulated concerning how people would respond to an aggressive act in a vignette, depending on the racial/ ethnic identity of the aggressor, target, and participant. Several predictions are made concerning the level of aggression participants would report. It is predicted that because of the impact of racial/ethnic stereotypes, more aggression would be reported when a vignette described an aggressive act by a Black woman than the same act performed by a White woman. Additional hypotheses concern whether racial stereotypes, lead people to see a greater level of aggression in an ambiguous act by a Black woman. Finally, a third group of hypotheses involve whether there are in- group, out-group differences in the perception of assertiveness and what is “defined” as acceptable norms. The findings of this study would have implications for minimizing diagnostic labels due to cultural differences in what I am hypothesizing to be socially acceptable assertive behavior. This study would highlight the impact that stereotypes have on Black women as it relates to assertiveness and/or the perception of maladaptive aggression. By understanding the cultural differences in the expression of assertiveness in Black women and other women of color, I hope to demonstrate a discrepancy between actual vs. perceived level of aggression that influences the increasing number of racialized violence that occurs towards the black and brown communities.

Friday March 6, 2015 3:45pm - 4:45pm