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In the current research, factors indicating a potential vulnerability to threat were shown to promote functionally adaptive biases during group categorization. White participants who held strong beliefs about vulnerability to interpersonal threats demonstrated an outgroup categorization bias when target persons displayed evolutionarily relevant cues suggesting an intention to harm (i.e. an angry facial expression), leading to an increased categorization of racially ambiguous faces as Black. Effects were observed only for targets displaying an angry facial expression – targets who pose especially potent threats to one's physical safety. No effects were found for targets displaying other non-threatening facial expressions, or for participants who tended not to hold strong beliefs about vulnerability to interpersonal threats. Findings are consistent with a functionalist perspective suggesting that factors related to the goal of self-protection can facilitate biases during group categorization aimed at avoiding potential threats.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Psychology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Jon Maner, Professor Directing Thesis; Colleen Kelley, Committee Member; Ashby Plant, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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