Black + White = Black: Hypodescent in reflexive categorization of racially ambiguous faces

Destiny Peery*, Galen V Bodenhausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


Historically, the principle of hypodescent specified that individuals with one Black and one White parent should be considered Black. Two experiments examined whether categorizations of racially ambiguous targets reflect this principle. Participants studied ambiguous target faces accompanied by profiles that either did or did not identify the targets as having multiracial backgrounds (biological, cultural, or both biological and cultural). Participants then completed a speeded dual-categorization task requiring Black/not Black and White/not White judgments (Experiments 1 and 2) and deliberate categorization tasks requiring participants to describe the races (Experiment 2) of target faces. When a target was known to have mixed-race ancestry, participants were more likely to rapidly categorize the target as Black (and not White); however, the same cues also increased deliberate categorizations of the targets as "multiracial." These findings suggest that hypodescent still characterizes the automatic racial categorizations of many perceivers, although more complex racial identities may be acknowledged upon more thoughtful reflection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)973-977
Number of pages5
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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