Political Views May Skew Perception of Skin Tone, New Study Finds


Political affinity could influence how some people view the skin tone of biracial political candidates, according to a new study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, New York University, and Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Image Copyright (C) PNAS
Image Copyright (C) PNAS

Chicago Booth Contact: Allan Friedman | 773.702.9232 | allan.friedman@ChicagoBooth.edu

Political affinity could influence how some people view the skin tone of biracial political candidates, according to a new study from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, New York University, and Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

The findings indicate that people perceive lighter skin tone to be more representative of a candidate with whom they share political ideology than darker skin tone.

The research was led by Eugene Caruso, an assistant professor of behavioral science at Chicago Booth, with collaboration from Emily Balcetis, an assistant professor of psychology at NYU, and Nicole Mead, a postdoctoral fellow at Tilburg University. It was published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (December 1).

Caruso and his colleagues showed groups of undergraduate students a set of photos of Barack Obama that were taken during the 2008 presidential debates or from his campaign Web site. The subjects were asked which images were most representative of the president, and then indicated their political beliefs.

While some of the photos were unaltered, the researchers digitally lightened or darkened Obama’s skin tone in others (unbeknownst to the research participants). The researchers report that self-described liberal students tended to judge lightened photos of President Obama as most representative of him, while self-described conservative students more frequently picked darkened photos.

The study also found that regardless of their political views, students who rated a lightene 500

Cannot serve request to /content/nyu/en/about/news-publications/news/2009/november/political_views_may_skew.html on this server


ApacheSling/2.2 (Day-Servlet-Engine/4.1.52, Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM 1.7.0_80, Linux 2.6.32-696.6.3.el6.centos.plus.x86_64 amd64)