Colored Perceptions: Racially Distinctive Names and Assessments of Skin Color

Denia Garcia, Maria Abascal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Scholars are increasingly employing skin color measures to investigate racial stratification beyond the dimensions of self- or other-classification. Current understandings of the relationship between phenotypic traits, like skin color, and racial classification are incomplete. Scholars agree that perceptions of phenotypic traits shape how people classify others; it remains to be seen, however, whether racial classification in turn shapes people’s perceptions of phenotypic traits. The present study is based on an original survey experiment that tests whether assessments of others’ skin color are affected by a subtle racial cue, a name. Results indicate that skin color ratings are affected by the presence of a racially distinctive name: A significant share of people will rate the same face darker when that face is assigned a distinctively Hispanic name as opposed to a non-Hispanic name. In addition, ratings of male faces are more sensitive to racially distinctive names. The findings bear important lessons for our understanding of the social construction of race and its role in producing inequalities.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)420-441
    Number of pages22
    JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - 2016


    • classification
    • ethnicity
    • Latino/as
    • race
    • skin color

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Cultural Studies
    • Education
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • General Social Sciences


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