On the ideology of hypodescent: Political conservatism predicts categorization of racially ambiguous faces as Black

Amy R. Krosch, Leslie Berntsen, David M. Amodio, John T. Jost, Jay J. Van Bavel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


According to the principle of hypodescent, multiracial individuals are categorized according to their most socially subordinate group membership. We investigated whether the tendency to apply this principle is related to political ideology. In three studies, participants categorized a series of morphed faces that varied in terms of racial ambiguity. In each study, self-reported conservatism (vs. liberalism) was associated with the tendency to categorize ambiguous faces as Black. Consistent with the notion that system justification motivation helps to explain ideological differences in racial categorization, the association between conservatism and hypodescent was mediated by individual differences in opposition to equality (Study 2) and was stronger when U.S. participants categorized American than Canadian faces (Study 3). We discuss ways in which the categorization of racially ambiguous individuals in terms of their most subordinate racial group may exacerbate inequality and vulnerability to discrimination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1196-1203
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013



  • Face perception
  • Hypodescent
  • Political ideology
  • Political orientation
  • Racial categorization
  • System justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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