Social Category Intersectionality

Race and social class are stereotypically confounded—people stereotypically associate poor with Black and rich with White when only racial cues are salient. This effect is problematic as these implicit assumptions can have negative downstream consequences for everyday interactions. For example, when people maintain these racial-social class associations, they perpetuate social inequalities (e.g., recommending a White person for a high-status job and a Black person for a low-status job).  Yet when these racial-social class associations are challenged, unique attitudes and behaviors arise, as discussed below. (For a review, see Moore-Berg & Karpinski, 2018.)

One of my main lines of research has been the investigation of how the interaction of race and social class affects social-cognitive and intergroup processes. In one project, across a series of studies, I examined how the intersection of race and social class affects stereotypes, implicit attitudes, and explicit attitudes (Moore-Berg & Karpinski, under review). In this work, I manipulated both target race and social class in order to assess the effect of race and social class intersectionality on attitudes. Results indicated that increases in target social class attenuated potential negative race biases for within-race comparisons. That is, people had more positive attitudes toward rich Whites than poor Whites and toward rich Blacks than poor Blacks. Yet for within-social-class comparisons, attitudes were more nuanced; people had similar attitudes toward rich Whites and rich Blacks, but they had more context-dependent attitudes toward poor Whites versus poor Blacks. These findings suggest an overall interactive effect between race and social class, which can have downstream consequences for behaviors.

People’s perceptions of race and class can have life or death consequences. For example, in response to high profile cases in which White police officers have shot unarmed Black men, researchers and community members alike have been curious about the effects of social categories on shooting decisions. In this research, I examined how the intersection of suspect race and social class affects shooting decisions (Moore-Berg, Karpinski, & Plant, 2017). Using traditional shooter bias simulations, my work revealed that suspect race and social class interact to influence shooting decisions. That is, participants demonstrated high levels of shooter bias toward all Black suspects and low social class White suspects and low levels of shooter bias toward high social class Whites. These results suggest that social categories that signal danger (as a product of current norms)—such as Black and low social class—affect threat-related responding and, therefore, bias behaviors


In order to navigate the social world, people need to know what others think of them. Yet this information is often unavailable as social norms dictate when feedback is appropriate and sometimes people do not have the opportunity to give and receive feedback if they don’t directly interact. In instances when feedback is not readily available, people often intuit how other people think of them (known as meta-perceptions). However, relying on meta-perceptions has drawbacks, especially when they are negative. As detailed below, in instances when meta-perceptions are negative, intergroup hostility arises. In this line of research, I am particularly interested in how meta-perceptions affect intergroup relations.

In the United States, there is a common misperception that political polarization is on the rise. Often fueled by erroneous meta-perceptions, partisans think that outgroup members’ views are more extreme than they are in reality (termed false polarization). For example, my recent work (Moore-Berg, Ankori-Karlinsky, Hameiri, & Bruneau, manuscript in preparation) has longitudinally shown that Democrats and Republicans both think that the other side’s views on policies—such as immigration reform and gun control—are much more polarized than they really are. Although there are real ideological differences in support for these policies, partisans’ views are much less extreme than they are perceived to be. This false polarization directly inhibits willingness to support bipartisan collaboration for policy development and are associated with increased social distancing from and hostile actions against partisan outgroup members.

 False meta-perception effects are also evident in meta-prejudice and meta-dehumanization perceptions of partisan outgroups. That is, both Democrats and Republicans think that partisan outgroups are prejudiced against them and dehumanize them to a much greater degree than outgroup members actually do (Moore-Berg, Ankori-Karlinsky, Hameiri, & Bruneau, manuscript in preparation). Again, these false meta-perceptions are directly related to intergroup hostility. As meta-perceptions become more extreme, so too does social distancing from partisan outgroups and support of aggressive policies that harm political outgroups (Moore-Berg, Ankori-Karlinsky, Hameiri, & Bruneau, manuscript in preparation).

Prejudice Interventions

Prejudice and discrimination are on the rise. The number of hate crimes and instances of hate speech has drastically increased over the past several years, which makes the need for interventions that combat prejudice and discrimination of utmost importance. I am committed to developing theory-driven interventions that have real world impact and to identifying the psychological mechanisms of established interventions currently used to fight prejudice and discrimination. 

In one line of research, I conduct interventions to challenge perceptions about the types of immigrants entering the United States through its southern border with Mexico (Moore-Berg, Hameiri, Falk, & Bruneau, manuscript in preparation). Specifically, both Democrats and Republicans have erroneous perceptions about the types of immigrants entering the United States. For example, according to the Department of Homeland Security, less than 1% of immigrants are gang affiliated and less than 0.1% of child immigrants are being used as props by adults to gain entry into the United States. However, my work suggests that both Democrats and Republicans severely overestimate the percent of immigrants who are affiliated with gangs (11% and 21%, respectively) and the percent of children who are being used as props (24% and 47%, respectively). These overestimates are directly predictive of increased dehumanization of immigrants, reduced empathy for immigrants’ suffering, and increased support for anti-immigrant policies (such as a child separation policy). My research indicates that correcting these perceptions and showing an empathy-inducing video about immigrants is a successful way to reduce dehumanization of immigrants, increase empathy toward immigrants, and reduce support for harsh anti-immigrant policies.

Another avenue of my intervention research focuses on reducing Islamophobia. For instance, in one project (Moore-Berg, Hameiri, Falk, & Bruneau, manuscript in preparation), I conducted an intervention tournament that compared the effectiveness of several anti-Islamophobia intervention videos. Importantly, these videos were developed by practitioners and are currently being used in the field to combat Islamophobia. After identifying the successful intervention videos, I conducted several follow-up studies to determine the psychological mechanisms (recognition of media bias against Muslims and identity overlap between Muslims and Americans) through which these successful videos work. I am currently in the process of assessing a new set of intervention videos in order to identify additional successful anti-Islamophobia videos and the mechanisms through which they work.

Implicit Social Cognition

Implicit attitudes—attitudes that are outside of our conscious control or awareness—are paramount to intergroup interactions; they affect our views of others, influence our reactions to others, and shape our interactions with others. In this line of research, I seek to understand what the antecedents of implicit attitudes are, what implicit attitudes predict, and how implicit attitudes affect intergroup interactions. Some of my recent work has focused on understanding implicit stigmatization about non-suicidal self-injury (Piccorillo, Burke, Moore-Berg, Heimberg, & Alloy, 2018; Piccorillo, Burke, Moore-Berg, Heimberg, & Alloy, manuscript in preparation), the influence of racial labels on implicit attitudes (Moore-Berg, Fitzpatrick, & Karpinski, under review), and the predictive validity of implicit measures (Moore-Berg, Briggs, & Karpinski, 2019).

© Copyright 2019, Samantha Moore-Berg