Malleability in biracial categorizations: The impact of geographic context and targets' racial heritage

Kristin Pauker, Colleen M. Carpinella, David J. Lick, Diana T. Sanchez, Kerri L. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The growing multiracial population and the emergent body of research examining how we categorize this population highlights the complexity and malleability inherent in racial categorization. Few studies, however, have examined how categorization of multiracial targets as biracial (rather than a presumed monoracial category) differs across different geographic contexts or how perceivers categorize multiracial minority targets (i.e., those who are not part White). Here, we examined malleability in racial categorizations of Black-White, Asian-White, and Asian-Black faces across two geographic contexts: Hawai'i and California. We found that perceivers (in Hawai'i in Study 1; in both contexts in Study 2) categorized Black-White faces most often as biracial, followed by Asian-Black faces, and then Asian-White faces. Moreover, those who lived in a geographic context with a large biracial population (Hawai'i) categorized multiracial targets as biracial more often than those who lived in a majority White context (California).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-480
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • Malleability in person perception
  • Multiracial
  • Racial categorization
  • Racially ambiguous

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