Political ideology predicts beliefs about the visibility of social category memberships

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People typically encode others’ group memberships (e.g., race, sex) with above chance degrees of accuracy. However, to date research is yet to address what factors impact whether people believe that they can accurately categorize group memberships based on physical appearance, and what implications these beliefs hold for attitudes toward social issues. In the present research, we found that political conservatives were more likely than liberals to believe that group memberships can be gleaned from physical appearance. We further demonstrated that this ideological difference is in part attributable to motivations to uphold group hierarchies and maintain structure in daily life. Moreover, beliefs about group visibility played a unique role in explaining liberals’ and conservatives’ attitudes toward a contentious social issue: the justifiability of racial and religious profiling. This work highlights how basic psychological motivations guide the way in which liberals and conservatives perceive the social world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-40
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Motivation
  • Political ideology
  • Social categorization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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