Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Whitewashing Effect: Using Racial Contact to Signal Trustworthiness and Competence

The present research examines whether people use racial contact to signal positive and negative social attributes. 

In two experiments, participants were instructed to fake good (trustworthy/competent) or fake bad (untrustworthy/incompetent) when reporting their amount of contact with a range of different racial groups. In Experiment 1 (N = 364), participants faking good reported significantly more contact with White Americans than with non-White Americans, whereas participants faking bad did not. In Experiment 2 (N= 1,056), this pattern was replicated and was found to be particularly pronounced among those with stronger pro-White bias. 

These findings suggest that individuals may use racial contact as a social signal, effectively “whitewashing” their apparent contact and friendships when trying to present positively.

Purchase full article at:

1The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
2Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Stephen La Macchia, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia. Email:

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