J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 Mar;88(3):447-66.
American = White?
Devos T, Banaji MR.
Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-4611, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Six studies investigated the extent to which American ethnic groups (African, Asian, and White) are associated with the category "American." Although strong explicit commitments to egalitarian principles were expressed in Study 1, Studies 2-6 consistently revealed that both African and Asian Americans as groups are less associated with the national category "American" than are White Americans. Under some circumstances, a dissociation between mean levels of explicit beliefs and implicit responses emerged such that an ethnic minority was explicitly regarded to be more American than were White Americans, but implicit measures showed the reverse pattern (Studies 3 and 4). In addition, Asian American participants themselves showed the American = White effect, although African Americans did not (Study 5). The American = White association was positively correlated with the strength of national identity in White Americans. Together, these studies provide evidence that to be American is implicitly synonymous with being White. ((c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved).
PMID: 15740439 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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These data also indicate that the American = White effect cannot be reduced to a form of pro-White automatic attitude. Even though American symbols were highly valued, pairing these symbols with faces of White and Asian individuals produced a pattern of associations that differ, in terms of direction and intensity, from that observed on a measure tapping implicit ethnic attitudes. Specifically, Asian American participants displayed a significant implicit preference for their ethnic group (in-group favoritism), yet they showed the American = White effect. In addition, responses provided by White American participants indicated that their propensity to link Whites to American was much stronger than their automatic pro-White attitude.
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The strength of American and ethnic identity were associated for White American participants (r =.40, p <.02), whereas no significant association between these two indexes was found for Asian American participants (r =.00). These findings are consistent with data reported by Sidanius et al. (1997) and support the idea that American and ethnic identities overlap for White Americans, whereas these identities are distinct for an ethnic minority such as Asian Americans.
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The results of this study provide strong evidence for implicit national identity. The category “American” automatically elicits a positive evaluation. It is also clearly incorporated in the collective aspect of the self. A comparison of the mean levels of American identity for Asian and White Americans revealed that these two groups displayed equally strong American identity. This finding is counterintuitive, because Asian Americans, at the same time, internalized the idea that their group does not fully belong to the national entity. These data are in line with results of a previous study showing that African Americans felt as strongly American as White Americans but were aware that they were not perceived as being American (Barlow, Taylor, & Lambert, 2000). A major difference between this previous study and the results obtained here is that we provide evidence for a discrepancy between beliefs about the group and the self operating outside of conscious control.
The equally strong level of American identification among White and Asian Americans should not eclipse important differences in the interrelations among ethnic and American identities. In line with social dominance theory (Sidanius et al., 1997; Sidanius & Petrocik, 2001; Sinclair et al., 1998), ethnic and American identities were inextricably linked for White Americans, whereas these identities were distinct for Asian Americans. [. . .] Even on the basis of the current findings, a clear asymmetry characterized the interrelations between ethnic and American identities for the White majority and the ethnic minority. In contrast to White Americans, Asian Americans cannot rely on their ethnicity to achieve a national identity. For White Americans, these two identities tend to be merged beyond the level of conscious awareness.
American = White
I have no strong opinion on the general utility of "Implicit Association Tests", but I find these results entirely believable. An association of "American" and "White" would have been entirely unremarkable a generation or two ago. Here, the participants are present-day Yale students.