Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Michael Strube


Previous research has shown that racial images representing more typical Afrocentric phenotypic characteristics result in more negative evaluations, whether assessed by explicit or implicit attitudes measures. However, the factors that define and moderate the perception of racial typicality have not been sufficiently explored. The current research investigated additive and interactive influences of skin tone and facial physiognomy on racial typicality evaluations, as well as the degree to which those effects were moderated by explicit and implicit racial attitudes, ethnicity of participants, and availability of cognitive resources. Using a 6-point scale ranging from very African American to very Caucasian, participants: N = 250) judged faces varying on 10 levels of facial physiognomy: from very Afrocentric to very Eurocentric) and 10 levels of skin color: from very dark to very light). Additionally, time constraints were manipulated by having participants complete the racial typicality judgments three times without a response deadline, with a deadline equal to their median response during the no-deadline condition, and with a deadline equal to their 25th percentile response during the no-deadline condition. Skin color and facial physiognomy interacted to influence racial typicality ratings, and this interaction was further qualified by the time constraint manipulation. Under time constraints, participants primarily relied on skin color when rating faces of extreme levels of facial physiognomy, whereas they relied on both skin color and facial physiognomy when rating faces of intermediate levels of facial physiognomy. Other results indicated that the relationship between skin color and participants' ratings of racial typicality was stronger for those with higher implicit racial attitudes. European American and Asian American participants relied upon skin color more than African American participants, and African American participants relied upon facial physiognomy more than European American and Asian American participants. Conceptual, methodological and practical implications for race-relevant decisions are discussed.


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