Impact Of Appearance Type On Attitudes Towards Ethnic Lookism

Abstract

This study focuses the attitudes towards lookism defined as discrimination of ethnic groups based on everyday description of their appearance such as “Slavic, North Caucasus or Asian type of appearance”. It is hypothesized that the interplay of appearance type and gender influences the level of lookism acceptance. The study is aimed 1) to identify different levels of lookism acceptance in relation to type of interaction situation, type of target’s (discriminated person) appearance and gender as well as 2) to analyze gender differences in acceptance of discriminating behavior. The inventory “Assessment of Acceptance of Discriminating Behavior towards Ethnic Groups” was administered. The inventory includes 15 interaction situations such as “living together” or “go for a walk” that vary in target’s appearance type and gender. The results show that level of lookism acceptance depends on appearance type and gender of discriminated person and on the type of interaction situation. There no significant differences in the level of lookism acceptance in relation to participants gender. However males tend to have higher level of lookism acceptance in comparison to females. It could be also concluded that the level of lookism acceptance is significantly different when a male target with North Caucasus appearance is discriminated in studied situations.

Keywords: Attitudesdiscriminationethnic lookismappearancegender

Introduction

One of the approaches considering interaction in poly-ethnic environments has routes in the ethnic

anthropology and is aimed at development of ethno-cultural typologies. This approach is presented in

psychological paradigms examining face perception of individuals of different ethnicity (Anan'eva, 2008)

or exploring perception of physical attractiveness from the perspective of race theory (Аksjanova, 2003).

The influence of ethno-territorial and gender factors on esthetic perception of human face is also

addressed in the frameworks of ethnic anthropology (Haldeeva, 2004). From the perspective of ethnic

psychology anthropological features of face and appearance can serve as classification criteria for ethnic

groups. Thus, the appearance has a function of differentiation of ethnic groups (Soldatova, 1998).

Basing on findings concerning graphical representation of „Russianness“, „People of Russia“

(Vishlenkova, 2007) is stated that construction of borders of ethnic uniqueness is done by identification of

distinctiveness of individuals who belong to out-groups. According to the social-psychological model of

Stranger perception the knowledge about out-group members includes characteristics of individuals that

could be perceived directly such as color of hairs, eyes, skin, figure, dress (Skarabis, Shäfer & Shleder,

2004).

It is stressed (Leontovich, 2007) that appearance has a role of ethnic community demonstration

and can divide social and ethnic groups into “visible” and “invisible”. Strengthening the role of

appearance in different types of interaction leads to greater value and importance of appearance that

for instance becomes responsible for all changes in one individual’s life (Moss, Lawson & White,

2014). This understanding of appearance functions reflects the existing in the modern psychology

discussion concerning “appearance and discrimination praxis” (Adamitis, 2000; Bello, 2004; Cates &

Dana, 2012; Jawahar & Mattsson, 2005; Johnson et al, 2007).

Stock (2014) pointed out that clash between socio-cultural representations about appearance and

its importance in various social contexts can lead to greater “cultural shock” und consequently can result

in more frequent discriminating behavior. Accordingly, the appearance concern increases in

representatives of ethnical groups which appearance is dissimilar to majority group. Jankowski et al

(2014) suppose that social –cultural pressure experienced by ethnic minorities leads to strong desire to

change own appearance also in elderly people.

Political and everydaylanguage of Russian modern society includes such definitions as “person

with North Caucasus appearance” or “person with Slavic appearance”. Jarskaja (2011) mentions that race

discourse“ is becoming more popular in different life spheres that in turn triggers negative attitudes

towards representatives of ethnic groups. Appearance related labels of ethnic groups used in everyday life

are linked indirectly with anthropological classifications and are products of interethnic and intercultural

interaction. These labels being translated through mass media back into ethnic, political, and everyday

communication increase the accessibility of discriminating behavior.

State if the art

The understanding of discrimination as political, vocational, cultural phenomenon or as violation

of human rights and limitation escalation is suggested in various studies. In addition to ethnic, gender or

age discrimination the notion of lookism is introduced in the literature and is defined as discrimination

based on individual’s appearance. It was mention in the introduction section that ethnic-cultural

categorization of others is built upon their appearance. Thus, the investigation of ethnical discrimination

should be combined with the analysis of lookism as both are complement social-psychological

phenomena. For this purpose the notion of ethnolookism is introduced und defined as discrimination

towards representatives of ethnic groups based on their appearance (Bzezjan, 2012; Labunskaya &

Bzezjan, 2014, 2016; Pogonceva, 2013). Taking into account that discriminating behavior undergoes a

transition from explicit and institutionalized patterns to symbolic, indirect, and hidden patterns of

discrimination, the phenomenon of ethnic lookism is considered in this study as commonplace, hidden,

and masked discriminating behavior.

Basing on these assumptions the empirical-research model of ethnic lookism contains the

operationalization of attitude ethnic lookism as attitude towards discriminating behavior of others

directed at members of ethnic groups with diverse type of appearance (Labunskaya & Bzezjan, 2014,

2016). Attitude towards discriminating behavior of others is operationalised as individual’s acceptance or

non-acceptance of discriminating behavior of others. Acceptance of discriminating behavior of others

implies the readiness of individual to perform discriminating behavior himself. The attitude towards

discriminating behavior of others is measured with Likert scale as agreement vs. disagreement with

discrimination towards representatives of ethnic groups depicted in various interaction situations. The

description of ethnic appearance types used in the study are adopted from the commonplace

communication: “Slavic type of appearance”, “North Caucasus type of appearance”, “Asian type of

appearance”. Following parameters are varied in the empirical-research model of ethnic lookism: 1)

interaction situation; 2) characteristics of the target of discrimination: type of appearance and gender as

well as 3) gender of study participants.

Research Questions

1. Does level of discriminating behavior acceptance depend on type of appearance of target of

discrimination?

2. Does level of discriminating behavior acceptance depend on interplay between type of

appearance of target of discrimination and his gender?

3. What types of interaction situation increase the level of discriminating behavior acceptance?

4. Are there any gender differences in levels of discriminating behavior acceptance?

Purpose of the Study

The study is aimed at investigation of differences in levels of discriminating behavior acceptance

in relation to type of interaction situation, type of target’s appearance and target’s gender as well as

gender of participants.

Participants and Research Methods

93 females and 35 males aged 19 to 27 (M=23) who indicated their identification with the Slavic

type of appearance took part in the study. The inventory “Assessment of Acceptance of Discriminating

Behavior towards Ethnic Groups” was developed for the purposes of the study (Лабунской, Бзезян,

2014). The inventory contains 15 vignettes describing interaction of two persons whereas first one is

performing discriminating behavior towards the other one - target person. The target’s gender (male vs.

female) and type of appearance (“Slavic type of appearance” vs. “North Caucasus type of appearance” vs.

“Asian type of appearance”) are as well as the type of interaction (“providing with service” vs. “living

together” vs. “walking in the city”) were varied. The acceptance of discriminating behavior towards

members of other ethnic groups is operationalised as degree of agreement with discriminating behavior

described in vignettes. Participants indicated their agreement with discriminating behavior described in

vignettes on a five point Likert scale.

Following scores were calculated: 1) general score of acceptance of discriminating behavior

(calculated as a sum of agreement scores reached by participants in each vignette divided through number

of situations (GLADB = ∑15); 2) scores of acceptance of discriminating behavior in relation to the

target’s type of appearance (acceptance of discriminating behavior towards target with Slavic vs. North

Caucasus vs. Asian type of appearance); 3) scores of acceptance of discriminating behavior in relation to

the target’s type of appearance and gender (acceptance of discriminating behavior towards females vs.

males with Slavic vs. North Caucasus vs. Asian type of appearance); 4) scores of acceptance of

discriminating behavior in relation to the type of interaction situation, target’s type of appearance and

gender (acceptance of discriminating behavior in “providing with service” vs. “living together” vs.

“walking in the city” situations towards females vs. males with Slavic vs. North Caucasus vs. Asian type

of appearance). The specific scores are calculated analogous to calculation of general agreement score.

Results

The data was processed using SPSS Version 13.The t-test of mean comparison for paired and

independent samples was administered. Results show that level of acceptance of discriminating behavior

depends significantly on the target’s type of appearance (Table 1 ), on the combination of target’s gender

and type of appearance (Table 2 ), on the type of interaction situation (Table 3 ). The results indicate

significant gender differences in the level of acceptance of discriminating behavior (Table 4).

In detail results testify that level of acceptance of discriminating behavior towards targets with

North Caucasus type of appearance is significantly higher compared to targets with Slavic or Asian type

of appearance and that level of acceptance of discriminating behavior towards targets with Slavic type of

appearance is significantly lower in comparison to Asian one (Т=4,616; Т=3,245; Т=-2,259) (Table 1 ).

Table 1 -
See Full Size >

Legend:LADB – level of acceptance of discriminating behavior towards: ”CAP” – North Caucasus type

of appearance; ”SAP” – Slavic type of appearance; ”AAP” – Asian type of appearance.

Further on the results reveal that level of acceptance of discriminating behavior towards female

(Т=3,29) and male (Т=3,41) targets with North Caucasus type of appearance is significantly higher in

comparison to female (Т=-3,06) and male (Т= -2,53) targets with Asian type of appearance following by

female and male targets with Slavic type of appearance (Table 2 ).

Table 2 -
See Full Size >

Legend:LADB – level of acceptance of discriminating behavior towards: ”CAP” (F)/(M) – female/male

with North Caucasus type of appearance; ”SAP” (F)/(M) – female/male with Slavic type of appearance;

”AAP” (F)/(M) – female/male with Asian type of appearance

Level of acceptance of discriminating behavior in specific situations differs significantly

depending on target’s gender and type of appearance (Table 03 ). Level of acceptance of discriminating

behavior towards male targets with North Caucasus type of appearance in situations “providing with

service” (Т=2,65) and “living together” (Т=5,02) is higher compared to level of acceptance of

discriminating behavior towards male targets with Slavic (Т=5,02) or Asian (Т=3,67) type of appearance

in these situations. Level of acceptance of discriminating behavior towards female targets with North

Caucasus type of appearance in named situations is higher in contrast to female targets with Slavic

(Т=4,529) or Asian (Т= 3,53) type of appearance. The same tendencies were observed for the situation

“walking in the city”.

Figure 1: Level of acceptance of discriminating behavior in relation to the type of interaction situation. Results of t – test for paired samples
Level of acceptance of discriminating behavior in relation to the type of interaction situation. Results of t – test for paired samples
See Full Size >

Results demonstrate that there are no significance gender differences in level of acceptance of

discriminating behavior towards members of other ethnic groups (Table 4). At the same time it could be

stated that level of acceptance of discriminating behavior in males is higher compared to females (Т=-

2,03) especially for targets with North Caucasus (Т=-1,57) and Asian (Т=-1,54) type of appearance.

Table 3 -
See Full Size >

Legend:(F) /(M) GLADB - general score of acceptance of discriminating behavior of female/male

participants; (F)/(M) SitPs - level of acceptance of discriminating behavior of female/male participants in

situation “providing with service”; (F)/(M) SitLt - level of acceptance of discriminating behavior of

female/male participants in situation “living together”; (F)/(M) SitWc - level of acceptance of

discriminating behavior of female/male participants in situation “walking in the city”; (F)/(M) LADB –

level of acceptance of discriminating behavior of female/male participants towards: ”CAP” – North

Caucasus type of appearance; ”SAP” – Slavic type of appearance; ”AAP” – Asian type of appearance;

”CAP” (F)/(M) – female/male with North Caucasus type of appearance; ”SAP” (F)/(M) – female/male

with Slavic type of appearance; ”AAP” (F)/(M) – female/male with Asian type of appearance.

Conclusion

1. Level of acceptance of discriminating behaviortowards representatives of ethnic groups with

North Caucasus type of appearance is significantly higher in comparison to representatives of ethnic

Table 4.groups with Slavic and Asian type of appearance.

2. Level of acceptance of discriminating behaviortowards representatives of ethnic groups with

Slavic type of appearance is significantly lower in contrast to representatives of ethnic groups with Asian

Table 5.type of appearance.

3. The target’s gender does not impact the dominance of higher levels of acceptance of

discriminating behaviortowards targets with North Caucasus type of appearance compared to targets with

Table 6.Slavic and Asian type of appearance.

4. The target’s gender does not impact the dominance of lower levels of acceptance of

discriminating behaviortowards targets with Slavic type of appearance compared to targets with Asian

type of appearance.

5. Level of acceptance of discriminating behaviordiffers significantlydepending on type of

interaction situation: acceptance of discriminating behaviorfor male and female targets with North

Caucasus type of appearance in situations “providing with service” and “living together” was higher

compared to male and female targets with Slavic and Asian type of appearance. The same tendency was

observed for the third situation “Walking in the city”

6. No significant gender differences could be revealed for level of acceptance of discriminating

behavior towards representatives of other ethnic groups in studied interaction situations. Nevertheless the

tendency could be shown that male participants has higher level of acceptance of discriminating behavior

towards males with North Caucasus and Asian type of appearance.

Summing up, results testify the stated hypotheses 1, 2, and 3. Participants indicate higher

acceptance of discriminating behavior towards female and male targets with North Caucasus type of

appearance in comparison to female and male targets with Slavic and Asian type of appearance. Level of

acceptance of discriminating behaviorsignificantlyincreases in interaction situations "providing with

service", "living together" , and "walking in the city” when the target of discrimination has North

Caucasus type of appearance. Hypothesis 4 could be partially verified. The tendency could be proved

indicating that male participants demonstrate higher level of acceptance of discriminating behavior as

their female counterparts.

Discussion and limitations

Analysis of differences in levels of acceptance of discriminating behavior of others (ethnic

lookism) requires implementation of complex empirical-research model of investigation of attitudes

towards ethnic lookism (acceptance vs. non-acceptance of discriminating behavior based on appearance)

which contains three interdependent groups of factors: 1) in relation to person accepting discriminating

behavior - ethnicity, ethnical identity, affective-evaluative attitudes towards minority ethnic groups,

appearance stereotypes; 2) in relation to target of discriminating behavior – gender and ethnicity

identified as type of appearance; 3) in relation to interaction situation – different type of situations

"providing with service", "living together", and "walking in the city”. According to this model attitude

towards ethnic lookism is predicted by the system of attitudes towards discriminating behavior in general,

value and importance of appearance, satisfaction with own appearance connected with overall subjective

well-being and life satisfaction. Despite the individual characteristics listed above are not exhausted, these

very characteristics define the appearance attitudes and, consequently, could impact the acceptance or

non-acceptance of discriminating behavior of others towards ethnic groups based on their type of

appearance.

Acknowledgments

This study was conducted in the frameworks of research project №16-36-00049 supported by Russian Humanitarian Scientific Foundation.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2017.01.02.15

Online ISSN

2357-1330