An Investigation of Cultural Sensitivity and Racial Bias in the Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition

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Mentalizing, or one’s ability to understand the mental states of oneself and others, is vital for social functioning and is predictive of a wide range of social and psychological outcomes. Mentalizing ability develops via social learning and is dependent upon the environment in which one is raised. The Movie for the Assessment of Social Cognition is a widely used and ecologically valid measure of social cognition in which participants answer multiple-choice questions about the thoughts and feelings of characters in a short movie. While we know that there are cross-cultural differences in mentalizing, no study has yet investigated the impact of race within the USA on MASC scores. Thus, the aims of the proposed study are to, in a sample of young adults (N = 1,230), 1) investigate the factor structure of the MASC, 2) evaluate the MASC for bias based on race and ethnicity by evaluating its measurement invariance across racial and ethnic groups, 3) investigate the contribution of cultural sensitivity and racial ingroup effects to any cross-group differences in MASC performance using qualitative and quantitative exploratory analyses, and 4) evaluate cross-racial differences in patterns of mentalizing. Factor analytic results support a unidimensional factor structure, and measurement invariance analysis provides evidence for racial invariance. Non-Hispanic White individuals are more likely to select the “correct” answer than other racial groups, suggesting that optimal mentalizing strategy and mentalizing values and norms may differ based on racial group membership. However, limitations of measurement invariance in assessing sources of common method variance limit the strength of these conclusions.

mentalization, racial bias, cultural sensitivity, measurement invariance