Racial Dissimilarity Influences Professional Relationship Initiation through Trustworthiness



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Forming cross-racial professional relationships leads to a variety of benefits for both majority and minority group members, including increased access to unique social resources and higher performance. Yet, professionals, especially majority group members, are unlikely to form relationships with dissimilar colleagues. Relying on a social cognitive framework, this study investigates how stereotype content associated with a specific racial group (i.e., Asian) influences White people’s initial trustworthiness judgments, and therefore, their willingness to initiate a cross-racial professional relationship. This study further examines whether this process generalizes across two forms of professional relationships: instrumental and expressive relationships. Finally, this study examines boundary conditions which may mitigate stereotype reliance, specifically whether counter-stereotypic information mitigates the negative relationship between Asian cues and benevolence-based trustworthiness. To examine the social cognitive processes underlying professional relationship initiation, I test my hypotheses on a sample of 114 White people using a within-person, experimental policy-capturing design, which allows for the manipulation of information about potential relationship partners’ race (White or Asian), warmth, and competence. Consistent with expectations, I found that benevolence-based trustworthiness was positively related to the initiation of both expressive and instrumental relationships and competence-based trustworthiness was positively related to the initiation of instrumental relationships. However, I also found that Asian stereotype content was not related to trustworthiness perceptions in the expected directions. Asian stereotype content (i.e., high competence, low warmth) was positively related to participants’ likelihood of initiating instrumental relationships via competence-based trustworthiness, but it was unrelated to benevolence-based trustworthiness perceptions. These findings suggest that White-Asian differences in stereotype content are larger in the competence dimension than in the warmth dimension. Furthermore, white participants seemed to pay less attention to warmth and competence information when forming perceptions about Asian targets.



Professional relationships, Racial stereotypes, Social resources, Stereotype content