When we feel that the resources at our disposal at scarce, we feel that we should not share them ‘outsider’s. But does the scarcity of resources also determine who we consider an ‘outsider’ and whom we consider ‘in our group’? That’s the question a recent study tried to address.
Psychological scientist Christopher Rodeheffer and his colleagues at Texas Christian University tried to look at how outward appearance and scarcity of resources affected the “in-group” consideration in the research published in Psychological Science.
Rodeheffer and colleagues suggested that people believing in the scarcity model would narrow their definition of who ‘belongs’ and would be less likely to categorise a racially ambiguous face as part of their ‘in-group’.
In their first experiment, the researchers asked 71 white college students to look at captioned pictures that depicted instances in which resources were scarce [e.g., a picture of an empty office with captions about a shortage of good jobs] or abundant [e.g., a picture of a thriving office with captions about there being plenty of good jobs].
This was bring forth their scarcity fears or to bring the abundance model to fore. Rodeheffer and his colleagues created a series of biracial faces by averaging one White and one Black face using a face-averaging software program. They asked the participants to look at the biracial faces and categorise each face as either black or white.
The findings showed that students who had looked at pictures depicting scarce resources were more likely to categorise the faces as black than students who had seen the pictures of abundant resources.
These results were confirmed in a second experiment that used a verbal priming procedure in which the students were primed to think about resource scarcity or abundance by completing analogy problems.
According to the researchers, these findings suggest that times of economic hardship may limit the inclusiveness of people’s racial in-groups.
Since their study was only done on white participants, Rodeheffer and his colleagues suggest that more studies be done to examine whether the results are consistent across racial groups.