Museum of Science, Boston

Biracial Situations

How does a person’s social identity influence others’ expectations of them?

Past research has found that some aspects of one’s social identity can affect how that person is treated by others. For example, stereotypes can influence people’s behavior during social interactions. This project explores the ways that diverse settings might affect the way people think, feel, and behave in social situations, and might influence their expectations of other people.

In this study, we ask participants to imagine how they would interact with someone they have not met before in a social situation. Next, we ask them to answer questions on a computer regarding their perceptions of the images, people, or situations they encountered.

We expect that some aspects of the situation (e.g., the topic participants imagined discussing with another person) or the people described in the stories (e.g., their social identity) will affect participants’ expectations of others and their thoughts about the situations.

This study will help us to understand how various aspects of others’ social identities can influence our expectations and behavior during social interactions in daily life. In a society that is becoming increasingly diverse, this is an important issue to study.

Learn about other research related to Human Biology.

This research is conducted by the Social Psychology Lab at Tufts University

Try it at the Museum

Interacting with others

Spend some time watching the Tamarin monkeys in the Human Body Connection. What kinds of social interactions do they have with one another? Do they pay attention to each other, or just ignore each other? Do they groom each other? Play or fight?

Humans show many of the same types of social interactions as other primates. Are there any social behaviors that humans show but other primates do not? Do you think monkeys have expectations about how other monkeys should behave?

Try it at Home

Who are you?

Our social identities can be very complex, involving many aspects of your life, background, and culture. How would you fill in the sentence “I am a…” Try to brainstorm as many parts of your identity as you can! How many different descriptions of yourself can you come up with?