[Proposal] How Might the Accuracy of our Group Perceptions Relate to our Socioemotional Wellbeing?

How Might the Accuracy of our Group Perceptions Relate to our Socioemotional Wellbeing?


Accurately understanding the on-average behaviors and attitudes of groups is crucial to social and economic coordination in large and complex societies. Despite this, the majority of research on “interpersonal accuracy” has focused rather myopically on perceptions of other individual persons, instead of on our sociological perceptions of groups (Hall et al., 2016). That is, researchers typically assess peoples’ biases and judgments regarding other individuals and analyze how those biases and judgments impact their attitudes toward others.

This research has shown that people are fairly good at assessing the personality traits, trustworthiness, riskiness and emotional states of other individuals (Letzring & Funder, 2016). In fact, person-perception is more accurate when the perceiver is emotionally stable, warm, agreeable, considerate and of lower socioeconomic status, as opposed to defensive, hostile, manipulative, avoidant, vindictive and of higher socioeconomic status (Bjornsdottir et al., 2017; Letzring and Funder, 2016). Generally, the more accurate peoples’ perceptions of other individuals are, the more empathetic people are towards these others (Hodges & Wise, 2016). Interpersonal accuracy is thus considered to be adaptive because it facilitates efficient social integration and coordination—the more one understands others’ expectations, the better one can meet or address them (Schmid Mast & Hall, 2018; Palese & Mast, 2020).

But how successfully do we interpret the attitudes and behaviors of groups as opposed to individuals? After all, we never interact with whole groups, only with individuals defined as representatives of groups. As such, individuals may need to rely more on third party accounts from media, education and other institutions in order to form their opinions about large-scale demographic groups. Yet, as with person-perception accuracy, our accuracy about these various demographic groups (e.g., men, women, immigrants, racial minorities, political outgroups) may substantially influence our attitudes and desires to associate with them. Moreover, as with person-perception accuracy, peoples’ group-perception accuracy might well influence their emotional stability and mental health, though this possibility is under-researched.

Research Objectives

We propose to significantly extend accuracy-perception research by conducting a survey of the accuracy of peoples’ perception of three broad demographic categories: gender, race, and political orientation. Our supposition is that where individuals harbor misconceptions about the on-average beliefs or behaviors of a demographic group, particularly when such misconceptions relate to that group’s apparent deprivation or dangerousness, the misconception itself becomes a potentially important correlate of personal socio-emotional wellbeing.

Our study will assess participants’ accuracy about the demographic groups mentioned above across three domains (crime, the economy and education). These accuracy beliefs will be chosen on the basis of available secondary data and opinion polling in the United Kingdom and United States (thus allowing us to verify participants’ relative group-perception accuracy). Here are some examples of the topics we will inquire about:

Our overarching research question is, “How does accuracy (or inaccuracy) about the on-average beliefs and behaviors of other groups influence individuals’ psychological wellbeing (e.g., emotion dysregulation) and associational interest (e.g., warmth towards group members, trust)?

Method, Sample & Study Costs

Our survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. The survey will include standard control measures (e.g., age, sex, SES), group perceptions, estimates of participants’ sense of warmth or comfort around target groups, and mental health indices. We will target respondents (a) from the United States and the United Kingdom, (b) that identify as Black or White, (c) that are fluent in English, (d) that have completed at least a secondary education, and (e) that identify as male or female. Currently, there are over 40,000 participants active in Prolific’s system that meet that criteria (as of May 16th, 2021).

Based on power calculations using relevant data from a previous study (Saide, McCaffree, & Richert, in press) we estimate needing 365 respondents per group. We have 8 proposed groups across gender, race, and political orientation (2 x 2 x 2) which results in an ideal sample size is 2920. After adding in additional participants to account for poor data quality (e.g., inattention) and setting the participant pay amount at ÂŁ7.52/ per hour (or $9.52/per hour), we are asking for a total award amount of ÂŁ8021.33 (or $10,154.67).
The survey may need to be split and run separately for different groups to ensure representativeness through the Prolific platform.

Dedication to Open Science

Our research team (https://worldviewfoundationslab.com/) is dedicated to sharing research findings with the public in transparent and easily accessible ways. To achieve our mission, we will partner with the Skeptics Society, a public-facing nonprofit science education organization with an international platform, to release the findings of this study online for free. We will release approximately six short digestible reports along with copies of our statistical outputs for analytic transparency.
Preregistration link: https://aspredicted.org/w7sn7.pdf


Bjornsdottir, R. T., Alaei, R., & Rule, N. O. (2017). The perceptive proletarian: Subjective social class predicts interpersonal accuracy. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 41(2), 185-201.

Hall, J. A., Mast, M. S., & West, T. V. (Eds.). (2016). The social psychology of perceiving others accurately. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hodges, S. D., & Wise, A. A. P. (2016). Interpersonal accuracy: Real and perceived links to prosocial behavior. In J. A. Hall, M. S. Mast, & T. V. West (Eds.), The social psychology of perceiving others accurately (p. 350–375). Cambridge University Press.

Letzring, T.D. & Funder, D.C. (2016). Interpersonal Accuracy in Trait Judgments. In: V. Ziegler-Hill & T.K. Shackelford (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Personality and Individual Differences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Palese T., Mast M.S. (2020) Interpersonal Accuracy and Interaction Outcomes: Why and How Reading Others Correctly Has Adaptive Advantages in Social Interactions. In: Sternberg R., Kostić A. (eds) Social Intelligence and Nonverbal Communication. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Schmid Mast, M., & Hall, J. A. (2018). The impact of interpersonal accuracy on behavioral outcomes. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(5), 309-314.