Following the spread of COVID-19, waves of discrimination and violence against Chinese nationals and individuals of East-Asian descent have been reported across the United States and Western Europe. While anecdotal evidence suggests that these behaviors arise from the motivation to avoid being infected with COVID-19 (given the association between East Asians and the origins of COVID-19), attacks against these individuals—assumed to be COVID-19 carriers—would be counterintuitive to such motivation as close contact is involved and would ironically increase the chances of being infected. As existing studies have yet to address this contradiction, the proposed project aims to elucidate the motivations underlying the discrimination displayed against East Asians, broadly, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to pathogen avoidance theory (Tyber & Lieberman, 2016; Sarabian et al., 2018), discrimination results from the motivation to avoid being infected with disease. Mechanisms facilitating such motivation, in particular disgust, play a significant role in predicting a person’s tendency to discriminate. In contrast, intergroup threat theory (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005) posits that threat appraisals evoke anger, which spurs actions to remove sources of the threat. Discriminatory behavior manifests as one such threat-removal action.
Guided by these competing theories, we aim to test and establish the precise motives that drive discrimination against Asians occurs. This research is urgent as a better understanding of the motives behind discrimination can guide the development of interventions to reduce discrimination-driven attacks against Chinese nationals and East Asians.
At the same time, our research more fundamentally addresses the nature of aggressive discrimination, which has implications for discriminatory behavior beyond East Asians as the target group. The discrimination observed against Asians in the United States and Western Europe can similarly occur elsewhere in the world on different targets. For instance, with new variants of the disease originating from India, Indian nationals are viewed as carriers of the new variant of the disease and are increasingly being discriminated against. As such, our research investigates the use of COVID-19 to legitimize aggressive discriminatory behaviours.
Given that we are interested in examining the motivations that underlie discriminatory behaviors against East Asians, we will be excluding Asians from participating in this study.
A 15-minute online survey will be conducted in this project. Specifically, we will collect data on 1) feelings of disgust (Intergroup Disgust Sensitivity Scale, Hodson et al., 2013), 2) feelings of anger (intergroup Anger, Mackie et al., 2000), 3) endorsement of discriminatory behaviors against Asians (Perceived Ethnic Discrimination Questionnaire, Contrada et al., 2001), 4) subjective contagion (Meleady et al., 2021), 5) exposure to Asians (O’shea et al., 2020), 6) perceived threat of Asians (Maddux et al., 2008), and 7) racism against Asians (Ho & Jackson, 2001). As using self-report measures to capture intent to engage in discriminatory behaviors is likely to elicit social desirability bias, we use participants’ endorsement of discriminatory behaviors against Asians as a proxy for the likelihood that they would engage in discriminatory behaviors.
(More details regarding the materials used in this study are included at the end of this post.)
Mahalanobis and Cook’s distances will first be computed. Outliers, identified by Mahalanobis distance values being above the critical chi-square value determined by the degrees of freedom at alpha = .05 and Cook’s distance values being more than 1, will be excluded from the main analysis.
For the main analysis, we will conduct a hierarchical multiple regression analysis with endorsement of discriminatory behaviors against Asians as the dependent variable. In Step 1 of the hierarchical multiple regression analysis, controls will be included as predictors. Specifically, these control variables are subjective contagion, exposure to Asians, perceived threat of Asians, and racism against Asians. In Step 2, anger will be added as a predictor, and in Step 3, guilt will be added as the final predictor.
The same regression analysis will be repeated with the exclusion subscale of the endorsement of discriminatory behaviors against Asians as the dependent variable. We will also conduct the same regression analysis with the aggression subscale of the endorsement of discriminatory behaviors against Asians.
An a priori power analysis was conducted with GPower to determine the sample size required for this study. We opted to be conservative and based the analysis on expected observations of small effect size (Cohen’s f = .02). The power analysis revealed that to observe this effect size with a total number of 7 predictors, an observed power of 0.80, and at 0.05 alpha level, a sample size of 725 participants will be required. As such, we aim to collect 800 responses.
For a 15-minute survey involving 800 participants (prescreened*), we intend to request for a funding amount of £2,005.33. 100% of this amount will be spent on participants’ compensation.
Participant payments £1,504.00
Service fee (33%) 501.33
VAT (0% of service fee) £0.00
Total cost £2,005.33
(Participants will be pre-screened; specifically, participants who reside in United States and identify with either Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, or White/Caucasian as their ethnicity will be invited to participate in this study. Asians will be excluded from this study.)
Aspredicted: 70097 (AsPredicted: Captcha)
Study materials, raw data, and syntaxes for data analyses will be uploaded onto OSF (Open Science Framework) and made available once the study is complete.
The intergroup Disgust Sensitivity Scale (Hodson et al., 2013) is an 8-item measure that assesses feelings of disgust towards Asians. Participants will respond to statements such as “I feel disgusted when Asians invade my personal space” on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree , 7 = strongly agree ). Items will be averaged to form a single index where higher scores reflect greater feelings of disgust.
Feelings of anger towards Asians will be measured by 4 items adapted from Mackie et al. (2000). Participants indicated the extent to which they felt angry, displeased, irritated, and furious on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree , 7 = strongly agree ). Items will be averaged to form a single index where higher scores reflect greater feelings of anger.
The Perceived Ethnic Discrimination Questionnaire (Contrada et al., 2001) is a 22-item measure that will assess the endorsement of discriminatory behaviors against Asians. Participants will respond to items such as “It is acceptable if Asians were threatened to be hurt” on a 5-point scale (1 = Little to no harm , 5 = extremely harmful ). Items will be averaged to form a single index for state anger, where higher scores indicate greater endorsement of discriminatory behaviors against Asians.
To measure one’s perceived likelihood in being infected with COVID-19 (Meleady et al., 2021), participants will be asked to indicate the perceived percentage of people infected with COVID-19 in their environment on a 0% to 100% slider scale.
To measure one’s perceived exposure to Asians, who are presumably COVID-19 carriers, participants will be asked to indicate the perceived extent to which they are exposed to Asians in their daily life on a 0% to 100% slider scale.
To measure the extent one perceives Asians as a threat (broadly defined), participants will be asked to indicate the extent to which they feel threated by Asians on a 5-point scale (1 = not at all, 5 = very much ).
Eleven items adapted from Ho and Jackson (2001) will be employed to measure racist attitude held against Asians. Participants will respond to items, such as “There are too many Asians in this country” and “Asian are becoming more economically successful than they should be”, on a 5-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree ). Items will be averaged to form a single index where higher scores reflect more negative (racist) attitude against Asians.