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High-visibility vests and implicit negative stereotypes: perceptions of aggressiveness, untrustworthiness, and low socio-economic position; the effect of target gender and perceiver personality

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posted on 2022-08-05, 04:32 authored by Dorothy A. Curtis

Over the past 20 years, the majority of work on implicit negative stereotypes has focussed on gender, ethnicity, individuals with disabilities, and the obese. However, given that all stimuli are automatically classified by type, valence, and relevance (Allport, 1954), the potential exists for implicit negative stereotypes to impact intergroup behaviour at all levels of society. Accordingly, the primary study aim was to use the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) to assess whether individuals wearing atypical clothing such as an orange, high-visibility fluorescent vest were implicitly perceived as more aggressive, less trustworthy, and to have a lower Social Economic Position (SEP) than when wearing a white T-shirt. Additional aims were to determine whether this difference derived from other factors such as target gender, participants’ beliefs regarding trust, tolerance, and aggression, or their acquaintance with wearers of high-visibility vests. 

Sixty-four undergraduate students completed three discrete IATs for aggression, trustworthiness, and SEP, followed by a demographic and personality questionnaire. The IAT photo-stimuli contrast depicted head/torso photos of six men and six women dressed in a white T-shirt vs. the same photos with an orange high-visibility vest superimposed over the T-shirt. The 12 verbal stimuli comprised six positive and six negative words specific to each construct. The IAT-effect (Greenwald, Nosek, & Banaji, 2003) was the average of individual participant’s Z-scores for each construct. 

As hypothesised, targets wearing orange high-visibility vests were considered more aggressive, less trustworthy and to have a lower SEP than when wearing white T-shirts. Whilst personality traits failed to predict the IAT-effect averaged across gender, they predicted differences in stereotype strength for male versus female targets which reversed at low and high levels of trait aggression and trust. The effect of prior vest acquaintance was not significant. The interpretation of the findings and the implications for potential discriminatory behaviour are discussed.


Table of Contents

[1 Introduction] -- 2 Method -- 3 Results -- 4 Discussion -- 5 General Discussion -- References -- Appendix A -- Appendix B -- Appendix C -- Appendix D


Empirical thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Research (Human Sciences) Includes bibliographical references (pages 72-88)

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis MRes, Macquarie University, Department of Psychology, 2019

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Wayne Warburton


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Dorothy A. Curtis 2015.




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