Classifying faces: social categorisation among young people in segregated Chile

Facial appearance is salient in first impressions and plays an important role for judgmental heuristics in person perception. However, in situations where people lack information about their partners, individuals might rely on racial stereotypes in judging others. The effect of this social categorisation can be stronger in socio-economic contexts of unequal income distribution and class distinction. The highly segregated Chilean school system constitutes one of those contexts: while the majority of municipal schools enrol lower-income students, well-off students attend fee-paying private schools mostly. Since this class differentiation has been occurring for the last twenty years at least, most of the young people in Chile attended segregated schools. I study the intersections of face evaluation, race and class among young people in Chile. Using controlled stimuli and an experimental procedure, I explored (1) the trait dimensions young people use to evaluate faces; (2) how these dimensions vary according to facial appearance (a proxy for race); and (3) how consistently facial appearance is used to infer the type of school pupils attend (a proxy for class). To do so, one hundred first-year university students were requested to judge, in a set of attributes, unfamiliar photographs of emotionally neutral faces of thirty high school pupils. Also, participants were requested to "guess" (i.e., impute) the type of school pupils in the photographs were enrolled. In this CRESS Seminar, I will present and discuss the main results of this study, which is part of a broader research I am leading on social preferences and class inequality in Chile. One of my research objectives is to calibrate agent-based models to simulate these dynamics that may help us to reach desirable outcomes.

Tuesday, 9 September, 2014 - 12:30 to 14:00
Mauricio Salgado
Presenter(s) biography: 

M. Salgado is research fellow and associate professor at the School of Sociology, Universidad Andrés Bello (Viña del Mar, Chile).