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Race in the Live and the Virtual Interview: Racial Deference, Social Desirability, and Activation Effects in Attitude Surveys

Publication Abstract

Krysan, M., and Mick P. Couper. 2003. "Race in the Live and the Virtual Interview: Racial Deference, Social Desirability, and Activation Effects in Attitude Surveys." Social Psychology Quarterly, 66(4): 364-383.

Americans' views on racial issues are regularly captured in sample surveys. The survey interviews themselves, however, may not be neutral measurement tools, and indeed may reflect the racial tensions existing in society. The answers given to an interviewer of one race may differ from those given to an interviewer of another. This study incorporates innovative technological advances to overcome methodological shortcomings in existing studies. We contrast live interviewers with "virtual" interviewers, using a computerassisted self-interviewing system that displays digital videos of interviewers. We administered a series of survey items on race and race-related issues to both African American and white respondents, using both black and white interviewers, in a controlled laboratory setting. Results varied by question topic. Where effects occurred, African Americans provided less liberal racial attitudes to white interviewers in both the live and the virtual condition. For some categories of questions, however, whites gave more racially conservative responses to the virtual black interviewer than to the virtual white interviewer; this suggests an effect of stereotype activation rather than of social presence.

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