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To Treat or Not to Treat: The Impact of Hairstyle on Implicit and Explicit Perceptions of African American Women’s Competence

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Document pages: 10 pages

Abstract: African American women wearing their natural Afrocentric hair withoutaltering its texture have long beendiscriminated against in the workplace, at school, in the military, in thejustice system, and more. This phenomenon has been found to be mainly driven bythe notion that African American women wearing their natural hair are lessprofessional than African American women wearing chemically treated,Eurocentric hair. In prior work, dimensions such as perceived dominance, intelligence,and unpleasantness have been explored as potential mechanisms playing a role in the relationship between African American hair and perceivedprofessionalism. Here, we explore an additional such dimension: perceivedcompetence. In a sample of 186 predominantly Caucasian Cloud Researchparticipants, we found that African American women wearing their naturalAfrocentric hair were perceived both implicitly and explicitly as being lesscompetent than African American women wearing Eurocentric hair, and that the implicit and explicitattitudes were not correlated. These findings are relevant to understandingbarriers that may hinder African American women in their academic andprofessional careers.

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