Doing hair, doing race: the influence of hairstyle on racial perception across the US: Ethnic and Racial Studies: Vol 43, No 12
Hair is an easily changeable “racial marker” feature. Although growing interdisciplinary research suggests that hairstyle influences how one is racially perceived, extant methodological practices in racial perception research reduce external validity. This study introduces new experimental and analytical procedures to test the effect of hairstyle on racial perception across racial contexts. Over 1,000 participants from primarily white, black and multiracial test sites racially categorized a diverse group of women from matched pairs of pictures in which the women have different hairstyles. Results from multilevel regression show that altering hairstyle significantly alters how participants perceive mixed-race women, Latinas, most black and some white women and that this varies by racial context with perceptions of race being less swayed by hairstyle in the multiracial context. Our research thus demonstrates that doing hair is a context-dependent part of “doing race” that has theoretical, methodological, and legal implications.
KEYWORDS: Racial perception, racialization, doing race, physical appearance, hair, experiments