God as a White man: A psychological barrier to conceptualizing Black people and women as leadership worthy.

Abstract

In the United States, God is commonly conceptualized as the omnipotent and omniscient entity that created the universe, and as a White man. We questioned whether the extent to which God is conceptualized as a White man predicts the extent to which White men are perceived as particularly fit for leadership. We found support for this across 7 studies. In Study 1, we created 2 measures to examine the extent to which U.S. Christians conceptualized God as a White man, and in Study 2 we found that, controlling for multiple covariates (e.g., racist and sexist attitudes, religiosity, political attitudes), responses on these measures predicted perceiving White male job candidates as particularly fit for leadership, among both Black and White, male and female, Christians. In Study 3, we found that U.S. Christian children, both White and racial minority, conceptualized God as more White than Black (and more male than female), which predicted perceiving White people as particularly boss-like. We next found evidence to suggest that this phenomenon is rooted in broader intuitions that extend beyond Christianity. That is, in a novel context with novel groups and a novel god, U.S. Christian adults (Studies 4 and 6), atheist adults (Study 5), and agnostic preschoolers (Study 7), used a god’s identity to infer which groups were best fit for leadership. Collectively, our data reveal a clear and consistent pattern: Attributing a social identity to God predicts perceiving individuals who share that identity as more fit for leadership.

Publication
In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Featured in:

  • Psychology Today: The Trouble with Seeing God as a White Man
  • Stanford Daily News: Who people believe rules in heaven influences their beliefs about who rules on Earth, Stanford scholars find