Through a glass darkly: Factors influencing the perception of bias

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Title: Through a glass darkly: Factors influencing the perception of bias
Author: Solecki, Judith A.
Advisor: Schneider, David
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy thesis
Abstract: The current study focuses on understanding how individuals perceive bias. Using fictitious candidates for a job in differently discriminating companies, this study investigated three sets of factors hypothesized to contribute to the perception of bias; characteristics of the target job candidate, characteristic of the context, and characteristics (attitudes) of the participant. Participants were individuals approached in a Houston airport waiting lounge who returned the survey via a postage paid envelope (n = 108) or Rice University undergraduates (n = 49) participating in exchange for course credit. Investigation of the target characteristics showed that the target's deservedness (the extent to which the target's qualifications matched the target's selection outcome) greatly determined perceptions of bias. Race of the target was found to be more complexly related to perception of bias than originally hypothesized. The notion of target deservedness was also used to investigate the context and participant factors as contributions to bias. The theory of shifting standards was used to predict that context (past company discrimination in the current study) would influence bias in a counter-intuitive direction such that bias would not be perceived where it was expected. Perceptions of bias supported the hypothesis for deserved targets, but the results were counter to the hypothesis for undeserved targets (with the exception of selected white candidates). Participant attitudes were investigated as a third factor. Participant attitudes were not found to be predictive of bias perceptions. Alternative analyses suggest that participant attitudes may be useful for explaining bias perception when outcomes are undeserved.
Citation: Solecki, Judith A.. (2002) "Through a glass darkly: Factors influencing the perception of bias." Doctoral Thesis, Rice University.
Date: 2002

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