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Anti-Semitism and Identification of Jewish Group Membership from Photographs

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Early literature found that holding more anti-Semitic attitudes positively predicted ability to discern whether a photograph was of a Jewish or non-Jewish person. This contradicts the well established finding that interpersonal sensitivity is generally associated with healthy psychological characteristics. In five new, previously unpublished studies we found that this relation was negative, such that more prejudiced individuals were now less accurate than less prejudiced individuals at a similar task, consistent with the general finding. A meta-analysis of all the studies showed that time was a significant moderator of the relation. Possible reasons for the temporal change are discussed.

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  1. While all of the new studies specifically measured anti-Semitic attitudes, some of the earlier studies utilized prejudice measures that combined anti-Semitism with other prejudicial attitudes. Allport and Kramer (1946), Elliott and Wittenberg (1955), and Lindzey and Rogolsky (1950) specifically looked at anti-Semitism while Himmelfarb (1966) and Dorfman et al. (1971) looked at a combination of prejudice toward Jews, African-Americans, and Catholics. Scodel and Austrin (1957) used the California F scale and Quanty et al. (1975) used the Allport-Vernon prejudice scale.

  2. In order to save space in the text we provide the methodology only for the new studies. The original articles may be consulted to ascertain the slight differences in methodology among the original studies.

  3. The formula for A′ was taken from Quanty et al. (1975): \( A^{\prime} = .5 + \frac{\left( {\text {Hits}} - {\text {False}}\;{\text {Alarms}} \right)\left( 1 + {\text {Hits}} - {\text {False}}\;{\text {Alarms}} \right)}{4{\text {Hits}}\left( 1 - {\text {False}}\;{\text {Alarms}} \right)} \)

  4. Analyses to detect curvilinear trends were conducted in all five studies, but there was never any such evidence. Also, although in general across the five studies, the relation between accuracy and prejudice was more negative for women than for men, this difference was not statistically significant across all of the studies.

  5. It is not unheard of for the personal characteristics associated with social attitudes to change over time. As Frank (2004) showed in his book What’s the Matter With Kansas?, liberal political values used to prevail among the working class while conservatism was the creed of the upper class, but in very recent history this association has reversed itself. It is possible that there has been a corresponding shift in the psychological characteristics associated with prejudice.

  6. Since the submission of this article the first author has continued to explore the relation between prejudice towards different outgroups and other types of interpersonal sensitivity tasks (e.g., judging emotion). This research found a similar relationship between accuracy at judging emotion and a decoding deficit for highly prejudiced persons. The similar relation of both types of accuracy with prejudice suggests that prejudiced attitudes are negatively related to several different types of nonverbal decoding skills and not just one specific type of interpersonal sensitivity.


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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Susan A. Andrzejewski or Judith A. Hall.

Additional information

The authors thank Fred Gordon for his theoretical insights, Paul White for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, and Lisa Babin, Christine Barry, Vanessa Castro, Michelle Cowdrick, Karima Sharif, Katie Sobiech, and Halle Thurnauer for assistance in conducting the studies.



Examples of criteria for determining group membership for identification tasks




Debbie Friedman, singer of Jewish music

Tovah Feldshuh, portrays Golda Meir on stage

Benny Levy, Jewish philosopher

Jonathan Nissim Schulhof, married by rabbi

Eugene Eisenberg, funeral at Jewish funeral home

Benjamin Brafman, orthodox Jew

Benjamin Blech, rabbi

Anglo non-Jewish

Colleen Meade, married by Catholic priest

Donald Menzies, funeral in Catholic church

Denis Hurley, Catholic priest

Mark Lanier, talks about his Christmas celebration and going to church

Timothy Lucie, belongs to evangelical church

Robbie O’Connell, singer of Irish songs


Eunice Zavala, wife of illegal Mexican immigrant

Juan Escalante, father emigrated from Mexico

Marivel Gutierez, works in San Antonio, reference to Mexico

Thelma Delgado-Josey, Spanish bilingual teacher

Felix Arroyo, described as Latino

Chita Rivera, Hispanic actress


Djillali Antar, parents are from Algeria

Ihad Rashad, comes from Egypt

Abdul Raudi, comes from Morocco

Saalih Allie, married by Islamic cleric

Irshad Manji, says she is Muslim

Tanisha Fazal, friend of the family gave Islamic blessing at ceremony

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Andrzejewski, S.A., Hall, J.A. & Salib, E.R. Anti-Semitism and Identification of Jewish Group Membership from Photographs. J Nonverbal Behav 33, 47–58 (2009).

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