Read, G. L. (Forthcoming). Processing ambiguous social identity: Disclosure of identity and phenotypic prototypicality affect processing and evaluation of persuasive messages. Journal of Communication.
Abstract: This study investigates how news stories about models’ social identities, models’ actual social identities, and ease of categorization of models into societally predominant gender and racial categories affect processing and evaluation of persuasive messages. Participants read news stories about fashion companies that used transgender or biracial models in ad campaigns or control stories and then viewed a series of still images edited to look like ads. Physiological responding and self-reported attitudes were recorded. Results indicated more positive evaluation of images preceded by news stories about models’ social identities compared to control stories. With a few exceptions, participants did not differ in their evaluation of images based on actual identity, although actual identity did affect processing. While participants responded positively to images with racially ambiguous models, they did not respond positively to images with androgynous models. Results are discussed in regard to theoretical and practical implications.