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

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2020 Dec;119(6):1290-1315. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000233. Epub 2020 Jan 30.


[Correction Notice: An Erratum for this article was reported online in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on May 21 2020 (see record 2020-36018-001). In the article, the phrase Mixed Effects in the table title for Tables 1-3 and Tables 6-8 is incorrect. The corrected phrase should appear instead as Fixed Effects. All versions of this article have been corrected.] 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. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black People
  • Child
  • Christianity
  • Concept Formation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Racism*
  • Religion and Psychology*
  • Sexism*
  • Social Identification*
  • United States
  • Young Adult