Do White People See Variation in Black Skin Tones? Reexamining a Purported Outgroup Homogeneity Effect Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous research has reported that white survey interviewers remember black respondents skin tones in a much narrower range than recollections by black interviewers. This finding has been used to suggest that, in line with the one-drop rule, whites do not perceive meaningful differences between light- and dark-skinned black people. The authors reanalyze evidence thought to demonstrate relative homogeneity in white interviewers evaluation of black skin tones. In contrast to previous studies, this examination of several data sources reveals significant heterogeneity in the ratings assigned by white interviewers when taking into account the ordinal nature of the skin tone measures. The results are consistent with theories of social cognition that emphasize that beyond formal racial classification schemes, skin tone is used to implicitly categorize others along a continuum of blackness. The findings also align with research suggesting that rather than nullifying within-race skin tone, increases in white racism intensify white colorism.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 4.9

author list (cited authors)

  • Hannon, L., Keith, V. M., DeFina, R., & Campbell, M. E.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Hannon, Lance||Keith, Verna M||DeFina, Robert||Campbell, Mary E

publication date

  • January 2021