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Imprisoned Imperceptions: Inaccuracy in Incarceration Demographic Stereotypes
Unformatted Document Text:  Incarceration Beliefs extent to which stereotypes are shared. Consensual stereotypes have long been characterized as false myths perpetrated by exploitative hierarchies serving to justify the status quo (e.g., Allport, 1954; Jost & Banaji, 1994; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Thus, it seems particularly important to assess the accuracy of these group-level beliefs. Our research also analyzes accuracy (both discrepancies and correlations) at the individual level. Individual-level accuracy assesses the accuracy of each individual’s judgments, separately. For example, Fred’s beliefs may be different from Latisha’s, whose beliefs may differ from those of Bernardo. In sum, we offer four types of analyses: absolute and relative accuracy, each at the group and individual levels. Criteria for Accuracy Most of the criteria for assessing the accuracy of people’s beliefs regarding the incarcerated population were statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics and published in the Midyear 2005 Bulletin and the Education and Correctional Populations (2003) report. Information on mental illness rates among the incarcerated was obtained from the Special Report: Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers (1999) report. All criteria for assessing the accuracy of people’s beliefs regarding the United States’ population were statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey. Results Testing the Three Stereotyping Hypotheses System justification theory. System justification theory predicts that people will overestimate the proportion of disadvantaged groups in the prison population and underestimate the proportion of advantaged groups in the prison population. Thus, in the present study, perceivers should underestimate the proportion of Whites, men and high school graduates in the prison population, and overestimate the proportion of women, Blacks, Latinos, and the mentally ill in the prison population. 12

Authors: Ragusa, Laura.
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Incarceration Beliefs
extent to which stereotypes are shared. Consensual stereotypes have long been characterized as false 
myths perpetrated by exploitative hierarchies serving to justify the status quo (e.g., Allport, 1954; 
Jost & Banaji, 1994; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Thus, it seems particularly important to assess the 
accuracy of these group-level beliefs.
Our research also analyzes accuracy (both discrepancies and correlations) at the individual 
level. Individual-level accuracy assesses the accuracy of each individual’s judgments, separately.  For 
example, Fred’s beliefs may be different from Latisha’s, whose beliefs may differ from those of 
Bernardo.  In sum, we offer four types of analyses: absolute and relative accuracy, each at the group 
and individual levels.
Criteria for Accuracy
Most of the criteria for assessing the accuracy of people’s beliefs regarding the incarcerated 
population were statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics 
and published in the Midyear 2005 Bulletin and the Education and Correctional Populations (2003) 
report.  Information on mental illness rates among the incarcerated was obtained from the Special 
Report: Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers (1999) report.  All criteria for 
assessing the accuracy of people’s beliefs regarding the United States’ population were statistics 
provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey. 
Results 
Testing the Three Stereotyping Hypotheses 
System justification theory.  System justification theory predicts that people will overestimate 
the proportion of disadvantaged groups in the prison population and underestimate the proportion of 
advantaged groups in the prison population. Thus, in the present study, perceivers should 
underestimate the proportion of Whites, men and high school graduates in the prison population, and 
overestimate the proportion of women, Blacks, Latinos, and the mentally ill in the prison population. 
12


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