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Imprisoned Imperceptions: Inaccuracy in Incarceration Demographic Stereotypes
Unformatted Document Text:  Incarceration Beliefs 40% (rounding, 30% White versus 70% nonwhite). It can also be seen directly (in Table 2) by comparing White/Black actual difference (5%) to White/Black estimates (18% difference). Nonetheless, people underestimated the difference between Whites and Latinos (real difference of 21%; estimated difference of just 6%). Overall, therefore, exaggeration occurred for only a single comparison and, instead, people generally underestimated real differences between groups. Assessment of Accuracy in Perceptions of the Demographics of Incarceration Initial analyses examined the effects of outliers. All estimates that were greater or less than 2.5 standard deviations from the mean were removed from these initial analysis. This procedure did not materially change the results. Although removing the outliers decreased the discrepancy between the estimated and actual proportions, no significant differences became non-significant, or vice versa. Therefore, all analyses reported below included all data obtained from all participants. Assessing consensual-level stereotype accuracy: Raw discrepancies. Table 2 presents the raw consensual stereotype discrepancies for perceptions of the demographics of incarceration. Column 4 presents the raw discrepancy between the actual proportion of the social group in the prison population (Column 2) and participants’ average estimates of these proportions (Column 3). A series of one-sample t-tests compared respondents’ raw discrepancies to zero. All of the single-sample t- tests were significant at the p<.001 level, indicating that the probability that consensual stereotype discrepancies were perfectly accurate was near zero. Nonetheless, based on the standards described earlier, these consensual stereotypes were accurate (within 10%) with respect to the proportion of Blacks, Whites, and Latinos in prison. Consensual stereotype discrepancies for females and the mentally ill in prison were both near misses, and estimates of high school graduates in prison were largely inaccurate. Overall, therefore, consensual stereotype discrepancies regarding the demographics of incarceration were moderately accurate. 14

Authors: Ragusa, Laura.
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Incarceration Beliefs
40% (rounding, 30% White versus 70% nonwhite).  It can also be seen directly 
(in Table 2) 
by 
comparing White/Black actual difference (5%) to White/Black estimates (18% difference). 
Nonetheless, people underestimated the difference between Whites and Latinos (real difference of 
21%; estimated difference of just 6%).  Overall, therefore, exaggeration occurred for only a single 
comparison and, instead, people generally underestimated real differences between groups.
Assessment of Accuracy in Perceptions of the Demographics of Incarceration
Initial analyses examined the effects of outliers.  All estimates that were greater or less than 
2.5 standard deviations from the mean were removed from these initial analysis. This procedure did 
not materially change the results. Although removing the outliers decreased the discrepancy between 
the estimated and actual proportions, no significant differences became non-significant, or vice versa. 
Therefore, all analyses reported below included all data obtained from all participants.  
Assessing consensual-level stereotype accuracy: Raw discrepancies. Table 2 presents the raw 
consensual stereotype discrepancies for perceptions of the demographics of incarceration.  Column 4 
presents the raw discrepancy between the actual proportion of the social group in the prison 
population (Column 2) and participants’ average estimates of these proportions (Column 3).  A series 
of one-sample t-tests compared respondents’ raw discrepancies to zero.  All of the single-sample t-
tests were significant at the p<.001 level, indicating that the probability that consensual stereotype 
discrepancies were perfectly accurate was near zero. Nonetheless, based on the standards described 
earlier, these consensual stereotypes were accurate (within 10%) with respect to the proportion of 
Blacks, Whites, and Latinos in prison. Consensual stereotype discrepancies for females and the 
mentally ill in prison were both near misses, and estimates of high school graduates in prison were 
largely inaccurate.  Overall, therefore, consensual stereotype discrepancies regarding the 
demographics of incarceration were moderately accurate.
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