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Imprisoned Imperceptions: Inaccuracy in Incarceration Demographic Stereotypes
Unformatted Document Text:  Incarceration Beliefs Imprisoned Imperceptions: Error, Bias, and Accuracy in Incarceration Demographic Stereotypes Are people’s social beliefs largely accurate and in touch with social realities? Or are people’s social beliefs largely irrational, inaccurate, and out of touch with reality? These are fundamental questions, and their answers respectively define humans as socially astute, negotiating the social world as it is, or as socially confounded, living in social worlds of their own (or others') invention. To date, however, general answers to these questions are not available for several reasons. First, there are many different contexts in which accuracy might be studied and the answers will not necessarily be the same in these various contexts. For example, how well friends read each others’ emotions is a very different question from how well strangers identify each others’ personality traits, which in turn is a very different question from how well people’s beliefs about groups (stereotypes) correspond to those groups’ actual characteristics (see, e.g., reviews by Funder, 1995; Ickes, 1997; Judd & Park, 1993; Jussim et al., 2009; Kenny, 1994; Ryan, 2002). Second, because there are so many different types and aspects of accuracy, and because accuracy research was largely dormant in the social psychological literature for 30 years (roughly 1955-1985; see reviews by Jussim, 2005 & Kenny, 1994 for discussions of why), there still is only a relatively modest amount of research on most accuracy topics. Third, accuracy in social perception has a controversial history in social psychological discourse, with some researchers claiming that some types of accuracy cannot or should not be studied (e.g., Fiske, 1998; Stangor, 1995). Although others have proceeded to study accuracy using a variety of methods and statistical techniques, the controversies and criticisms have most likely both depressed the amount of empirical research on accuracy and have led some researchers to unjustifiably premature conclusions that either accuracy cannot be studied or that error and bias 3

Authors: Ragusa, Laura.
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Incarceration Beliefs
Imprisoned Imperceptions: Error, Bias, and Accuracy in Incarceration Demographic Stereotypes
Are people’s social beliefs largely accurate and in touch with social realities?  Or are people’s 
social beliefs largely irrational, inaccurate, and out of touch with reality?  These are fundamental 
questions, and their answers respectively define humans as socially astute, negotiating the social 
world as it is, or as socially confounded, living in social worlds of their own (or others') invention.
To date, however, general answers to these questions are not available for several reasons. 
First, there are many different contexts in which accuracy might be studied and the answers will not 
necessarily be the same in these various contexts.  For example, how well friends read each others’ 
emotions is a very different question from how well strangers identify each others’ personality traits, 
which in turn is a very different question from how well people’s beliefs about groups (stereotypes) 
correspond to those groups’ actual characteristics (see, e.g., reviews by Funder, 1995; Ickes, 1997; 
Judd & Park, 1993; Jussim et al., 2009; Kenny, 1994; Ryan, 2002). Second, because there are so 
many different types and aspects of accuracy, and because accuracy research was largely dormant in 
the social psychological literature for 30 years (roughly 1955-1985; see reviews by Jussim, 2005 & 
Kenny, 1994 for discussions of why), there still is only a relatively modest amount of research on 
most accuracy topics.  
Third, accuracy in social perception has a controversial history in social psychological 
discourse, with some researchers claiming that some types of accuracy cannot or should not be 
studied (e.g., Fiske, 1998; Stangor, 1995). Although others have proceeded to study accuracy using a 
variety of methods and statistical techniques, the controversies and criticisms have most likely both 
depressed the amount of empirical research on accuracy and have led some researchers to 
unjustifiably premature conclusions that either accuracy cannot be studied or that error and bias 

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