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Being Accurately Identified Boosts Self-Esteem in Multiracial People

Update Date: Aug 02, 2013 04:36 PM EDT

Multiracial people value being accurately identified more so than single-race individuals, according to a new study.

While the average American often has trouble identifying multiracial people, new research reveals that being correctly identified is very important for multiracial people.

"Today, the distinctions among white, black, Latino and Asian people are becoming blurred by the increasing frequency and prominence of multiracial people," Jacqueline M. Chen, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, said in a statement. "Still, average Americans have difficulty identifying multiracial people who don't conform to the traditional single-race categories that society has used all their lives."

Researchers found that people were consistently less likely to identify people as multiracial than single-race.  People also took longer to identify someone as multiracial compared to how easily they identified black, white and Asian people.

When making incorrect identifications, people were consistently more likely to categorize a multiracial person as white than black.

The study also found that time pressure, distractions and thinking of race in either-or terms made observers significantly less likely to identify someone as multiracial.

The latest study was conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara and involved 435 ethnically diverse undergraduate students. Researchers recorded each participant's accuracy and time to respond in an identification test where they were asked to categorize picture of individuals into black, white, Asian or multiracial individuals.

Previous studies found that multiracial people value the accuracy of another person's perception of their race.

"Our research found that multiracial people expect positive interactions with people who accurately perceive their racial backgrounds because that affirms their self-perceptions," Remedios said.

Researchers found that multiracial participants were more interested in meeting partners who had accurately identified them.  However, even though single-race people were more surprised than multi-race people when they're not accurately identified, multiracial and single-race people had similar negative reactions to being misidentified. However, only multiracial participants indicated an accurate identification would support their self-image, whereas there was no effect on self-image among single-race participants.

The findings are presented at the American Psychological Association's 121st Annual Convention in Honolulu.  

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