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Title: Mapping mental representations of illegalized immigrants across visual, evaluative, and geographic spaces
Authors: Martinez Higuera, Joel Eduardo
Advisors: TodorovPaluck, AlexanderElizabeth L
Contributors: Psychology Department
Keywords: Face perception
Mental representations
United States
Subjects: Social psychology
Cognitive psychology
Political science
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The United States has been experiencing a widespread nationalist backlash in response to displacement and migration dynamics that has had and will continue to have immediate and dire consequences for immigrants, especially those who are illegalized. To better understand the underlying psychology of this anti-immigrant zeitgeist, I take advantage of recent computational techniques to map mental representations of illegalized immigrants across evaluative, visual, and geographic spaces. In particular, the studies in this dissertation collectively focus on characterizing face representations– what are illegalized immigrants thought to look like and how is illegality visually encoded into these representations? I first present evidence that representations of illegalized immigrants are uniquely racialized through a combination of darker skin tones and threatening expressions compared to other documentation categories (e.g., U.S. citizens or documented immigrants). I then probe the robustness of this initial representation in various ways. One way is by intersecting illegalized immigrants with cross-categorical positionalities (e.g., nationality and economic), showing that the visual features that mark illegality are not static and can shift across social categories. Another way is by mapping variation in how different people represent illegalized immigrants using machine learning techniques, showing there are demographic and geographic clusters of people who hold different understandings of illegalized immigrants. Across the studies, the results consistently show that illegalization and racialization are intimately intertwined in the public’s minds, revealing the racial and visual logics produced by imperial projects used to manage populations within and across U.S. borders. In applying novel techniques to understand perceptions of a neglected population within social psychology, this dissertation ultimately critiques and extends social psychology’s theoretical preoccupations, methodological practices, and their inter-relations.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Psychology

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