Potential Effects of the American and Pride Flags on our Judgments of Others

Alexander W. Dodson, Eastern Washington University
Kelton Earl, Eastern Washington University
Shawn Stevens, Eastern Washington University
Amani El-Alayli, Eastern Washington University


Perception of American cues has been found to increase aggressive and negative judgments of others (Ferguson & Hassin, 2007). Flags have been shown to increase perceived entitativity which leads to groups appearing as more threatening (Callahan & Ledgerwood, 2016). We predicted an American flag on a Facebook profile would induce negative perceptions of the individual. We also predicted that the presence of a political label [or symbol incompatible with the American flag] might override negative associations of the American flag. In Study 1, participants were presented with a fake social media profile with no flag or American flag background and a liberal or conservative self-label. Participants were then asked to infer specific traits and behaviors about the individual. Results found that either the conservative label or the American flag led to increased perceived negative traits (i.e., prejudiced, domineering, and negative Facebook behaviors). However, perceptions of the individuals’ prejudice were especially high among the conservative label with American flag condition. In the proposed study, Study 2, we seek to explore pairing the American flag with a seemingly incompatible symbol (i.e., Rainbow Pride flag). We will replicate the study with a control (no flag), American flag, Pride flag, and both American and Pride flag backgrounds. In addition to negative traits, we will be adding positive trait measures (e.g., Patriotism) in Study 2. I suspect the pride and American flag condition will have fewer negative inferences compared to the American flag condition. Data for Study 2 has not yet been collected. This research is significant because we can identify potential means for discrimination due to unreasonable judgments made about people by appearing alongside a flag.