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Avoiding minorities: Social invisibility



Three experiments examined how self-consciousness has an impact on the visual exploration of a social field. The main hypothesis was that merely a photograph of people can trigger a dynamic process of social visual interaction such that minority images are avoided when people are in a state of self-reflective consciousness. In all three experiments, pairs of pictures—one with characters of social minorities and one with characters of social majorities—were shown to the participants. By means of eye-tracking technology, the results of Experiment 1 (n = 20) confirmed the hypothesis that in the reflective consciousness condition, people look more at the majority than minority characters. The results of Experiment 2 (n = 89) confirmed the hypothesis that reflective consciousness also induces avoiding reciprocal visual interaction with minorities. Finally, by manipulating the visual interaction (direct vs. non-direct) with the photos of minority and majority characters, the results of Experiment 3 (n = 56) confirmed the hypothesis that direct visual interaction with minority characters is perceived as being longer and more aversive. The overall conclusion is that self-reflective consciousness leads people to avoid visual interaction with social minorities, consigning them to social invisibility. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.