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Dynamic Interracial/Intercultural Processes: The Role of Lay Theories of Race


  • This article was partially supported by a grant from the Campus Research Board of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) awarded to Ying-yi Hong and was prepared during Ying-yi Hong's tenure as Associate of the Center for Advanced Study at UIUC.

concerning this article should be addressed to Ying-yi Hong, Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 639798. E-mail:


ABSTRACT This paper explores how the lay theory approach provides a framework beyond previous stereotype/prejudice research to understand dynamic personality processes in interracial/ethnic contexts. The authors conceptualize theory of race within the Cognitive–Affective Personality System (CAPS), in which lay people's beliefs regarding the essential nature of race sets up a mind-set through which individuals construe and interpret their social experiences. The research findings illustrate that endorsement of the essentialist theory (i.e., that race reflects deep-seated, inalterable essence and is indicative of traits and ability) versus the social constructionist theory (i.e., that race is socially constructed, malleable, and arbitrary) are associated with different encoding and representation of social information, which in turn affect feelings, motivation, and competence in navigating between racial and cultural boundaries. These findings shed light on dynamic interracial/intercultural processes. Relations of this approach to CAPS are discussed.