The Beliefs About Race Scale (BARS): Dimensions of Racial Essentialism and Their Psychometric Properties

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Objectives: Recent studies have found that racial essentialism negatively affects intergroup behavior (e.g., willingness to relate across outgroups), however this line of inquiry has been limited by 1-dimensional measures of racial essentialism. This paper provides psychometric support for the Beliefs About Race Scale (BARS), a multidimensional measure of racial essentialism. Method: Participants included 492 adults recruited on a college campus and in the community. BARS items were developed by the researcher and were subjected to exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, and reliability and validity analyses. Hierarchical regressions examined the relation of BARS subscales to outgroup discomfort. Results: Analyses supported a 4-factor model of racial essentialism, with good internal and test–retest reliability and construct validity. Two BARS subscales predicted outgroup discomfort above and beyond the effects of previous measures of racial and psychological essentialism. Conclusion: Greater specification of racial essentialism offered by the BARS subscales should aid researchers in furthering our understanding of how racial essentialism affects intergroup behavior and the role of education in challenging people’s essentialist beliefs about race.

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