Dana Arnold and Dr. Curtis Phills
Dr. Curtis Phills | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology
Though unemployment was low across the United States at 3.3% in 2019, it was almost double that for Black people at 5.4% in 2019 (https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpsee_e16.htm). Because the interviewer’s attention to the eyes of a job candidate produces a better understanding of the candidate, it is possible that identifying racial bias in eye contact during the interview process could reduce racial disparities in unemployment. We will investigate how attention to the candidate’s eyes moderates race and gender disparities in hiring decisions. Participants will look at either a White man, Black man, White woman, or Black woman who is ostensibly a job candidate while listening to a supposed recording of that candidate during a job interview. Notably, participants will listen to the same male voice recording regardless of the race of the man and will listen to the same female voice recording regardless of the race of the woman. While participants listen to the recording, we will track where their eyes focus. We predict for the White male candidate high attention to the candidate’s eyes during the interview will lead to high interview scores, whereas low attention to the eyes will lead to low scores. For the White female candidate, we predict less attention to the eyes than the White male candidate, as well as lower interview scores. For the Black male and female candidates, we expect low interview scores, but no difference based on attention to the eyes. Future research should examine what causes racial disparities in attention to the eyes.
Though unemployment was low for 2019, unemployment for Black men and women was almost double.
As you can see from Figure 1, for decades unemployment for Black people has been more than or close to double unemployment compared to White people
So what are some factors that could account for this disparity?
One factor that contributes to higher unemployment for Black people may be In-group favoritism
Differences in eye contact
Because the eyes are the window to the soul, making eye contact during job interviews should lead to better impressions of job candidates
Maybe Black candidates are receiving less eye contact or the eye contact they are receiving doesn’t confer benefits to Black job candidates.
So we ask, Does attention to the eyes moderate race and gender disparities in hiring decisions?
A previous study investigated whether attention to the eyes moderated race disparities in hiring decisions.
Participants were shown 1 of the 2 faces you see here on the poster.
A White male face or a Black male face.
In sync with the picture of the face, a recording of an interview will be playing.
It was the exact same recording for both faces.
While the recording played the candidates’ eyes were tracked with an eye tracker.
As you can see in Figure 2, the y-axis has the Dependent Variable Professional Fit, which refers to whether participants thought the candidate was a good fit for the job.
And on the x-axis is the Independent Variable, the Candidates’ Race.
They found that the attention to the eyes only made a difference for the White male candidate.
The more eye contact he had, the higher his interview scores, and the less eye contact he had, the lower his interview scores.
The Black male face had low scores no matter what.
Study 2 will be a replication and extension of Study 1, the only difference is we will be adding 2 female faces
So the participant could get 1 of 4 faces, either of the 2 male faces or the 1 White female face or the 1 Black female face
The recording was edited to have a female voice for the female faces, and the script and timings are kept the same for all.
Though females are lower in unemployment, they are less likely to qualify for high profile positions and have been seen as less qualified than a male candidate even when they have the same qualifications as the male candidate
That’s if they are seen at all, Black women have been described as invisible.
Their intersection of race and gender has been said to make them immemorable
On top of our examination of interview scores, we will also explore the possibility that Black women get little to no eye contact during the recording.
We predict for the White male candidate high attention to the candidate’s eyes during the interview will lead to high interview scores, whereas low attention to the eyes will lead to low scores. For the White female candidate, we predict less attention to the eyes than the White male candidate, as well as lower interview scores. For the Black male and female candidates, we expect low interview scores, but no difference based on attention to the eyes.
Attention to the eyes is one of the 1st interactions in an interview.
Interracial interviews, as seen in Study 1, can be affected by discrimination right from the start.
Studying attention to the eyes is an integral piece toward the puzzle of equal opportunities in hiring decisions.