Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Karen L. Suyemoto

Second Advisor

Alice S. Carter

Third Advisor

Rosalyn Negron


Blacks and Asians experience greater social distance from one another relative to each groups' social distance towards Whites (e.g. Weaver, 2008). This research tested theory that suggests that social distance results when one group perceives themselves to be the more rightful proprietor of resources (Blumer, 1958). The racialization (i.e., stereotype) of Blacks as more "Native" to the U.S. compared to Asians, and the racialization of Asians as more "Meritorious" compared to Blacks, may be the bases for which each group feels a sense of proprietary right to resources. Researchers have also found that social distance may decrease when group members define themselves in relation to broader and more inclusive in-groups (Gaertner & Dovidio, 2005). Thus, we also considered the effect of Person of Color Identity on Black and Asian social distance.

In this study, we hosted 15-minute social events inside the virtual world "Second Life" that simulated two types of resource competition: one privileging Nativity and one privileging Merit. A Utopian condition, in which no resource competition was present, was included for comparison. Self-identified Black (n = 39), Asian (n = 53), and White (n = 119) participants created self-resembling avatars and interacted in the social events while a computer script tracked their coordinates and proximity to each other. Participants' average social distance towards each out-group were computed separately for three time periods (the first, middle, and last 5 minutes of the event) in order to examine changes in social distance over time. Person of Color Identity salience was measured via Likert-scaled survey questions administered at the end of the study.

Repeated measures analysis determined that for all participants, social distance significantly decreased over time in the Utopian condition, and significantly increased over time in the Merit condition. Hierarchical Liner Modeling determined that Asians social distance to Blacks was significantly higher in time 3 of the Merit condition than time 3 of the Utopian condition, above and beyond the general pattern of social distance. Person of Color Identity was not related to social distance. Implications for theory on resource competition for Blacks and Asians social distance and virtual world research are discussed.


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