Racial Differences in Women’s Role-Taking Accuracy: How Status Matters

Tony P. Love, Jenny L. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Role-taking is the process of mentally and affectively placing the self in the position of another, understanding the world from the other’s perspective. Role-taking serves an expressive function within interpersonal interaction, supporting others to pursue instrumental tasks that are recognized, valued, and rewarded. In the present work, we compare role-taking accuracy between white women and black women across status-varying interactional arrangements. Data for this study come from a series of two laboratory experiments. Experiment 1 establishes racial differences in white and black women’s role-taking accuracy, showing that women of color are significantly more attuned to others within social encounters. Experiment 2 implements an intervention to undermine racial disparities in role-taking accuracy, showing that expressive labors equalize when black women are empowered within the social structure. Findings highlight the entwinement of status structures with interpersonal processes while demonstrating the efficacy and value of structural reforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-169
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Science
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank the American Sociological Association for their funding of this research through the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD) and the Australian National University for their funding through the Futures Scheme. Additional gratitude is due to Paige Adkins and Rachel Barczak for their assistance in conducting these studies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). This open-access article has been published under a Creative Commons Attribution License, which allows unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction, in any form, as long as the original author and source have been credited.


  • emotional labor
  • empathy
  • inequality
  • race
  • role-taking
  • status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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