With increasing legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis, use is on the rise. Research suggests individuals may be able to guess cannabis user status based upon appearance; however, these findings utilized a small sample of photographs that was not balanced on user status or gender. Further, no studies examined whether raters with cannabis experience are better at judging others’ cannabis use, or what physical features they use to make these judgments. This study explored these factors using a larger, balanced photograph database.
An American sample (n = 249, 48.6% female, mean age = 35.19 years) rated 36 photographs (18 cannabis users, 18 nonusers) balanced on gender and age on the likelihood that the photographed individuals use cannabis, producing 8964 ratings. Respondents also reported physical features considered in their ratings, as well as their own cannabis use history.
As hypothesized, photographs of users received higher ratings on the Marijuana Use Likelihood Index relative to nonusers. Further, results revealed a gender by rater user status interaction, indicating that raters with no previous cannabisexperience rated males higher than females, while raters with cannabis experience did not demonstrate this rating discrepancy. Cannabis use explained over 9% of the variance in ratings across all photographs.
Results suggest individuals do rate cannabis users as more likely to be users, relative to nonusers, based upon appearance alone. These findings have important implications, not only for research on chronic cannabis use effects, but also for social and achievement factors such as potential stigma.
Marijuana; cannabis; expectancy effect; perception; rating; stereotype
- PMID: 29958041
- DOI: 10.1080/10826084.2018.1474228