Seeing Black: Race, crime, and visual processing.

Eberhardt JL, Goff PA, Purdie VJ, Davies PG (2004) Seeing Black: Race, crime, and visual processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87: 876–893. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.87.6.876

Using police officers and undergraduates as participants, the authors investigated the influence of stereotypic associations on visual processing in 5 studies. Study 1 demonstrates that Black faces influence participants’ ability to spontaneously detect degraded images of crime-relevant objects. Conversely, Studies 2-4 demonstrate that activating abstract concepts (i.e., crime and basketball) induces attentional biases toward Black male faces. Moreover, these processing biases may be related to the degree to which a social group member is physically representative of the social group (Studies 4-5). These studies, taken together, suggest that some associations between social groups and concepts are bidirectional and operate as visual tuning devices–producing shifts in perception and attention of a sort likely to influence decision making and behavior.