SPEAKER 1: This is a presentation by Human Development Outreach and Extension or Cornell University.
JENNIFER EBERHARDT: I'm going to start with a story. It's a personal story that relates to a significant portion of my work.
During my first year of graduate school at Harvard, I received a phone call from my mother informing me that my father's mother had passed away suddenly. I returned home to Cleveland. I made a short presentation at her funeral. And as I closed, I turned to her casket to view her body for the last time, and I said good bye, grandma Bessie.
After the funeral, my father gave me her gold watch, which completely shocked me on two counts. First of all, at that time in my life, I lost everything I touched. In fact, I'd been losing things for years. I'd lose my keys and my books and my notes and my jewelry. And my father knew all about my little losing habit. So why on Earth would he give me my grandmother's watch?
And the second thing that surprised me about my father's offering was that my grandmother's watch was her most prized possession. She wore it every day of her life, since the moment that my father had given it to her as a birthday present. I don't recall ever seeing her without it. So why on Earth would he give me my grandmother's watch?
So during my talk today, I will not answer this question. In fact, I still have no idea why he gave me her watch. Instead, I want to talk to you about what I experienced when I received the watch.
I took the watch from my father, and I placed it on my wrist. My heart raced, my temperature rose. I could see my grandmother alive again. I saw her wrist, I saw her body move again. I heard her voice. I heard her laughter once again.
This watch, this object, was so associated with her, that I could not gaze upon it without gazing upon the image of everything that my grandmother was. And this marked a turning point for me. It remains my most vivid memory of the power of objects to conjure up the people with whom they are associated.
And I want to talk to you today not about the associations that develop between objects and individuals but about the racial associations that develop between objects and social groups. Throughout the talk, I'm going to focus on the associations that are formed of black Americans. And for most of the studies I'll cover, I have used white Americans as study participants.
So first, let me present two dominant views on race and then talk about where my work is situated. So one view on race is that race is absent. So for a long time now, we've known that most Americans, especially most white Americans, think about discrimination as a thing of the past.
So most believe that discrimination against blacks is no longer a problem. Most believe that blacks have equal employment, education, and housing opportunities. Most believe that blacks are treated fairly. And most Americans generally claim that they never experience negative thoughts or emotions when they encounter people of a different race.
According to the General Social Survey, only 17% of white Americans report being very concerned about racial issues. Only 7% consider race one of the nation's most important issues. And only 6% claim that they even think about race very often. From Laboratory Studies, we know that white students don't consider race to be central or important at all to their personal identities.
So based on these data, one could walk away with the impression that race matters for very few Americans, at least for very few white Americans. And for those for whom it does matter, it occupies them for a very restricted set of circumstances and for a very restricted amount of time. Not only are Americans inclined to think that they're racially unbiased, they report that they're not inclined to think about race at all.
Now, my work is consistent with lots of other work in social psychology. And it stands in stark contrast to this lay view on race. So as you may know, the basic ideas are that race can influence people more often than they think, that our attitudes and our beliefs about race can be processed implicitly. So in circumstances where we don't even know we're thinking about race, we could be thinking about race. And these beliefs and attitudes about race can lead to negative consequences.
So you can see here that social psychologists and lay people are in sharp disagreement about how present and problematic racial biases are. There's a real empirical divergence here. Yet, even as these views diverge empirically, I want to argue that they converge conceptually. For both views, there is an unquestioned understanding of racial bias as a social reaction to people.
The targets of bias are assumed to be people. The triggers of bias are assumed to be people. And the operation of bias is assumed to occur almost exclusively through social mechanisms.
The purpose of my talk is to present evidence that begins to unsettle this conventional wisdom. I will show that the targets of bias can be physical objects, that the triggers of bias can be physical spaces, and that the mechanisms of bias can be visual as much as they are social. I will argue that racial bias is about so much more than mistakenly judging the values and the beliefs and the behaviors of targeted group members. Race not only influences how we interpret our social world, it influences how we are conditioned to see the physical world around us.
Indeed, racial associations achieve their power by becoming attached to or in embodied in individual people, places, and things. In today's talk, I'm going to concentrate on how race can influence how we think about objects, how we think about physical spaces. And in turn, I'm going to talk about how objects and physical spaces can influence how we think about race.
And then finally in part 3, I'll discuss how race influences how we see people. Here, I'm going to focus specifically on how race begins to color face perception and how that can result in inequalities in treatment. And in all of this work I'm going to cover today, the focus is on how race leaves a residue on the physical stimuli with which we're confronted with in our everyday lives
So the studies in part 1 all involve the stereotypic association between blacks and crime. And they reveal how this association gets played out as people process crime objects. Now, I wanted to begin to show how race influences how we process objects in the crime context, because the association between blacks and crime is especially powerful. So I wanted to start with one of the strongest associations there is to examine how our processing of objects can bow to race.
Now, of course, there are dozens of things that can keep this association going. But here, I'm going to highlight just three. And the first is that the stereotype of blacks as hostile, dangerous, and criminal is one of the strongest stereotypes of blacks in American society. It shows up in study after study. And although not everyone endorsers this stereotype, nearly everyone has knowledge of its existence in our society.
Second, law enforcement practices underscore the relationship between race and crime. This is a cartoon that I borrowed from The New Yorker. It depicts these two cops. They're stopping this black guy here, and they're holding up a sketch. And just in case you can't read it in the back, it says, "you look like this sketch of someone who's thinking about committing a crime."
Now, this takes the use of race as a proxy for criminality to the point of absurdity, because that's what cartoons do, that's how they function. Yet, using race as a proxy for criminality is routinely practiced in the law enforcement community. And it's perfectly legal, as long as it's not the sole factor used.
Third, actual crime statistics contribute to an association of race and crime. So this graph shows that African-American males are grossly over-represented in prisons and in jails relative to their numbers in the population. And racial disparities like these have not escaped the popular press. We hear these disparities being reported over and over in news reports across the nation.
So we have here, we have beliefs, we have practices, and we have intense racial stratification, all working together to support and strengthen this association between blacks and crime. And the idea here is that this association is so strong that it can influence how we process physical objects.
So for the first study I'm going to present, my colleagues and I asked the question, can black faces leave people to see crime relevant objects better? So to examine this, we invited white male undergraduates to participate in a study. And the participants were asked to perform two supposedly unrelated tasks.
For the first task, they're seated at this computer. They see a focused dot at the center of the computer screen. And then they see flashes of light appear around that focused dot. And their goal is to indicate with a button push which side of the computer screen each splash of light appeared on. Now, do this as quickly as possible to tell us is it left, was it right, was it left, was it right.
Now, these flashes were actually the faces of young men that were appearing on the screen at such a rapid rate that the participants couldn't consciously detect them. So here it is in slow motion. So participants were either exposed to an entire series of black male faces in this way, to an entire series of white male faces, or no faces at all.
And then after this subliminal priming procedure, we asked participants to perform a supposedly unrelated object recognition task. For this task, participants were presented with a series of objects that were severely degraded. And these objects appeared on the computer screen one at a time. And each object was slowly brought into focus in a series of 41 steps, or 41 frames.
So let me show you an example here. At frame 1, the object is degraded. These are just critical points along the continuum here. So you can see that by frame 41, you can see what that object is. OK
Now, some of these objects were crime relevant, so some looked like guns and knives. And others were crime irrelevant, like cameras and staplers and so forth. So the participants were either exposed to black faces, to white faces, to no faces at all. And then all of them performed this object recognition task on both crime relevant and the crime irrelevant objects. And we hypothesized that the participants who were exposed initially to the black faces would be faster to detect the crime objects than those who had not been exposed to the black faces.
So let's look at the results here. Along the vertical axis here, we have the frame number at which the participants could recognize the objects. And that's going from frame 1, where it's completely blurry, to frame 41, where it's completely clear. And you can see here that for the crime irrelevant objects, exposure to the faces beforehand makes no difference in their ability to recognize these objects. So whether they're exposed to white faces or black faces, they're recognizing these objects at about the same point on the continuum, at about the midpoint on the continuum.
Now, let's look at how people respond to the crime objects. Look at what happens when people are simply exposed to the black male faces beforehand. All of a sudden, they need a lot fewer frames to detect that, oh, that that's a gun or that's a knife.
They need less information to tell us that that's a gun or that's a knife. Whereas, previous exposure to the white faces beforehand, you get just the opposite effect. They need more information. So exposure to black faces facilitated the detection of the crime objects. Whereas, exposure to the white faces inhibited the detection of those very same objects.
Now, this method of using people or faces to trigger stereotypical associations is traditional in social psychology. But here, we're showing that those associations link up or attach themselves to objects. So our claim is similar to the concept of associational transfer discussed in the literature on conditioning. However, rather than focusing on expectancies or emotions, here, we're attempting to show that stereotypes and representations that are associated with a social group can be transferred onto an object. And this associational transfer leaves a residue on crime objects that is evident in how these objects are processed visually.
Now, in the next set of studies, we wanted to start with the objects to see if these objects could be used to trigger race. So the question is, is there a racial residue attached to these crime objects that causes this whole process to work backwards? So in other words, when people are simply exposed to crime objects, do they think about black people. When people think about crime, does thinking about crime draw their attention to black faces.
So we conducted another study with white male undergraduates to answer this question. And in this particular study, we subliminally prime half of our study participants with crime relevant objects on a computer screen. So here it is in slow motion.
Next, we asked the students to complete a supposedly unrelated dot probe task. And for this task, students saw a black face and a white face appear on the computer screen at the same time. This time, the faces were left on the screen long enough for them to detect the faces consciously. Those faces disappeared, and then a dot appeared where one of the faces used to be. And the subjects were asked to simply look at that dot to tell us whether it was to the left or the right of the computer screen as quickly as possible.
Now, we hypothesized that when the dot was placed in the location of the black face, that the participants who had been previously exposed to these crime objects beforehand would be faster at finding that dot than those who had not been exposed to the crime objects. So the idea is that once we get people to think about crime, they'll begin to look at the black face. And we set it up so that we could use the speed at which they found the dot as a proxy for visual attention. The faster they are to finding the dot, the more likely it is that their eyes are gazing in that direction the whole time-- the more likely it is that there's a bias or an attentional bias in that direction.
So let's look at the results here. Along the vertical axis, we have the mean reaction time to locate that dot. And this is in milliseconds. And the first thing we'll notice here is that when the participants are not primed with any crime objects at all, that they're faster to locate the dot when it's placed near the white face. So they're faster to locate the dot, because their eyes are focusing on the white person. So we have this sort of in-group bias going on, where the participants in our study, the white participants, are drawn to the faces of the white targets here in this study.
But we get just the opposite pattern when we expose them to the crime objects beforehand. So when they're exposed to guns and knives, they're, in fact, over 350 milliseconds faster to find that dot near the black face than they are to find that dot near the black face if they haven't been exposed to those crime objects. So there's a residue effect here. There's something in these inert objects that's ultimately triggering blackness.
So we then repeated this study with police officers as study participants. And this study was quite similar to the one I'm showing you now. But in this case, we are primed to exposed the police officers to words associated with violent crime rather than images.
So we exposed these officers to words like apprehend, arrest, capture, shoot. And you can see here that the pattern of results is identical to what we observed with students. When police officers are prompted to think of capturing, arresting, and shooting, they're drawn to the black face.
Now, at the very end of the study, we took officers through a surprise face memory task. We presented them with a black lineup and a white lineup. And we asked them to pick out the faces they were shown earlier in this study.
So here is the black lineup. One of these faces was the face we used in the actual study. And I also displayed this face to you in an earlier slide when I first introduced this study. Who can tell me who the target face is? 4, right. It is 4.
So we placed two of the faces is in the lineup, because they were judged by a separate group of study participants to be more stereotypically black than the target. So those were faces 2 and 3. We placed faces 1 and 5 in the lineup, because they were judged to be less stereotypically black than the target.
And here's what we found. We found that the officers memory for their target face was above chance, but they made a significant number of errors. When the officers, who were exposed to the crime primes, made an error on this memory task, they recalled seeing a more stereotypically black face than they actually saw.
So this means that when these officers were prompted to think shoot, capture, arrest and they made a mistake, they thought they saw face number 3, or they thought they saw face number 2. So there's a really tight association here between blackness and crime that's influencing visual memory.
So next, we focused on racial identification. We were interested in whether this association could also influence the speed at which people can be identified on the basis of their race. So in the next study, we used a subliminal priming procedure to expose white undergraduates to crime objects or not. And then we showed everyone clips of black and white individuals moving in silhouette.
And the idea here is that not only is race read into the facial features of black Americans, but that people read race into their body movement as well. So this time, participants were asked to identify the race of the person that they were watching as quickly as possible. And we predicted that exposing people to the crime objects beforehand would facilitate their identification of black movement but not the white movement.
So I'm going to show you an example here of one of the clips that the participants saw. And here is another example of a different person, who was asked to perform those very same actions. [LAUGHTER] So one person is black, and the other person is white.
We, in fact, intentionally chose actors who could be easily identified as black or white for this particular study. Do we need to talk about who is black and white? [LAUGHTER] OK, I'll skip part then.
Now, participants were exposed to a whole series of these clips one at a time. And again, the purpose of this study wasn't simply to identify the race of the person moving. We wanted to see if exposing people to the crime objects beforehand would facilitate their identification of black movement.
So here are the results here. And we can see here that when participants are not primed or exposed to any crime objects at all, they're faster to identify the race of the white actor. So this is reaction time to identify their race, and that's in full seconds this time. But you could see here that the pattern reverses when they're exposed to crime objects. So simply exposing people to crime objects beforehand does indeed facilitate the identification of black movement.
So this concludes part 1. Are there any clarifying questions I should answer right now before moving on? Go ahead.
Were all the participants white, or did you also include other races?
For these particular studies, they were white. But we've done other studies where we've looked at other groups as well. And the results seem to be pretty similar. Yeah, thanks for asking. So more research-- oh, sorry. Go ahead.
In the lineup identification, where you have the target and the two foils, and they picked two foils that were more stereotypically black, were those scaled for similarity? That is to say, is there any chance that it's because the faces were, in fact, physically more similar to the target? Of was that counter-balanced? See what I'm saying?
Yeah. What we did scale for was attractiveness. So we were sort of careful to pick faces that were either more or less stereotypically black with leaving attractiveness constant. But I don't think we scaled for similarity.
We also did this with a white lineup, of course. And you don't find those effects there. If anything, you find a slight effect in the opposite direction.
So more recently, we've begun examining the power of physical spaces to trigger racial bias. Just as race and crime are strongly associated, so too are race and physical spaces. And as we know, much of the inner racial conflict in this country has been about the regulation of physical space. And of course, before the Civil Rights Movement, a primary method of racial exclusion was the physical separation of racial groups. So blacks could not learn. Blacks could not stand, blacks could not eat, blacks could not drink in the same physical space as white.
Now, I want to tell you a little story here. I like stories. So I try to tell small stories when I can. One of my best friends is black. This is a true story. One of my best friends is black.
And she was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And I can never forget a story she once told me about learning to drink from a water fountain in the South in 1981. She was just four years old, and she could not yet read. And her father took her aside to teach how to recognize the round shape of C and the four straight lines of W. And he wanted to be certain that she got it right, that she did not drink from the wrong water fountain.
And so he worked with her on this and worked with her. And she did get it right. She learned that it was a bad thing to drink from the water fountain with the four straight lines above it. She learned that, because she was different, she should never do this. And this was her very first formal experience with written language.
All of the signs have come down now. We no longer have legal rules to actively prohibit the presence of racial groups in specific types of public spaces. Yet, I want to argue that in contemporary society, many of the physical spaces in the US are still racialized. They've become tightly associated with a specific racial or ethnic group.
Now, surprisingly, there isn't much social psychological research on this issue at all. So my colleagues and I conducted some initial studies to simply establish the degree to which race and space are associated. Now, before I describe these faces to you, I want you to take out a piece of paper and a pencil. And I want you to ask yourself this question, what physical spaces are commonly associated with African-Americans right now? So I want you to write down just two physical spaces that people commonly associate with African-Americans right now.
Now, write down two spaces that people commonly associate with white Americans. Now, write down two spaces that are neither associated with white nor black. Now, I want you to hold these thoughts for a moment, and I want to show you nine images now. And for each image, I'd like you to write the letter b, if you think that's a space that is associated with African-Americans or black Americans, write a w if it's commonly associated with white Americans, and an n for neither. OK, you ready?
They're only going to stay up there for a couple seconds, so b, w or n. That's number two. The slides are cutting off a bit. Slide three, four, five, six. That's a toll booth. Some people don't know that. Seven, eight, nine.
So now, I want to show you how these spaces were actually classified by study participants. So you can think about whether this matches your own decisions here. So how many people classified those spaces in the same way as our subjects? So not all.
Now, look at the two spaces that you wrote down initially as black spaces. When we asked participants to spontaneously generate such spaces, here are the top black spaces that they wrote down. So you can check that with your list. Here are the top neutral spaces. And here are the top white spaces. [LAUGHTER]
So how many people wrote down initially at least one of the black spaces that appears here. So most of you. Then what about one of the white spaces? Most of you again. And then what about the neutral spaces? A couple people. So the point here is that there are lots of different types of spaces that are racialized, and that it's actually harder to think of race neutral space than it is to think of racialized space, and that there's less agreement about what race neutral space is.
So the next thing we wanted to do was to conduct a study to see whether simple exposure to such spaces could actually influence implicit anti-black bias. So we identified a black space. Oops, OK, we identified a black space and a white space that was judged to be more negative. And the black space was inner city, and the white space was trailer park.
And this study involves both black and white study participants. And we have some of our study participants look at-- oh that's the slide I was looking for, sorry-- we had some of our study participants look at a photo album filled with inner city images, like this. We had some of them look at a photo album filled with trailer park images like this. And then we had a third group of subjects look at images that we labeled abstract art. They're actually jumbled images of trailer parks and inner cities. Yeah, you got to control for everything here.
So our next-- all of the participants were asked to take an implicit association test, where we measured their anti-black bias. And we predicted that those participants who were initially exposed to the inner city images would exhibit the greatest anti-black bias. Whereas, those exposed to the trailer park images would exhibit the least anti-black bias. And these results are preliminary, but that's exactly what we're finding so far. This is the higher the IAT Score, the greater the anti-black bias.
So in this study, we examined how space might influence people's thoughts about race. Next, I want to show you how race might influence people's thoughts about space. So for instance, in this one study, we examined how race could influence the types of spaces that people might imagine.
So we primed people subliminally with black faces or white faces. And then we asked them to just sit back and to imagine a school. Again , these results are preliminary, but I'm going to show you some of the open-ended responses we're getting so far.
So that's one participant. This is a different participant. Here's a third participant. So these were all participants who were exposed initially to the black faces. And here are some responses from participants who were subliminally primed with white faces beforehand. It says this is a white school, but I think they're talking about the paint. But it's still kind of interesting.
So I'm showing you these responses exactly how participants type them in, typos and all. Let me see if we have-- Oh, when we asked direct questions, like how well-maintained is the school that you're imagining, we found that participants who were subliminally exposed to the black faces beforehand imagined a school that was less well-maintained. So these are all of the data for all of the subjects here. They imagined a school that was less inviting. And they imagined a school that was less comfortable.
And then at the very end of the study, we asked participants to imagine the types of behaviors that would take place in this school that they were imagining. And here's what we're finding for those who were initially exposed to the black faces beforehand. Another participant. Here's someone describing what takes place in a space who had been exposed to white faces.
So in this next study I want to tell you about, we used a national sample of white Americans. And we had them complete the study over the internet. And with this study, participants read about a neighborhood and then provided their opinions about building a new chemical plant near that neighborhood.
And as participants viewed information about the neighborhood, they were told to vividly imagine how the physical space of the neighborhood looked. So they viewed information about the neighborhood's environment. They viewed information about the demographics of the neighborhood. And they viewed information about the housing in the neighborhood.
And all of this information was identical across conditions with one exception. And that's that half of the participants viewed a demographic page describing the largest ethnic population in the neighborhood to be white. Whereas, the remaining half were led to believe that the largest ethnic population was African-American or black.
Now, after the participants read this information, they were told that they should take the view of a chemical plant company employee. And they were told that they should imagine that they're part of a company team that identifies locations for building new chemical plants. And participants were then told that their company had determined that a new chemical plant was necessary and that they needed to tell their boss whether they thought it was OK to build the chemical plant near the neighborhood that they just read about and imagined.
So to help them to make their decisions, the participants were given information about the chemical plants. So they were given information about the chemical to be produced. In this particular case, that chemical was chlorine. They were given information about the production impact.
So in this case, they were told that the waste from the plant would be dumped in a adjacent river, but the water would be filtered and that this would meet all the standard codes and so forth. But the long-term health risks of the nearby residents was unknown. They were also given information about monetary cost of the project and so forth.
Now, after getting this information, participants were asked a series of questions about their perceptions and decisions about what to do with the chemical plant. So here are the results. When participants are led to believe that the neighborhood is predominately black, they're less likely to report wanting to live in that neighborhood. And they also report feeling less connected to that neighborhood, or less connected to the space. I don't know why that keeps happening.
So you could see here that there is no racial difference at all in how participants view the risk of putting a chemical plant in that neighborhood. But there is a difference, a significant difference, in how motivated or eager they are to search for an alternate location for the plant. So the exact question is, knowing that the chemical plant must go somewhere, do you think identifying an alternate location would be worth the risk, the time, and the effort? And we find that when the neighborhood is perceived as black, participants are not as likely to report wanting to switch the plant to another location. They're more satisfied keeping the plant where it is.
So finally, we've begun looking at these race effects in the real estate context. To do this, we placed an ad for our study on Craigslist. And we invited Bay Area residents to participate in an online study on real estate marketing. And we asked the participants to look at a typical online advertisement for a house that's for sale by owners. And we showed them pictures of the sellers as well as the house.
For some of the study participants, the Thomas family, who was selling the house, looked like this. And for other participants, the Thomas family looked like this. And we had a third group of participants who saw no family photo at all. So in this study, we asked participants to describe and evaluate the home after viewing real images of that home, rather than just imagining the home here.
And this time we find that, in terms of how well-maintained the house is, how inviting it is, and how comfortable they would be in the house, race doesn't appear to matter here. So we're not getting race effects at all on their perception of the home. But we get striking race differences in the type of neighborhood in which people imagine that house to be located in.
So when the Thomas family is black, they imagine that the house is located in a neighborhood with inferior public schooling. People thought that the housing and property would be less likely to be kept up if the sellers were black. And they also expressed real concern about neighborhood safety. So these data are quite telling to me, not because they show that our study participants are biased or irrational or anything like that. I find these data theoretically interesting, because they demonstrate just how tightly people are tied to physical space. So the mere image of a black family brings to mind a physical space that is valued less.
Now, of course, there's already a large literature on residential segregation in sociology. And many of these studies have already pointed out that racial bias is a dominant factor in shaping housing preferences. But the vast majority of this work has been non-experimental. And those studies focus almost exclusively on people's explicit attitudes about living with people of another race, especially blacks.
So for example, a really common technique used in the residential segregation literature is to present people with these cards, like these, where these homes represent where white families live, and these home homes represent where black families live. And the study participants are instructed to point out their ideal neighborhood. And the typical finding is that whites have a lower threshold for living with blacks than for living with any other racial or ethnic group. And our studies attempt to extend this work by focusing on the implicit attitudes that might be driving housing preferences and decisions, even when blacks were moving out. So the idea is that even when blacks are moving out, they leave behind residue that can degrade the physical space.
Now, in every single study I've presented thus far, we assume that people can quickly and easily ascribe racial meaning to the faces and the bodies that they see. And so in this set of studies, we're interested in how this is accomplished. How is racial meaning read onto the faces and bodies of others?
We were interested in the point in our life span at which race begins to alter how we see people. And we were interested in the ways in which race might affect our perception-- our perception of people's physical features could be potentially tied to racial inequalities. And so we wanted to look at that.
So the first study is a neuroimaging study designed to look at how race begins to shape neural responses to faces. And here, we were especially interested in examining neural responses in a region of the brain called the fusiform face area, or the FFA. This is an area in the occipital temporal region of the brain that has been highly implicated in face processing.
We took children-- these are white children-- adults, and adolescents. And we placed them in an imaging scanner. And we exposed them to white faces and to black faces. We also exposed them to a number of other stimuli in order to provide us with additional levels of control.
So you could see here, these abstract objects here were used to help us to define the FFA, or the fusiform face area, individually for each study participants. And we did this by isolating their brain region that responded more defaces of any type-- whether it was a black face or a white face-- that responded more to faces than to objects or abstract objects. And this region varied slightly from subject to subject. So here at the top, you can see, is an adult subject, where we have the left fusiform face area highlighted. And then on the bottom here is an 8 and 1/2-year-old child with the left FFA highlighted.
So during the scan, participants-- well, let me just say that after we pinpointed the FFA in each subject, we were really interested in looking at differential activation in the FFA for white faces in comparison to black faces. And then during the scan, as they looked at the faces come up on the screen, we had the subjects perform a simple one-back task, where every once in a while, they saw a face, the same face, presented back to back. And when that happened, they were to press a button to say that that happened.
In a separate session after the scan, we had participants form a face recognition memory test on a completely different set of stimuli. And then in a final third session, we had them take an IAT, this Implicit Association Test, so that we could measure implicit racial bias. So what did we find? We found that there is absolutely no differential response to faces as a function of race for the children. So these are the children here, but you get a significant difference here for adults.
So for adults-- these are white adults. And for these white adults, white faces are triggering significantly stronger responses in the FFA than black faces. So you can see here that there is a stronger response to white faces that seems to be emerging across development.
We also found a race effect for memory. And this race effect is slowly emerging as well for children. You get a significant memory effect where the children are remembering and recognizing the white faces better than they are recognizing the black faces. But that effect isn't as strong as it is for adults.
And like this FFA race effect, the memory race effect was correlated here. You can see that for children and adolescents and adults, you get significant correlations between their memory for the face and the FFA activation. So the better the participants were at recognizing white faces in comparison to black faces, the stronger the FFA activation to white faces in comparison to black faces.
Finally, we found an IAT effect here. All of our participants more quickly associated black faces with negative words and white faces with positive words, than they did the reverse. So all of them, to some extent, exhibit some degree of anti-black bias. But again, here, you can see that the effect is a lot more substantial for the adults than it is for the children.
So across three different measures of a race effect, we get the same pattern of results. You see this residue that's gradually building here. We also see here that for adults, the-- hold on-- the amount of activation in that face area is significantly correlated with anti-black bias. So the stronger the FFA activation to white faces in comparison to black faces, the greater their anti-black bias.
But that's only for the adults. For the children, you don't get a significant correlation. So for children perceiving a face has absolutely nothing to do with how they feel about the face. For children, there's a way in which the visual perception of faces is not yet tied to the social perception of race.
Now, one read on these data is that white adults are becoming less capable of making distinctions among racial outgroup members and that anti-black bias is pushing that effect along. So in other words, black faces are starting to all look alike. And this sounds plausible, but I'm going to argue against that.
And in fact, in a completely separate line of behavioral studies conducted with adults, we are finding that people are quite capable of making really fine-grained discriminations among the faces of racial outgroup members. Yet, these discriminations are racialized. These outgroup faces are being distinguished from one another on the basis of how well they fit the racial category.
So for example, people associate very specific physical features with black Americans. In this study, we asked people, who looks black, in an open-ended format. And we found that black Americans are people who are seen as having dark skin and kinky hair and thick lips and broad noses. Moreover, blacks are thought to vary on these features. And in fact, people tend to agree on how to sort black faces on a continuum that's more to less stereotypically black.
So my collaborators and I have now begun to explore the social consequences of associating these specific physical features with blacks or with racial group membership. So to examine this, we turned to the crime context once again, because of the strong stereotypic association of blacks with crime. And so, for example, in one study we presented police officers with black faces and white faces. And we asked these officers a simple question-- who looks criminal?
So they're exposed to the faces. That's all they get is a face. And we're asking them, out of the group of faces that you're seeing, tell us which faces look criminal. Now, we find that not only are our black faces more likely to be judged as criminal than white faces, but that black faces that look most stereotypically black are the most likely to be judged as criminal. So black physical features appear to signal criminality.
And finally, black features not only signal criminality, they appear to signal death worthiness. When jurors are deciding whether to punish someone with death or not, to some extent, they're deciding on what an adequate payment is to right the wrong that has been committed. So they're deciding on what type of payback would be just.
And this just-desserts perspective on punishment is well-represented in the work of the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant. And he says here, "punishment should be pronounced over all criminals proportionate to their internal wickedness"-- proportionate to their internal wickedness.
So in our research, we asked the question, could physical features that mark race be a proxy for internal wickedness? And if so, are black defendants, who look more stereotypically black, more likely to be perceived as wicked and punished accordingly? When we consider real defendants, who have been convicted of first degree murder, who should get life and who should get death?
Perhaps an overlooked factor in understanding how the death penalty is decided upon has to do with Kant's notion of internal wickedness. Perhaps still today, American citizens look upon a black face and use the blackness of his physical features as a proxy for internal wickedness. And perhaps they decide to punish accordingly.
So we addressed this issue by using a large data set of death-eligible defendants that was put together by a criminologist, David Baldes and his colleagues. And we were able to locate the photographs of the defendants in that database. And we gave these photographs to naive participants to rate them on stereotypicality.
So the participants had no idea that these were the faces of convicted criminals or how we got the faces, what the study was about. They just gave us their ratings. And we were interested in whether those stereotypicality ratings could predict life or death.
Now, the data I'm about to show you are for black defendants only. And you could see here that when you look at black defendants who are convicted of killing black victims, there's absolutely no stereotypicality effect. So those who are rated as lower in stereotypicality are sentenced to death at exactly the same rate as those who are seen as highly stereotypically black.
However, when you look at black defendants who are convicted of killing white victims, there's a huge stereotypicality effect. The death sentencing rate of those rated low in stereotypicality is about 24%. Yet, the death sentencing rate for those rated high in stereotypicality is over 58%. So looking more black more than doubles your chances of receiving a death sentence.
And this effect is significant even though we control for factors like aggravators and mitigators. We control for factors like the socioeconomic status of the defendant and of the victim. We control for factors like the defendant's attractiveness. And whatever we controlled for, we found that black defendants seem to be punished in proportion to the blackness of their physical features-- the more stereotypically black they are, the more likely they are to be sentenced to. Death
So as I conclude, let me remind you that most laypeople report that they do not think about race very often. Yet, we see evidence of a residue that's harder to shake than people have imagined. And over the years, social psychologists have offered many theories for why it is that racial biases endure.
And my collaborators and I agree that all of these factors may play a critical role in maintaining racial biases. Yet, almost all of these theories look for evidence of the problem by exclusively analyzing the social world. And my argument is that, once we are open to the possibility that these social processes can influence how we understand the physical world, then everything we see and touch somehow could be implicated. These social meanings carry a residue that changes everything.
Before stopping, let me just acknowledge my collaborators and funders. Paul, Phil, Sheri, and Valerie all collaborated with me on the race crime research. Nalini, Susan, Phil, and Negin collaborated with me on the race and body movement work.
Hilary and Courtney collaborated on the race and physical space work. And then John and Golijeh, and Lori collaborated with me on the neuroimaging work. And finally, I'd like to acknowledge my Grandma Bessie, who even after her passing continues to teach me things.
SPEAKER 1: This has been a presentation by Human Development Outreach and Extension at Cornell University.
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Stanford University psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt presents her research on how race influences our perception of objects and physical spaces, how objects and physical spaces influence how we think about race and how race changes how we see people.