Racial and ethnic bias in decisions to shoot seen through a stronger lens: experimental results from high-fidelity laboratory simulations
- 2.1k Downloads
Research on racial bias in the United States includes findings that Americans tend to view blacks as more dangerous than whites. Some have argued that this bias provides a likely explanation for the disproportionate number of ethnic and racial minorities shot by police. One piece of evidence for this proposition comes from experimental work in which research participants push “shoot” or “don’t shoot” buttons when still images of people and objects that may or may not be weapons are presented in rapid succession. These studies have established that participants tend to subconsciously pair black individuals with weapons and white individuals with neutral objects. However, it is not clear from these studies that the subconscious racial bias identified by researchers affects actual decisions to shoot, perhaps because the techniques used to assess the bias-shooting link bear so little resemblance to real-world shootings.
This paper reports on the results of a novel laboratory experiment designed to overcome this critical limitation by using high-fidelity deadly force judgment and decision-making simulators to assess both subconscious and behavioral bias among 48 research participants, recruited from the general population.
Study results suggest that subconscious associations between race and threat exhibited by participants are not linked to their shooting behavior.
The implications of this finding for understanding how race and ethnicity affect decisions to shoot, and for conducting empirical research on this important topic, are discussed.
KeywordsUnconscious bias Behavioral bias Race/ethnicity Decisions to shoot
Research supported by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract nos. NBCHC070101 and NBCHC090054, National Institute of Justice grant no. 2008-IJ-CX-0015, and Office of Naval Research DURIP grant no. N000140810802.
- Baumann, M.R., Sniezek, J.A., & Buerkle, C.A. (2001) “Self-Evaluation, Stress and Performance: A Model of Decision Making Under Acute Stress.” In E. Salas and G. Klein, Eds., Linking Expertise and Naturalistic Decision Making. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, Chap. 8, pp. 139–158.Google Scholar
- Brown, J., & Langan, P. (2001). Policing and homicide, 1976–98: justifiable homicide by police, police officers murdered by felons. Bureau of Justice Statistics: U.S. Department of Justice. Washington.Google Scholar
- Collins, R. (2008). Violence: a microsociological theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Correll, J., & Keesee, T. (2009). Racial bias in the decision to shoot? May: The Police Chief. 2009.Google Scholar
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. (2006). Violent Encounters: a study of felonious assaults on our nation’s law enforcement officers. Washington: U.S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
- Fiske, S., & Neuberg, S. (1990). A continuum of impression formation, from category-based to individualting processes: Influences of information and motication on attention and interpretation. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol.23, pp. 1–74). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
- Fyfe, J. J. (1978).Shots fired: an examination of New York City Police firearms discharges,Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International.Google Scholar
- Fyfe, J. J. (1982),Readings on Police Use of Deadly Force. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.Google Scholar
- Geller, W. A. (1982). Deadly force: what we know. Journal of PoliceScience and Administration, 10, 151–177.Google Scholar
- Geller, W. A., & Scott, M. (1992). Deadly force: what we know. Washington: Police Executive Research Forum.Google Scholar
- Goldkamp, J. (1976). Minorities as victims of police shootings: interpretations of racial disproportionality and police use of deadly force. Justice System Journal, 2, 169–183.Google Scholar
- Inn, A., Wheeler, A. C. & Sparling, C. L. (1977). The effects of suspect race and situation hazardon police officer shooting behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 7, 27–37.Google Scholar
- James, L., Vila, B. & Daratha, K. (2013) Influence of Suspect Race and Ethnicity on Decisions to Shoot in High Fidelity Deadly Force Judgment and Decision-Making Simulations. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 9(2), 189–212.Google Scholar
- Klinger, D. (2004). Into the kill zone: a cop’s eye view of deadly force. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
- Klinger, D. (2005). Social theory and the street cop: the case of deadly force. Ideas in American policing essay number 7. Washington: Police Foundation.Google Scholar
- Kolb, B. & Whishaw, I. (2001). An Introduction to Brain and Behavior. New York: Worth.Google Scholar
- Krivo, L. & Peterson, R. (2012). Race, Crime and Justice: Contexts and Complexities. American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 623.Google Scholar
- Liska, A. E. & Yu, J. (1992).Specifying and testing the threat hypothesis: police use of deadly force.In A. E. Liska (Ed.) Social Threat and Social Control (pp. 53–68). Albany: State University of New YorkPress.Google Scholar
- Macdonald, J. M., Kaminski, R. J., Alpert, G. P. & Tennenbaum, A. N. (2001). The temporal relationship between police killings of civilians and criminal homicide: a refined version of the danger-perception theory. Crime Delinquency, 42(2), 155–172.Google Scholar
- Perrow, C. (1984).Normal Accidents. New York: Basic BooksGoogle Scholar
- Roza, M., Voogd, J., Jense, H., & van Gool, P. Roza, M. (1999) “Fidelity Requirements Specification: A Process Oriented View,” ‘99 Fall Simulation Interoperability Workshop, September 1999, Paper 032. Downloaded 12 Feb. 2013 from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.201.8554&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Rosich, K. J. (2007).Race, Ethnicity, and the Criminal Justice System.Washington, DC:American Sociological Association.Google Scholar
- Scharf, P., & Binder, A. (1983). The badge and the bullet: police use of deadly force. New York: Praegar.Google Scholar
- Sherman, L. & Langworthy, R. (1979). Measuring homicide by police officers. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 4, 546–560.Google Scholar
- Takagi, P. (1974). A garrison state in a “democratic” society. Crime and Scholarly Justice, 1, 27–33.Google Scholar
- Vila, B., James, L., James, S. & and Waggoner, B. (2012). Final Report: Developing a Common Metric for Evaluating Police Performance in Deadly Force Situations. National Institute of Justice, grant no. 2008IJCX0015, 27 Aug.Google Scholar