Dehumanization of African-Americans Influences Racial Shooter Biases

Abstract

Dehumanization, defined as the psychological process through which others are perceived as being non-human, has been of interest to researchers for many years, in part because of its potential to inform our understanding of how human beings justify harm toward out-groups. The current research extends the literature by using a novel experimental manipulation to investigate dehumanization’s effect on automatic behavior toward out-groups (e.g., racial shooter biases) and examined perceived threat as a moderator. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (African-American dehumanization, white dehumanization, and control). Across two studies (Study 1, n = 290; Study 2, n = 318), those in the African-American dehumanization condition were quicker to correctly shoot armed African-American (vs. white) targets (d = − .21, 95% CI [− .38, − .04]) compared to the other two conditions. This effect was only significant among participants who perceived African-Americans as relatively more threatening.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Supplemental analyses in the appendix show that the results were similar when only considering women.

  2. 2.

    Some authors have argued for a meta-analysis across studies (Braver et al. 2014), others have criticized this approach (Vosgerau et al. 2019). We ultimately choose this approach based on reviewer suggestions. The results and conclusions were similar when using a meta-analytic approach.

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Mekawi, Y., Bresin, K. & Hunter, C.D. Dehumanization of African-Americans Influences Racial Shooter Biases. Race Soc Probl 11, 299–307 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-019-09267-y

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Keywords

  • Dehumanization
  • Anti-black prejudice
  • Racial shooter bias
  • Moral disengagement