The World Is Not Black and White: Racial Bias in the Decision to Shoot in a Multiethnic Context

Melody S. Sadler, San Diego State University
Joshua Correll, University of Chicago
Bernadette Park, University of Colorado, Boulder
Charles Judd, University of Colorado, Boulder
Publication Date:
Jan 2012
Published In:
Project Programs:
Cultural Contact

Melody S. Sadler, San Diego State University; Joshua Correll, University of Chicago; Bernadette Park, University of Colorado, Boulder; Charles Judd, University of Colorado, Boulder

We examined implicit race biases in the decision to shoot potentially hostile targets in a multiethnic context. Results of two studies showed that college-aged participants and police officers showed anti-Black racial bias in their response times: they were quicker to correctly shoot armed Black targets and to indicate "don't shoot" for unarmed Latino, Asian, and White targets. In addition, police officers showed racial biases in response times toward Latinos versus Asians or Whites, and surprisingly, toward Whites versus Asians. Results also showed that the accuracy of decisions to shoot was higher for Black and Latino targets than for White and Asian targets. Finally, the degree of bias shown by police officers toward Blacks was related to contact, attitudes, and stereotypes. Overestimation of community violent crime correlated with greater bias toward Latinos but less toward Whites. Implications for police training to ameliorate biases are discussed.


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