Racial attitudes of a region can influence decisions by police, researchers say

By | August 29, 2017

When more white people in a community hold African-Americans in greater suspicion, that prevailing view may influence police behavior in ways that drive the outsize use of lethal force against African-Americans by cops, a recent study shows.

It’s a finding likely to stir controversy and spark new interest in the phenomenon of implicit bias — the beliefs and prejudices we hold beneath our level of awareness.

Studied and measured by psychologists since the early 1990s, these unconscious views — which sometimes conflict with the opinions we explicitly embrace — are thought to shape our behavior every day. That influence may be subtle, psychologists say. But it’s never more powerful than when we are under extreme stress or time pressure, as police officers often are.

For the study, a trio of psychologists built a map of the racial bias and stereotypes that prevail among whites across the United States.

They gathered individuals’ answers to a pair of online tests that measure implicit bias and stereotypes about black and white people. Then they arranged them in geographical clusters according to the recorded location of the test-taker. (Watertown Daily Times)

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