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Law Hum Behav. 2013 Oct;37(5):348-53. doi: 10.1037/lhb0000038. Epub 2013 Jun 17.

Reverse deterrence in racial profiling: increased transgressions by nonprofiled whites.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Georgia Southern University.


A controlled experiment tested the possibility that racial profiling-disproportionate scrutiny of a minority racial group by sanctioned authorities-would have a "reverse deterrent" effect on the illicit behavior of members of a nonprofiled majority group. Research participants given a task involving extremely difficult anagrams were given the opportunity to cheat. White participants randomly assigned to a condition in which two Black confederates were obtrusively singled out for scrutiny by the study administrator cheated more than Whites in a White-profiling condition and a no-profiling control condition, and more than Black participants in all three conditions. Black participants cheated at comparable levels across the three experimental conditions. The effect of the profiling of Blacks was consequently a net increase in cheating. The results indicate that racial profiling may be counterproductive.

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