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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Dec;83(6):1314-29.

The police officer's dilemma: using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Colorado at Boulder, 80309-0345, USA.


Using a simple videogame, the effect of ethnicity on shoot/don't shoot decisions was examined. African American or White targets, holding guns or other objects, appeared in complex backgrounds. Participants were told to "shoot" armed targets and to "not shoot" unarmed targets. In Study 1, White participants made the correct decision to shoot an armed target more quickly if the target was African American than if he was White, but decided to "not shoot" an unarmed target more quickly if he was White. Study 2 used a shorter time window, forcing this effect into error rates. Study 3 replicated Study 1's effects and showed that the magnitude of bias varied with perceptions of the cultural stereotype and with levels of contact, but not with personal racial prejudice. Study 4 revealed equivalent levels of bias among both African American and White participants in a community sample. Implications and potential underlying mechanisms are discussed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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