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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Dec;95(6):1499-510. doi: 10.1037/a0012822.

Racing to help: racial bias in high emergency helping situations.

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Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA.


The present work explored the influence of emergency severity on racial bias in helping behavior. Three studies placed participants in staged emergencies and measured differences in the speed and quantity of help offered to Black and White victims. Consistent with predictions, as the level of emergency increased, the speed and quality of help White participants offered to Black victims relative to White victims decreased. In line with the authors' predictions based on an integration of aversive racism theory and the arousal: cost-reward perspective on prosocial behavior, severe emergencies with Black victims elicited high levels of aversion from White helpers, and these high levels of aversion were directly related to the slower help offered to Black victims but not to White victims (Study 1). In addition, the bias was related to White individuals' interpretation of the emergency as less severe and themselves as less responsible to help Black victims rather than White victims (Studies 2 and 3). Study 3 also illustrated that emergency racial bias is unique to White individuals' responses to Black victims and not evinced by Black helpers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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