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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1988 Jan;54(1):74-85.

The dark side of self- and social perception: black uniforms and aggression in professional sports.

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Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853.


Black is viewed as the color of evil and death in virtually all cultures. With this association in mind, we were interested in whether a cue as subtle as the color of a person's clothing might have a significant impact on his or her behavior. To test this possibility, we examined whether professional football and ice hockey teams that wear black uniforms are more aggressive than those that wear nonblack uniforms. An analysis of the penalty records of the National Football League and the National Hockey League indicate that teams with black uniforms in both sports ranked near the top of their leagues in penalties throughout the period of study. On those occasions when a team switched from nonblack to black uniforms, the switch was accompanied by an immediate increase in penalties. The results of two laboratory experiments indicate that this finding can be attributed to both social perception and self-perception processes--that is, to the biased judgments of referees and to the increased aggressiveness of the players themselves. Our discussion focuses on the theoretical implications of these data for an understanding of the variable, or "situated," nature of the self.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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