Cognitive Daily

Negative stereotypes about Blacks in the U.S. have declined dramatically since the 1930s — practically no White person to will say that Blacks are lazy, or superstitious, or many other stereotypes, when these views were common 80 years ago.

Yet huge racial disparities still exist infant mortality, unemployment, and poverty are found more than twice as often among Blacks than Whites, and these numbers haven’t changed since the 1960s.

In John Dovidio’s talk, “Racism Among the Well-Intentioned, he argued that most Whites who say they’re not biased, believe they are not biased. Yet at the same time, they do develop negative feelings towards Blacks and other people of color.

Bias typically only occurs when racist actions are not obvious. So while White people won’t say or do things that can obviously be seen as prejudiced, they will make systematic negative judgments about Blacks.

In one study, Dovidio and colleagues presented White students with a hypothetical job applicant. The applicant had either excellent or average qualifications, and was shown in a photo to be white or black.

Race played no factor in hiring decisions when the applicants had excellent qualifications, but when applicants had only average qualifications, Whites were hired significantly more often than Blacks.


They ran this study in 1989 and again in 1999 with no change in results. Yet over same period, overt racism declined.

In another study, Dovidio had people converse about a non-race-related subject via closed-circuit TV. Some conversations were normal, but in other conversations, a TiVo-like device was used to delay the response of each conversant by 1 second. It was a small delay, but it did introduce a bit of awkwardness into the conversation.

Then each participant’s anxiety level was measured.

For White-White and Black-Black conversations, anxiety actually went down when the delay was introduced. But in mixed-race conversations, anxiety went up. Dovidio argues that on the surface, Whites and Blacks say they’re not racist, but when a very small wrench is thrown into the works, things break down quickly. Negative assumptions are made that aren’t made in a single-race conversation.

These small factors add up to significant real-world results, such as the problems with poverty and unequal educational opportunities for Blacks compared to Whites.

update: I’ve finally had a chance to look up the APA style for “Black” and “White” when referring to racial groups. The descriptive term should be capitalized in both cases, so I’ve corrected this post. I apologize for the error.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott Belyea
    May 24, 2008

    practically no white person to will say that Blacks are lazy, or superstitious, or many other stereotypes

    Hmmm. Checked any of the white supremacist or extreme right blogs?

    To say that talk of this sort has ” diminished considerably” would be accurate. However, to say that “practically no white person will say” seems to me to be overly optimistic.

  2. #2 Grizzled Cynic
    May 24, 2008

    The Southern Poverty Law Center puts out a magazine, ‘Intelligence Report’. Find a copy and read it cover to cover. America is rife with hatred.

  3. #3 Damien
    May 24, 2008

    Dude, what is your definition of “practically none?” You seem to be suggesting that the people who should be should be focused on are the ones farthest outside the mean.

    Why?

  4. #4 bg
    May 24, 2008

    Does capitalizing “Black” in the above post, but not “white” also show inherent bias by making it stand out more as different? You’re not writing African American up there, so why does one color get the special designation of proper noun?

    There was a similar study to this one done awhile back on just “black-sounding” names where researchers sent out identical resumes with either “white-sounding” or “black-sounding” names and recorded which ones got the most responses. I’m sure you can guess the results.

  5. #5 agnostic
    May 24, 2008

    These small factors add up to significant real-world results, such as the problems with poverty and unequal educational opportunities for Blacks compared to whites.

    Well no one has shown that poverty and education problems among Blacks are caused by Whites.

    But consider this: interracial crime rates. It’s hard to argue against causation there. Overwhelmingly, for violent crime, it is Black against White far more often than White against Black (google it). Do the racist stereotypes that Blacks have about Whites play a role? Maybe, but strangely these stereotypes are rarely discussed.

    In the same line of research as Dovidio’s on implicit stereotypes that Whites have about Blacks (that they’re mostly negative ones), Fazio et al (1995) showed that Blacks too held mostly negative stereotypes about Whites.

    Race played no factor in hiring decisions when the applicants had excellent qualifications, but when applicants had only average qualifications, whites were hired significantly more often than blacks.

    That’s pretty weird. If people knew statistics, they would do the opposite: give the average Black guy a fairer shake than the exceptional one. The Black mean for IQ is 1 SD below that of Whites, so if a Black person scores in the tails on a test, it’s more likely to reflect chance factors / measurement error than in the White case. If he scores near the White average, chance and measurement error are weaker factors.

    Fazio et al (1995). Variability in automatic activation… J Pers Soc Psych.

  6. #6 Becca
    May 24, 2008

    @agnostic-
    I wouldn’t call 8.8% (for Black on White) to be “overwhelmingly” greater than 3.2% (for White on Black) (checked out on http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/ovracetab.htm). Is there another way of looking at the numbers? Do you know of any data that control for socioeconomic status?

    Also, if black criminals simply “sterotype” that whites are more likely to have money, and that inflates the Black-on-White component of violent crime… are those sterotypes still important to discuss? Did Fazio et al even consider SES as a sterotype, and if so is it a negative sterotype?

    Also, I think you are conflating IQ and (probably fictional) job qualifications. There are many fields there is little (if any) relation between the two.

  7. #7 Cranky Old Stats Prof
    May 24, 2008

    If I told you that a certain activity (say, drinking coffee) made you 2.75 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than another activity (say, drinking decaf), would you be inclined to stop drinking coffee? Well, a factor 2.75 is exactly what the ratio is between rates of 8.8% and 3.2%. I don’t know what the definition of “overwhelming” is, but I do know that a factor of 2.75 in most medical contexts would be splashed all over the media.

  8. #8 Dave Munger
    May 24, 2008

    Scott/Damien,

    According to Dovidio in his talk, these numbers are down around 1 percent currently, compared to, in some cases, up to 85 percent in the 1930s.

    bg:

    re: capitalization. While I’m under no illusions that I don’t have any implicit biases, I don’t think this is an example of one. I was trying to do the right thing and maybe I didn’t remember the rule correctly.

  9. #9 ringo
    May 24, 2008

    There was a similar study to this one done awhile back on just “black-sounding” names where researchers sent out identical resumes with either “white-sounding” or “black-sounding” names and recorded which ones got the most responses. I’m sure you can guess the results.

    If I remember the study correctly, it was a lousy comparison. They used names like “LaTisha” compared to names like “Susan”. The white equivalent of LaTisha isn’t Susan – it’s Tiffany.

    That’s pretty weird. If people knew statistics, they would do the opposite: give the average Black guy a fairer shake than the exceptional one.

    The concept of a “fairer” shake is just mind boggling.

  10. #10 Tony Jeremiah
    May 24, 2008

    Well no one has shown that poverty and education problems among Blacks are caused by Whites.

    Well, probably nothing that straightforward. However, Rosenthal and Jacobsen’s classic experiment showed that teachers tricked into believing children were either intelligent or not intelligent had a significant impact on the subsequent IQ of these children. Given the lingering stereotype of lower intellegence of Blacks in the U.S. (would be interesting to see what happens to this post Obama), this Pygmalion effect is probably at work particularly for Black children in the U.S., and might be quite predominant in classrooms having a Black/White differential (i.e., where the teacher is White). My guess is that this Pygmalion effect persists in the form of Claude Steele’s stereotype threat.

    Race played no factor in hiring decisions when the applicants had excellent qualifications, but when applicants had only average qualifications, whites were hired significantly more often than blacks.

    That’s pretty weird. If people knew statistics, they would do the opposite: give the average Black guy a fairer shake than the exceptional one. The Black mean for IQ is 1 SD below that of Whites, so if a Black person scores in the tails on a test, it’s more likely to reflect chance factors / measurement error than in the White case. If he scores near the White average, chance and measurement error are weaker factors.

    A few points:

    (1) It seems that average qualification is being viewed here as synonymous with average IQ. But presumably, IQ is not a criterion to be found (at least explicitly) on a job application. Presumably, the usual items are things such as educational attainment and prior work experience–both achievements likely to be influenced by an interaction between IQ and SES. If all applicants are applying for the same job, it should be presumably difficult to tell whether the differences in the indicated achievements are due to IQ, SES (which might heavily influence networking ability) and numerous other factors.

    (2) Going with the assumption that IQ is an explicit factor on job applications, I don’t follow the argument concerning measurement factor/error and tails. For the argument to be true, one would have to assume the kurtosis (which would seem to affect where the tails are in a normally distributed curve) for both populations are the same, and, that the nature of distribution are being equally influenced by the same factors (e.g., IQ or SES factors).

    (3) Given that the research seems to be addressing implicit racism, I’m guessing that the research results refer to hiring decisions that are based on implicit racial biases. Therefore, the decisions are presumably not conscious. So the statistical argument does not seem to be directly relevant for the phenomenon being discussed. A more relevant argument would seem to come from a social cognition perspective, such as why these biases disappear when applicants have exceptional ability, but not when they have average ability.

  11. #11 James Bach
    May 24, 2008

    How is any of this racism?

    How do we know it isn’t “differentism” or, to put it positively, the security of the familiar? Maybe when I have fewer facts to go on about a person, I’m more likely to make my decision based on how familiar the person seems. Race is just one particularly visible factor in that analysis. I’d like to see research that involves other factors, too. For instance, is someone more likely to select a candidate who went to the same university they did, or someone who looks like their mother?

    Making this about “racism” just seems to fan the flames, in the absence of real evidence.

  12. #12 Mark Brandt
    May 24, 2008

    @ Agnostic

    see Jackman, M. R. (2001) License to kill: Violence and legitimacy in expropriative social relations. In Jost, J. T. & Major, B. (eds.) The psychology of legitimacy: Emerging perspectives on ideology, justice, and intergroup relations.

    And as an addendum (or something) to Tony Jeremiah’s first point:

    see Reyna, C. (2000). Lazy, dumb, or industrious: When stereotypes convey attribution information in the classroom. Educational Psychology Review, 12, 85-110.

  13. #13 Mark Brandt
    May 24, 2008

    @ James Bach,

    First it would help to define what racism means. If it means treating someone of another race as less than you would treat someone of your race, then yes indeed Jack Dovidio’s results indicate that there is subtle yet pervasive racism.

    Second, finding the same results with your university or your mother’s face would indicate prejudice, just not racism. As you know racism deals with race, perhaps what you are suggesting would be a case of universityism. The other half of the point I want to make is that people do recognize faces they are more familiar with faster (Whites are better at recognizing White faces than Black faces, vice versa). I don’t remember off hand if this is related to prejudice in anyway, though I suspect it wouldn’t help.

    Third, the phenomenon you are describing, in-group favoritism, has been often and consistently related to out-group derogation. It often depends on the context, but the contexts that only result in in-group favoritism are often artificially created groups (e.g. Tajfel’s minimal group paradigm).

    Fourth, recently research out of the labratories Viki, Haslam, and Leyens all suggest that people view outgroups as less than human (dehuman, infra-human, etc.) in most (if not all) situations. In a recent paper by Viki it was demonstrated that infra-humanization is not related to ingroup favoritism and is almost all attributable to out-group derogation.

    So while the talk of current discussion did not address all of these issues the accumulated knowledge of social psychology has.

  14. #14 michael
    May 25, 2008

    to say that white people are the cause of the poverty and of the infant deaths of minorities just because some people do not trust the minorities in this country is rediculous. Poverty is in the hands of the poor. Education is seen as something to be scorned even today by almost every teenage child despite race. Isn’t it also important to point out that even Bill Cosby recognizes that its not the white people holding anyone back anymore its the black american gangster culture, that somehow drugs gambling and gangs are more important than education, stability and acceptance of self. It is no longer the white people in general that hate the black americans it is the black americans themselves.

  15. #15 ComputationalLinguist
    May 25, 2008

    Interesting article. I would argue that affirmative action bias might be playing a role here. That is, if you have two stellar candidates, then you can be pretty sure that the black applicant didn’t depend on any helping hands to get where he is – since you only ever make it to the top 1% by effort and ability. Hence, no discrimination at the top. If you have two candidates of mediocre qualification, the employer might assume that the black candidate’s resume is padded by, say, internships awarded on the basis of his race rather than actual qualification, or good grades because he got a race-based scholarship that might not have been available to the white applicant (who might have had to work a part-time job through college), etc. In short, the assumption might be that for two applicants of mediocre-to-average qualification, the white applicant is likely to have been forced to work harder to get where he is, and therefore likely to be more qualified in reality rather than just on paper.

  16. #16 Octopoggle
    May 25, 2008

    ringo @ #9:

    it was a lousy comparison. They used names like “LaTisha” compared to names like “Susan”. The white equivalent of LaTisha isn’t Susan – it’s Tiffany.

    It was an empirically based comparison. They used the names most common to each group that were also least common to the other group – that is, the names most unambiguously correlated with a specific racial group. That makes a lot more sense than claiming (on GOK what grounds) that LaTisha is more equivalent to Tiffany than to Susan. It was an elegant study. IIRC, they found that a Black applicant with no criminal record had about equal chances of getting an interview as a White candidate with identical education/training and a criminal record for drugs. Also, that when they added further eduction/training, it increased Whites’ chances of being interviewed much more than the same amount of increased qualifications increased Blacks’ chances.

  17. #17 Bill Miller
    June 2, 2008

    It don’t matter if you’re black or white-oh,that was Michael Jackson,who really doesn’t know if he’s black or white :-)
    Look,the point here is this,in a nutshell:Why do we always have all these studies about racism,and why do these studies always seem to be slanted in favor of black people?
    I submit to you that racism towards whites from blacks exists more today than it ever has!It almost seems the case that the more black Americans achieve,the more racist they get!
    Ultimately,there is racism in the white and black communities,and all of it is wrong!I just wish someone would be honest and factual for once!

  18. #18 Muse142
    June 2, 2008

    Bill Miller: I do not know if blacks are more likely to individually hold prejudice towards white people any more than whites are more likely to individually hold prejudice towards black people. If this is true, it still does not change the fact that white people have an easier time getting involved in institutions that are traditionally supported by the (overwhelmingly white) American society as a whole – aka bank loans and mortgages, college acceptance, hiring at high-paying jobs, etc. There sure is prejudice from all races regarding all races. But the prejudices don’t all have the same effect. Prejudice towards black people disproportionately involves denying them, as a race, access to higher status. Prejudice towards whites does not. This is why, IMHO, it’s so important.

  19. #19 Bill Miller
    June 2, 2008

    Muse:That may be true when whites are looked at as a whole,but I’ve never been rich,I’ve never had easy access to the institutions you mention(heck,I can’t even get a decent job,even though I’m fairly highly educated!).In other words,I too suffer extreme prejudice from society in a lot of aspects,but I don’t complain,I just keep going!
    And the point of that is this:Black people seem to think ALL whites have it made,when in fact there are many like me who live at or below the poverty level!Many of us struggle to get by as hard,maybe harder in some cases,than blacks!

  20. #20 Tony Jeremiah
    June 2, 2008

    (heck,I can’t even get a decent job,even though I’m fairly highly educated!)

    I don’t think this has anything to do with racial discrimination or prejudice, especially given the < a href = "http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2008/05/with_honors_without_options.php">with honors, without options commentary over at the Intersection.

    Black people seem to think ALL whites have it made,when in fact there are many like me who live at or below the poverty level!Many of us struggle to get by as hard,maybe harder in some cases,than blacks!

    Presumably you are not referring to the rich ones.

  21. #21 Susie
    June 3, 2008

    There are so many fallacies here, I’m kind of wondering whether Mr. Miller is trolling.

    Look,the point here is this,in a nutshell:Why do we always have all these studies about racism,and why do these studies always seem to be slanted in favor of black people?

    Why do I get the sense that “seem to be slanted in favor of black people” = “proves the existence and damaging effects of racism”? What is your proof that these studies are slanted, other than that the results run contrary to your expectations?

    That may be true when whites are looked at as a whole,but I’ve never been rich,I’ve never had easy access to the institutions you mention(heck,I can’t even get a decent job,even though I’m fairly highly educated!).

    In determining whether racial bias exists and effects people’s lives, the question isn’t whether any individual white person has easy access to x, y, or z benefit or resource, it’s whether collectively white people have far easier access than do black people, and the answer to that is an overwhelming “yes”.

    In other words,I too suffer extreme prejudice from society in a lot of aspects,but I don’t complain,I just keep going!

    How does “I’m not rich” translate to “I suffer extreme prejudice”? Can you demonstrate a pattern of pervasive disadvantage in being white?

    Black people seem to think ALL whites have it made,when in fact there are many like me who live at or below the poverty level!

    You mean, the same way you seem to think you know what all black people think?

  22. #22 Susie
    June 3, 2008

    If I told you that a certain activity (say, drinking coffee) made you 2.75 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than another activity (say, drinking decaf), would you be inclined to stop drinking coffee?

    Only if I weren’t smart enough to ask first what the likelihood of the other activity was to cause me to suffer a heart attack, and then make a realistic estimate of just how much of a chance multiplying that by 2.75 gave me. I can multiply my chances for winning the state lottery 3 times by buying two more tickets, but I still don’t have that great of a chance.

  23. #23 Susie
    June 3, 2008

    General point: people are conflating “caused by racism” and “caused by whites”, as if a deliberate cabal of hateful white people were being charged with controlling and manipulating the lives of everyone. It’s not that simple, and no one with any intelligence thinks it is. Racism is a pervasive, largely unconscious pattern of prejudice and assumptions prevalent in the culture that shapes people’s perceptions, frequently without any deliberate intention on their part. To wit:

    If you have two candidates of mediocre qualification, the employer might assume that the black candidate’s resume is padded by, say, internships awarded on the basis of his race rather than actual qualification, or good grades because he got a race-based scholarship that might not have been available to the white applicant (who might have had to work a part-time job through college), etc.

    In what way would that not be a racist assumption? Why would the black candidate be likely to have benefited from factors not related to his own efforts, but the white candidate not? If there are “race-based scholarships”, there are equally race-based entitlements — “legacy” spots at colleges and universities, local elementary and high schools with far superior resources (much less private schools), internship opportunities from companies your mom or dad does business with, etc.

    To be unaware that these highly advantageous factors don’t still and overwhelmingly redound to the benefit of white kids over black kids might be an unwitting blindness to realities other than one’s own, rather than deliberate racism. That is, until you devote any amount of serious analytical thought to the matter. After that point, if you can’t see the obvious truth that a system that by everyone’s admission excluded and even terrorized African Americans at least through the early 70s didn’t suddenly vanish, leaving everyone to the enjoyment of a sparkly new level playing field, then you’ve got an investment in being blind.

  24. #24 mnuez
    June 4, 2008

    It makes me want to scream.

    Suppose you came across a community of people who were wise, intelligent and learned. You came to like these people. You enjoyed intelligent conversation with them and were pleasantly relaxed around them as you knew that their minds were logic-based and that therefore all subjects could be discussed freely and without bias. And then you found out that they believe in shoe fairies. In fact they not only BELIEVE in shoe fairies with little white wings who live inside their shoes but they were fuckin NUTS about it. No questioning of this belief could be allowed and they insisted on discussing this belief of theirs in the same rational and scientific jargon that they employed for complex maths and meta-historical analyses.

    Wouldn’t you too feel like screaming?

    mnuez

    (P.S. Comfort yourselves oh fairy-believers by imputing my motives and my mind. Fancy me a hate-filled African-Hater who holds them to be descended from Ham, lesser of the sons of Noah. Imagine in your happy little heads that I’m an ignoramus of high order. Comfort yourselves by turning this man into straw. Oh Fools ye be, pathetic fools…)

  25. #25 Susie
    June 4, 2008

    Wouldn’t you too feel like screaming?

    No, if I found myself confronted with people whose claims I didn’t believe, I’d feel like making my case with facts and logic, rather than unsupported assertions and insulting personal remarks. If my beliefs are so irrational and illogical, it shouldn’t be difficult to refute them. Why do you have no recourse but to become incoherent?

    If you’ve commented in this thread before, it’s not readily apparent, so I can’t respond to what you’ve said with any more specificity. Or are you just dropping in to make a bunch of accusations?

  26. #26 Tony Jeremiah
    June 5, 2008

    Suppose you came across a community of people who were wise, intelligent and learned. You came to like these people. You enjoyed intelligent conversation with them and were pleasantly relaxed around them as you knew that their minds were logic-based and that therefore all subjects could be discussed freely and without bias. And then you found out that they believe in shoe fairies. In fact they not only BELIEVE in shoe fairies with little white wings who live inside their shoes but they were fuckin NUTS about it. No questioning of this belief could be allowed and they insisted on discussing this belief of theirs in the same rational and scientific jargon that they employed for complex maths and meta-historical analyses.

    So therefore, evolution is just a theory and we should really be teaching the controversy.