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Study: Blacks subconsciously 'dehumanized'

Original post made on Feb 11, 2008

Disturbing new research from psychologists at Stanford University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of California-Berkeley has shown that many white Americans subconsciously associate blacks with images of apes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 11, 2008, 12:03 PM

Comments (31)

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Posted by Not-Another-Stanford-Study
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm

> They then tried to identify blurry ape drawings on the screen.

Hopefully the US Taxpayers are not funding this stuff. One can only wonder who is funding it?

> That association can lead people to condone the beating of
> black suspects by police officers,

And of course, black suspects always comply with police commands, and are always found innocent of all charges brought against them.

Data from the US DoJ web-site, as well as the CA DoJ web-site reveals that black-on-black violence is typically 8 times greater than black-white violence. Wonder how this study will be used to explain the high black-on-black violence found in the real world?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Many might look on this as a compliment. I for one think that apes and similar species are more intelligent and show better human characteristics than many of the humans in society today.


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Posted by Where's the Science?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Whoa Nellie! The thing I'm most disturbed by is this recent penchant for drawing grand conclusions from medical studies, when the scope of the studies don't really address those conclusions. I would admonish the researchers not to over interpret the study.

Does this study say anything at all about social bias, or does it simply say something about how people fundamentally group images by color before shape or other criteria? Because knowing that would allow a more thoughtful look at what fundamental cognitive processes might lead to color biases in human cultures.

What does this over interpretation say about the bias of the researchers if the study scope can do little more than shed a little light (and a very little at that) on the issue of fundamental cognitive grouping tendencies?


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Posted by GSB
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm

What I find disturbing is that Stanford spent time and money on something that i can sum up in one word: "duh!"


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Posted by Palo Alto was a sundown town
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Here's a link to Stanford's press release. Web Link

Folks who have access to the American Psychological Association Journal of Personality and Social Psychology can find the full article here: Web Link

I don't have such access, and without reading the actual article, I'm not prepared to say more about it.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Thank "God" "Blacks" have no preconceived notions about "Whites."


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:23 pm

"Eberthardt said. "African-Americans are still dehumanized; we're still associated with apes in this country. " and "Researchers found the subjects could identify the ape images much faster after being primed by black faces than by white faces."

First, there IS bias against blacks in America. Racism is alive and well - and, it is evil.

Second, we have made progress, a lot of progress, against racism, but it's not enough.

Third, I find grandstanding studies like this very disturbing, because they do *nothing* to solve the problem of racism. In fact, they inflame, distort, and create more dissension between races.

There appears to be a clear bias in the way this study was designed. It's almost as if the researchers were trying to prove a point, so they designed a study to create an outcome that was more likely, than not, to occur.

There's no time to go into the details of experimental modeling, here, but let's just say if you showed a bunch of white college students pictures of white people, and then showed them slightly out-of-focus pictures of white monkeys Web Link
or some other furry white creature, you very well might get the same result in the opposite direction.

This proves NOTHING about racial bias. It has far more to do with cognitive ordering and grouping tendencies than anything else - and those tendencies exist in ALL humans, regardless of race.

btw, there's an excellent website put up by Harvard, to show us how were all biased, in one way or another. It's a fascinating study, and there have been more than 2 million subjects. Take the test; it's revealing, and may cause some distress if you uthink that you're bias free. - go here first Web Link

read the disclaimer, and then proceed to take the Project Implicit tests on race and/or skin tone. there are other tests, as well. This would be a great high school or college freshman exercise.



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Posted by Palo Alto was a sundown town
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Mike: I'd love to see experimental details on that part. Proper design might be able to rule out what you're describing.

Your explanation also doesn't account for the way the association appears to not just be in some contrived experimental setting, but in news articles about criminals, and in rates of execution. The abstract says:

> In an archival study of actual criminal cases,
> the authors show that news articles written
> about Blacks who are convicted of capital
> crimes are more likely to contain ape-relevant
> language than news articles written about
> White convicts. Moreover, those who are
> implicitly portrayed as more apelike in these
> articles are more likely to be executed by
> the state than those who are not.


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Posted by mg fan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:34 pm

Mike, you beat me to the punch of posting that Harvard study. Are you - or anyone else - familiar with the study that Malcolm Gladwell pointed to in his book, "Blink" that looks into racial stereotypes of 'good' and 'bad'? I don't have the book handy, but I believe about a third of the way into into he points to a website where you can take a test that mixes black and white faces with the words 'good' and 'bad', or something like that. Anyone know where that link is?


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Palo Alto was a sundown town,

Again, I'm not disputing that there may be associations made by whites that equate blacks with simians. It's an age-old perception that has historical roots preceding even the days of slavery.

What bothers me about the article is the generalization made by the researcher about whites - she said ""African-Americans are still dehumanized; we're still associated with apes in this country. "

What I'm wondering is this: What if she had black students as subjects in this experiment? Would we see the same associations made? I'm arguing that we would, but my mind is open.

There is a LOT of racial tension in America; publicizing a study like this is problematic, because it brings forward an implicit assumption about racial perceptions that could have been just-as-easily deduced from newspaper archives, and presents them as a new finding. (thus, GSB's domment "duh", above)

I see this as experimental grandstanding, with nothing at all learned but a new path toward generating a conclusion that anyone sensitive to these issues will assume as true, in any case. The only winner is the researcher, who will make headlines.


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Posted by Palo Alto was a sundown town
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 11, 2008 at 4:07 pm

Mike: I'm not sure it would tell you anything to look at what blacks subconsciously associate -- they're steeped in the same culture as the rest of us. There are several other ways that you might rule out the kinds of basic grouping issues you're describing (say, by showing that white faces don't create the same degree of association with white apes that black faces create with black apes). Since those grouping mechanisms have been known since Gestalt in the 1800s, I'd expect the paper's authors to have taken measures to rule them out. However, the only way to be sure of this is to obtain a full copy of the paper and read it.


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Posted by Stacking-The-Deck
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2008 at 4:18 pm

> The study, conducted over six years at Stanford and
> Penn State, mostly involved white male undergraduate students.

Seems that a better "experiment" would have utilized male and female students and adults of all races. There simply is no way to promote this junk as "science" and not expect people to shrug and walk away.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2008 at 4:26 pm

One would assume that a control was run to first measure unprimed subjects (no black or white faces shown). One would also assume that color control was run (blurry pictures of white snow monkeys). If not, then this is a bogus study. I wonder why black males were excluded form the test (with the above controls).

This is a strange one, considering the claims made by the author. Was this study peer reviewed?


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 11, 2008 at 8:14 pm

This seems like a terribly flawed study. Dark faces look like other dark faces? Is that really a surprise? I mean, maybe the "priming" was to the general color of the skin, and not "apeness". The previous commenter had it right: did white faces get associated with white monkeys more?
And the population sizes used could bias the results. They should have had equal population of blacks taking part in this study. Maybe white faces are more associated with saltines... Please.

Studies such as this seem to already have a pre-planned outcome.... I read the article, and this indeed appears to be the case in this instance.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Well, W. Bush looks like a monkey.


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Posted by Thanks for making sense
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Chris and Stacking the Deck...I'm glad someone else sees through the errors or this study!

This guy is a horrible psychologist if he doesn't understand why his study is flawed and the results shouldn't be considered scientific.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2008 at 4:33 am

Everyone knows the Irish are the ape image. It is said an Englishman invented the wheelbarrow to teach the Irish to walk upright.
[Scientific enough?]


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Posted by '
a resident of Monroe Park
on Feb 12, 2008 at 12:21 pm

after being drugged and had my teticles damaged , i can say for sure that africans are considered not human by police and authorities


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Posted by In The Name of Science ?
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm

This study is about the agenda of keeping race hatred alive so that certain political groups can continue to make hay with it. It junk science at its worst. As with the fabricated man-made global warming nonsense, science is being suborned for politics. When will this shameful practice end? Just how corrupt have our universities become to publish such trash and call it research?


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Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Right on. It's totally junk science. It utterly fails to account for the most important factor in perception: the size and arrangement of the bumps on the students heads.


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Posted by In The Name of Science?
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 12, 2008 at 3:21 pm

I don't think it is appropriate to criticize the students who participated in this so called study. Criticize those who push propaganda in the name of science!


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2008 at 4:34 pm

I often wonder at the elementary school science fairs (and now middle school too) of some of the scientific value of the projects. As to which bubble gum brand blows the biggest bubbles or holds its flavor longest or other such ideas. Now I know what follows into the prestigious colleges.

I once had a son and his friend spend hours working on an electronics kit for a middle school science project. They worked with all aspects of designing a circuit and turned on a light and buzzer to their own amazement. They understood what they had done and proudly took the board to school only to be told by a teacher that what they had made wasn't scientific. I was shocked because the hours they had spent had taught them so much. They failed the project and as a result my son has never picked up the electronics kit since.

Someone should teach these kids both in school and college that learning science is science and the results are not always the important factor.

In the current case in question, it sounds as if the whole procedure was so flawed as to make the results nonsense, or should I say nonscience.


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Posted by ding!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 12, 2008 at 4:50 pm

seems a lot of ''americans'' are as ignorant as most of world knows they are, even in silicon valley, its 1834...


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Posted by look
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2008 at 4:54 pm

look at old ''historical '' photos of palo alto, those whites have the same cowboy town spaced out look that you have today. just hangin' around comparing and discussing your unearned white privileges. nothings changed but its about to...


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Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2008 at 4:59 pm

What a shame about your son and his friend. Just think what they could have accomplished had they pursued their scientific interests instead of being discouraged by an ignoramus of a teacher. The same kind of teacher who today would be promoting drivel like the race hatred "science" above and man-made global warming.


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Posted by Where's the Science?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2008 at 7:16 pm

The fundamental problem here is poor scientific practice in designing and interpreting the study, unfortunately all too common today even in respected medical journal publications.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Unearned white privilege? Tell us why Zimbabwe went from a bread basket to a basket case when whites were disposessed? Kipling was right. It is not the pigmentation, it is the culture of delayed gratification which works equally for any "race".


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Posted by Go Study This!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2008 at 9:41 pm

What would be interesting to have published would be a study on how Asians feel about blacks.
I already know, but since there is are no university studies to back up what I know, people would never believe me.
I know that Asians are far more racist towards Blacks, East Indians, and other Asians with slightly darker skin tones.


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Posted by E. J.
a resident of Los Altos
on Feb 12, 2008 at 11:44 pm

It is a shame to see time and money wasted on such unproductive nonsense. Who funds these kinds of studies and why? - Now there's an idea for an interesting research project.


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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2008 at 3:10 pm

I'd rather have someone identify an ape face quicker after looking at my face than some humans I can think of.


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Read the study..absurd..far too many variables.

Oh, by the way, bet I can prove how dehumanizing to women Americans are by devising a study that shows a relationship between perception of all women who carry babies in front on one arm and female chimps carrying babies in front on one arm.

I will be sure to pulblicize this very soon to give cover in case Clinton doesn't get the nomination.


Will anybody fund it for me? Wanna give me your tax dollars for it?


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