Below are (1) selected articles and chapters on implicit bias generally and implicit bias as applied to law enforcement, and (2) some popular “lay books” on the workings of our mind (including subconscious).

Correll, J. (2009). Racial bias in the decision to shoot? The Police Chief, 54-58.

This article reviews a Chicago study and two Denver studies that assessed how community participants compared to trained police officers in shoot/don’t shoot scenarios, where the race of the armed or unarmed target was manipulated.   The researchers measured reaction time (time to make the decision to shoot or not) and errors.  All three studies revealed that community participants consistently exhibited racial bias, so that a lower criterion to shoot was applied to Black targets compared to White targets. Like the community sample, the researchers found that police officers exhibited pronounced racial bias when reaction time was measured.  However, importantly, officers showed no bias in terms of errors.  That is, ultimately the officers made the right decision and were not impacted by race.  The researchers attribute this finding for the officers to frequent, high quality, role play (e.g., Simunitions, computer scenarios) training in the use of force that can serve to extinguish the race-crime implicit bias for force decisions.  [This article reviews Correll et al., 2007]

Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C.M., & Wittenbrink, B. (2002). The police officer’s dilemma: Using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1314-1329.

In this study, the researchers use a videogame to test the affect race has on shoot/don’t shoot decisions when there are African American and White targets holding guns or holding various non-threatening objects. Participants were told to “shoot” the armed targets and “not shoot” unarmed targets.  In terms of response time, participants were quicker to shoot the armed African American than the armed White.  Conversely the participants were quicker to “not shoot” the unarmed White.  The most common errors were shooting the unarmed African American and not-shooting the armed White.  All of these results are consistent with a Black-crime implicit bias and this bias was found in both African American and White participants.    

Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C.M., Wittenbrink, B., & Sadler, M.S. (2007). Across the thin blue line: Police officers and racial bias in the decision to shoot. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1006-1023.

In this replicated study, Correll and colleagues compare police officers to community members on their speed and accuracy with simulated decisions to shoot/don’t shoot Black and White armed/unarmed targets. Both the police and community samples exhibited robust racial bias when the researchers analyzed speed of decision making.  With regard to accuracy, the officers’ decisions were “less susceptible to racial bias (p.1022).”  The authors link the superior officer result to high quality police use-of-force training.  

Duncan, B.L. (1976). Differential perception and attribution of intergroup violence: Testing the lower limits of stereotyping of Blacks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(4), 590-598.

In this study, 104 White undergraduates participated and were randomly assigned to observe 1 of 12 different race-related conditions recorded on tape, where one actor ambiguously shoves the other actor. Conditions were varied using a 4x4 factorial design that changed the race (Black or White) of the harm-doer and the race (Black or White) of the victim. For all instances that the harm-doer was Black, the White participants labeled the ambiguous shove as violent regardless of the race of the victim. However, the shove was rated to a higher level of violence when the victim was White. Thus, the threshold for labeling an act as violent was lower when the participants were observing a Black actor committing the very same act that a White actor also performed.

Eberhardt, J.L., Goff, P.A., Purdie, V.J. & Davies, P.G. (2004). Seeing Black: Race, crime, and visual processing.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(6), 876-893.

In this study, the researchers used police officers and undergraduates as participants to better understand “the influence of stereotypic associations on visual processing across five studies.” The first study demonstrated that “Black faces influence participants’ ability to spontaneously detect degraded images of crime-related objects.” The remaining studies found that even abstract concepts (i.e., crime and basketball) also induced biases toward Black male faces. The findings suggest that “shifts in perception and attention may influence decision making and behavior” (article abstract).

Eberhardt, Jennifer.  The Visual Perception Study

In these two links to on-line video, Dr. Eberhardt describes the study that is included in the FIP training that measures how quickly subjects recognize blurry objects (crime-related and non-crime-related) following a first phase during which they were exposed subliminally to white faces, black faces, or lines (the control group).  This study affirms a Black-crime association. 

Part I Video

Jennifer is introduced and provides an overview of her work and other relevant information.  She starts speaking about the study at 6:40.

Part II Video

This video picks up where the first one leaves off.

Fiske, S. (2008). Are we born Racist? Greater Good, V(1), 14-17.

This article reviews the existing neuroscience research that acknowledges subtle forms of racial prejudice, or bias, that we are all capable of exhibiting. Fiske’s own work is explained. In one study, Fiske found that peoples’ brain activity, as recorded via a functional MRI scanner, varied given the evocative photos they viewed. For instance, when people viewed a homeless person, their brains’ reaction resembled characteristics of disgust and stimulated the insula region that is often stimulated when people are looking at objects like trash or feces. Studies have identified that people tend to identify and categorized other people into “in-groups” and “out-groups.” Moreover, 20 years of research suggests that our brains are hardwired to automatically and unknowingly react prejudicially toward those identified in an “out-group.” Fiske’s current research reveals that this underlying human nature can be counterbalanced by establishing social conditions that reduce prejudice, alleviate stress, and foster pro-social contact between members of different groups.

Fridell, Lorie A. (2008).  Racially Biased Policing:  The Law Enforcement Response to the Implicit Black-Crime Association.  In Lynch, Michael, E. Britt Patterson, and Kristina K. Childs, Eds, 2008.  Racial Divide:  Race, Ethnicity and Criminal Justice.  Monsey, NY:  Criminal Justice Press, pp. 39-59.

While some of the bias in policing is caused by intentional discrimination against people of color, there is a considerable body of research that points to another mechanism producing biased behavior. Social psychological research has shown that “implicit” or “unconscious” racial bias can impact what people perceive and do, even in subjects who consciously hold non-prejudiced attitudes. This chapter summarizes the research conducted on police officers and non-police subjects to gauge their implicit association between Blacks and crime, and it then discusses the law enforcement interventions implied by the findings. Agencies need to hire a diverse workforce composed of people who can police in a race-neutral fashion, use training to promote employees’ controlled responses to override automatic associations, facilitate “unlearning” of the Black person/crime association in firearms simulations, set forth policy outlining the appropriate use of race/ethnicity for making law enforcement decisions, train first line supervisors so they can detect and respond effectively to biased behavior on the part of their supervisees, and implement a style of policing that promotes positive interactions between police and their diverse constituencies.  [Quoted from chapter.]

Peruche, B.M., & Plant, E.A., (2006). The correlates of law enforcement officers’ automatic and controlled race-based responses to criminal suspects. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 28(2), 193-199.

This study examined police officers’ decisions to shoot or not shoot criminal suspects on a computer simulation, while also collecting self-reported beliefs and attitudes about Black suspects compared to White suspects. Officers with negative attitudes toward Black suspects and negative beliefs regarding the criminality of Black people tended to shoot unarmed Black suspects more often in the simulation than officers with more positive attitudes and beliefs toward Blacks. The attitudes and beliefs that officers held toward Black people reflected the quality of contact they have had with Black people while on the job and in personal situations off duty.

Plant, E.A., & Peruche, B.M. (2005). The consequences of race for police officer’s responses to criminal suspects. Psychological Science, 16(3), 180-183.

This study used a computer simulation to examine police officers’ decisions to shoot Black or White criminal suspects. The “responses to the simulation revealed that, upon initial exposure to the simulation, officers were more likely to mistakenly shoot an unarmed Black suspects compared to their unarmed White counterparts. However, after extensive training with the program, in which the race of the suspect was unrelated to the presence of a weapon, the officers were able to eliminate this bias” (article abstract).

Sagar, H.A., & Schofield, J.W. (1980). Racial and behavioral cues in Black and White children’s perceptions of ambiguously aggressive acts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(4), 590-598.

In this study, 40 Black and 40 White sixth grade males viewed several vaguely aggressive behaviors that were acted out by either Black or White stimulus figures. Preadolescent participants from both races rated the actions performed by the Black perpetrator to be more threatening than when the perpetrator was White. This finding was more pronounced among the White students who participated. Blacks were perceived by the youthful participants as stronger than their White counterparts. Thus, the findings suggest that behaviors conducted by Blacks are more likely to be perceived as threatening even though they are innocuous in intention.

Unkelbach, C., Forgas, J.P., & Denson, T.F. 2008. The turban effect: The influence of Muslim headgear and induced affect on aggressive responses in the shooter bias paradigm. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44: 1409-1413.

After the recent bomb attacks in London, British police mistakenly shot dead a Brazilian man who looked like a Muslim. Using a modified version of Correll et al.’s (2002) shooter game, which requires participants to shoot only armed targets on a computer screen, the researchers investigated whether appearing Muslim facilitated aggressive action. Participants (i.e., 66 Australian Undergraduates) were presented with targets that either appeared Muslim (i.e., they were wearing a turban/Hijab) or did not (i.e., no Muslim headgear).  Race (Caucasian vs. non-Caucasian) and gender (male vs. female) were also distinguishing characteristics for targets. Armed targets either held a silver or black gun, while unarmed targets held either a coffee mug or black bottle.  As predicted, the results revealed a shooter bias for targets wearing a turban or Hijab; targets who appeared Muslim were more likely to be shot. Findings also demonstrated that people shoot more at men than women.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without ThinkingNew York: Little, Brown and Company.

In the epilogue of Blink, Gladwell explains how the audition by the son of an administrator for the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980 led to a unique change in the way auditions were conducted. To avoid a biased response from judges, who may recognize the administrator’s son, screens were used to conceal the identity of the performers. At this time in history, prejudices largely prevented women and minorities from being hired with the same pay as male musicians. This practice, which ensured merit would prevail over prejudicial factors, led to the diversification of orchestras. In other words, using screens to take the focus away from one’s gender and race led administrators to hire talented musicians based on their abilities rather than their demographic characteristics. The underlying message from this lesson is that by taking control of our environment, we are capable of making positive changes in our decision-making behaviors. The book is filled with numerous scenarios that explain how the brain allows us to think without thinking. Gladwell draws on current state-of-the-art research in the fields of neuroscience and psychology to explicate why we tend to make the decisions that we do.

Banaji, M.R. and Greenwald, A.G. (2013). Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York: Delacorte Press.

Description from Back Cover: "What are the hidden biases of this book's title? They are—for lack of a better term—bits of knowledge about social groups. These bits of knowledge are stored in our brains because we encounter them so frequently in our cultural environments. Once lodged in our minds, hidden biases can influence our behavior toward members of particular social groups, but we remain oblivious to their influence. Most people find it unbelievable that their behavior can be guided by mental content of which they are unaware."

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast, and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

This book endeavors to identify the two systems that drive how we think and arrive at decisions. The first system is fast, intuitive, and emotionally-charged, while the second is slower, deliberate and logical. This work exposes the flaws and biases associated with fast thinking because intuitive impressions are pervasively influential on our thinking processes and actions. As such, Kahneman delineates the significance of appropriately assessing risk, acknowledging the effects of cognitive biases on how we view others, how both fear and optimism assume dual roles that can be productive or counterproductive, and the ephemeral nature of our memory given our experience. It is only by attempting to understand and grasp how these two cognitive systems work together that we are better able to tailor our judgments and decisions. By harnessing our slow thinking capabilities we are able to utilize more enlightened and thoughtful insights to guide our actions.

What if our interactions with those different from us are strongly influenced by things happening below the radar of awareness, hidden even from ourselves? Deep Diversity explores this question and argues that “us vs. them” is an unfortunate but normal part of the human experience due to reasons of both nature and nurture.

To really work through issues of racial difference and foster greater levels of fairness and inclusion, argues Shakil Choudhury, requires an understanding of the human mind—its conscious and unconscious dimensions. Deep Diversity integrates Choudhury’s twenty years of experience with interviews with researchers in social neuroscience, implicit bias, psychology, and mindfulness. Using a compassionate but challenging approach, Choudhury helps readers identify their own bias and offers practical ways to break the “prejudice habits” we have all learned, in order to tackle systemic discrimination.

Vedantam, S. (2010). The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives, New York: Spiegel & Grau.

In this book, Vedantam reveals that numerous brain functions, emotional responses, and cognitive processes occur without our conscious awareness but affect our behavior. For instance, these functions of the hidden brain can largely explain why people may become entranced by a story of a puppy but indifferent to reports of genocide. Moreover, such examinations may unearth the reasoning for why people often vote against their own interests. Thus, there are unconscious motivations that also influence our behavior like our conscious values and beliefs do.

Chabris, C. and Simons, Daniel (2009). The Invisible Gorilla: How our Intuitions Deceive Us. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.


Description from back cover: "We think we see the world as it is, but we are really missing a lot… How would a company spend billions on a product it knows will fail? How can a police officer run right past a brutal assault without seeing it? What do criminals have in common with chess masters? … Do CEOs get hired and fired for the wrong reasons? Is it true that more knowledge can cause you to make worse decisions? The answers to these questions and more often lie concealed under a veil of everyday illusions, and those illusions can lead us to make shocking, costly—even life-threatening—mistakes. In The Invisible Gorilla, the creators of one of psychology's most famous experiments explain just how and why our intuitions lead us astray—and show us how to think clearly, for perhaps the first time."