If asked to imagine a criminal suspect, certain mental pictures come to mind for most people. According to a recent Penn State study concerning peoples memory of news photographs, images that accentuate African-American facial features would be common, and particularly if the crime is violent rather than non-violent.
"Our data suggest that when reading news about violent crime, people seem to unconsciously recall images associated with African-Americans, reflecting the influence of stereotypes on memory," says Dr. Mary Beth Oliver, associate professor of media studies in the Universitys College of Communications.
In the study, the researchers asked 163 undergraduate college students, of whom 147 were White, to examine one of four types of news stories, all about a hypothetical Black man with a fictitious name. The first, about a college professor winning an award, did not contain stereotypical metaphors or language. The second, regarding a basketball player, was stereotyped but not about crime. The third story, regarding embezzlement from a union, dealt with non-violent crime, while the fourth focused on violent crime, specifically a burglary-murder. All four stories included an identical photograph of the same man.
Paul Blaum | EurekAlert!
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