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Alternative Title

Pattern of ducking behavior indistinguishable from shooting behavior in the shooter bias paradigm

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Racism, Race discrimination, Stereotypes (Social psychology), Decision making, Discrimination, Police shootings, Shooter bias


Research shows that participants erroneously shoot unarmed black men more frequently than unarmed white men in simulation tasks. To investigate whether this pattern held true when participants were taking defensive action (taking cover) in response to a perceived armed target, I created a 2 x 2 x 2 mixed within-between groups experiment based on Correll and colleagues’ (2002) design. Participants were randomly assigned to either an Armed Protocol condition, which primed them to perceive the task as shooting armed targets, or an Unarmed Protocol condition, which primed them to perceive the task as taking cover from armed targets. Across both participant conditions, there was a significant interaction effect for target race and target object, such that participants shot and took cover from unarmed black men more frequently than from unarmed white men. Results also revealed a main effect for object, such that participants were more likely to perceive an unarmed target as armed than perceive an armed target as unarmed, and a small main effect for race, such that participants made more identification errors for black targets than white targets. These findings suggest that people who are taking defensive actions (taking cover) are just as likely to be biased by stereotypes of African American men as dangerous in split-second weapons identification tasks as people taking offensive actions (shooting).




25 pages : color illustrations. Honors project, Smith College, 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 20-25)