Study: Black men seen as more threatening than similarly sized white men

Black men are perceived as physically larger and more threatening than white counterparts of similar size, according to a study published by Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Unarmed black men are disproportionately more likely to be shot and killed by police, and often these killings are accompanied by explanations that cite the physical size of the person shot," John Paul Wilson, PhD, of Montclair State University and the lead author of the study, stated. "Our research suggests that these descriptions may reflect stereotypes of black males that do not seem to comport with reality."

RELATED: Black and unarmed: Men killed by police without a weapon

11 PHOTOS
Black and unarmed: Men killed by police without a weapon
See Gallery
Black and unarmed: Men killed by police without a weapon

Michael Brown

The 18-year-old was shot and killed by Ferguson Police on August 9, 2014, on his way to his grandmother's house.

Eric Garner

Father of six, Garner died on Thursday, July 17, 2014, after NYPD officers put him in a "choke hold" in front of passerbys in broad daylight.

Trayvon Martin

Martin was shot and killed as he walked through a gated neighborhood, where he was visiting family in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012. 

Ramarley Graham

Officer Richard Haste shot and killed 18-year-old Graham on February 2, 2012 in the bathroom of his grandmother’s home in Bronx, N.Y.

Patrick Dorismond

The 26-year-old was shot on March 16, 2000, during a confrontation with undercover NYPD officers who asked him about where they could purchase drugs.

Oscar J. Grant III

Officer Johannes Mehserle said he accidentally used his gun when he was reaching for a taser after shooting Grant on New Year’s Day 2009.

Steven Eugene Washington

Washington was shot and killed by gang-enforcement officers Allan Corrales and George Diego on Mar. 10, 2010 in Los Angeles after the autistic teen began approaching them and appeared to remove something from his waistband.

Travares McGill

McGill died July 16, 2005, in the same county in which Travyon Martin was killed, after being shot by two security guards.

Ousmane Zongo

Zongo was confronted and killed by Officer Bryan A. Conroy during a raid on a counterfeit-CD ring in New York City, of which he had no involvement, on May 22, 2003.

Ronald Madison and James Brissette

Following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, five officers opened fire on an unarmed family on Danziger Bridge, killing 17-year-old James Brissette. The officers would go on to shoot at two brothers, killing Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old man with severe mental disabilities.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Dr. Wilson and his team conducted a series of experiments surveying over 950 participants from across the United States. The respondents presented with color photographs depicting white and black faces of men who were all said to be of equal weight and height. They were then asked to guess the subjects' weight, height and overall strength.

"We found that these estimates were consistently biased. Participants judged the black men to be larger, stronger and more muscular than the white men, even though they were actually the same size," Dr. Wilson said. "Participants also believed that the black men were more capable of causing harm in a hypothetical altercation and, troublingly, that police would be more justified in using force to subdue them, even if the men were unarmed."

Though black participants didn't perceive black subjects to be more dangerous or harmful than those who were white, they also displayed bias towards black men, according to Dr. Wilson, deeming them to be more muscular than white counterparts.

SEE ALSO: Study: Smarter people are 'more sophisticated racists'

"We found that men with darker skin and more stereotypically black facial features tended to be most likely to elicit biased size perceptions, even though they were actually no larger than men with lighter skin and less stereotypical facial features," said Dr. Wilson. "Thus, the size bias doesn't rely just on a white versus black group boundary. It also varies within black men according to their facial features."

Dr. Wilson suggests that his findings could have an impact on the disproportionate rate at which black men are killed by police. However, he cautions that this research did not recreate "real-world" situations simulating interactions with police, adding that more research would be necessary to conclude how this bias operates in "potentially lethal situations and other real-world police interactions."

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.