Skin color and perceptions of ambiguous aggression
Anderson, Jane C.
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The present research examines the hypothesis that when viewing ambiguously aggressive acts, the threshold for labeling an act as violent is lower when viewing a black actor than when viewing a white actor. An ambiguously aggressive act is one which could be interpreted as being playful or threatening, such as a light shove. Previous research indicates that black males are perceived as being more aggressive and threatening and less playful and friendly than White males when performing identical acts. In this study, 79 participants were read an ambiguous vignette while looking at one of three pictures of students interacting. Each of the pictures showed a different combination of white and black students. It was expected that the threshold for labeling the behavior of the black student as violent would be lower. The results of the present research showed no significant difference on all but one of the behavioral, personality, and situational measures across the three tested conditions. Marginal significance was found between attributing more "friendly and playful" behavior to the black student and less "friendly and playful" to the white student.