Science explains why cops shoot black men


@davide405 linked to this test a while ago in one thread or another.

Oddly, I apparently showed a “mild automatic preference for African Americans over European Americans”

Go me, I guess?

Can’t say as I noticed any difference in the task either way.


i got that too, i theorize that it might be due to having a pair of grandsons, 14 and 11, who are mixed race and look african american. i imagine that test shows the results of my years of associating them with joy.


It’s not about personal virtue or malice. This reveals society-wide operant conditioning around race. Everyone’s brains are being programmed by the society we live in, it’s just some brains respond more strongly to certain programs. The problem is not the state of your own brain, but the state of a society which allows such programming to continue.

So racism isn’t solved by changing one’s own mind or being able to “pass the test”. It’s solved by destroying the society that makes so many people fail the test overall.


Was ‘can we shoot the person who did these awful photoshops’ an accepted answer?


I got “little to no preference” of one group over the other.

The right image has much better contrast around the gun, although it is less obvious on closer examination that the right image really depicts a gun. Odd choice of images.

Personally, I never shoot hovering people, but that’s just my pro-ghost bias.


Science reveals that unconscious racism is actually a thing!

In other science news, it turns out that gravity exists after all. Also, some hot things can burn you.


I took the Implicit Association test before I shared my condo with a pleasant dark-skinned roomie and was rated as mildly prejudiced. After three years with my dear roomie (recently moved away, alas) I took the test again and rated un-prejudiced.

What may also have helped change my mind: I found out I had some African-American ancestry, via gene scan.


I hate this shit, I really do. It adds nothing to the discussion. Scientists still study the effects of gravity, you know. Such as what it does to people in space. GASP! SHOCK!

Also, to repeat from the article: “Research suggests that once we understand the psychological pathways that lead to prejudice, we just might be able to train our brains to go in the opposite direction.”

That’s the whole point of confirming things that may seem obvious to you. It’s a good thing. Your sarcasm is not a good thing. It’s tired. :frowning:


Summary of more science on this same topic: . TL;DR: “Whether or not racial bias is a significant factor in police homicides is very much an open question.”

-“One study of police data in St. Louis concluded that black and white officers were equally likely to shoot African-American suspects”

-“another experiment found that both officers and civilians in simulated situations hesitated significantly longer before firing at black suspects than they did at whites.”

-“But most interesting, perhaps, was the race of the officers who fired their weapons. About two-thirds were white, and one-third black — effectively identical to the racial composition of the St. Louis Police Department as a whole. In this study, at least, firing at a black suspect was an equal-opportunity decision.”

-“a different experiment last year at Washington State University in Spokane suggested that the opposite might be true: In realistic simulations of confrontations, subjects armed with laser-firing pistols acted in ways that left black suspects less likely to be shot at — not more.”


I like the article, but I’m less certain about the test. Is it from the same people who told me I hate Jews? 'Cause that would be a really neat trick.

I took some version of this test for beer money in college.

In order to keep things subconscious, and prevent deeply uninformative perfect accuracy, they squeezed the decision time very, very, tightly. One button or the other, almost immediately.

This version of the game also had scores: I think it was -50 for failing to ID a gun, -10 for IDing a non-gun as a gun, and 10 for a correct ID. Approximately half of the test images had guns in them and the amount of time you were given severely reduced your potential accuracy, so the optimal strategy ended up being remarkably trigger-happy.

I remember the psych grad administering the test giving me a somewhat disturbed look when I asked if I was supposed to be striving for accuracy, or accepting as many unjustified homicides as an optimal score required(on the plus side, my “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” approach resulted in a completely race-neutral string of atrocious civilian casualties!).

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That whether the officer was black or white made no difference isn’t a big surprise. Many blacks also have automatic implicit preferences for whites, which is hardly surprising given that they’re exposed to the same white-prefering culture that everyone else it.


I think that’s why @navarro is correct in this (from Teachers describe the terrible state of American education):

i’ve often wondered whether the cure for racism might not be through increasing numbers of mixed race partnerships and children.

Being married to someone of a different race, culture and native language certainly made me more open minded.


And that’s why part of desegregation in the US was forced busing.

And also a side benefit of diversity and affirmative action policies. Though diverse companies also perform better, which you’d think would be a good enough reason.


I took the “Arab Muslim” IAT test, I’m interested to discover what’s going on in my skull, and we had some drama in Sydney yesterday that resulted in tragedy and had Islamic terrorist overtones.

Interestingly, I came out with a moderate preference for “Arab Muslims” over other people.

I am consciously feeling a lot of sympathy for the Sydney Islamic community today, it seems those feelings run unconsciously as well. I don’t know what it means, but it makes me feel good!


I thought that point was interesting. I remember hearing/reading about a study on the origins of racism. I wish I could find it now. The author hypothesized that the evolution of racism was tied to group-forming. I’m a bit fuzzy on this, but I believe the position was something along the lines of: because humans are limited in the number of relationships that we can form, we evolved racism to limit our groups to those who shared a similar race, and, the author proposed, were thus more likely to form beneficial relationships. This isn’t a topic about which I’m knowledgeable, and I’m not clear on the details, but I do wonder if racism, at some point in human history, provided some sort of advantage, rather than the disadvantage it provides today.

I was responding primarily to the headline and the article. I can well believe that the research itself has merit, but did you feel that you gained any new insight into racism from the article?

I would not have snarked on an article titled “Study confirms racial bias effect” for example.

I was raised in the northeast in a diverse and mostly middle class community. I can honestly say that I ‘didn’t see race’ to the extent possible for a white person in America (which I admit is not entirely possible, but I’m pretty introspective and self aware).

Subsequently, I moved to an area of Washington, DC near several public housing projects almost uniformly populated by poor African-Americans. My experiences here have been eye opening. On the one hand, I’ve found the vast majority of my neighbors, both middle class people living in row houses like mine and poor people from the projects, are incredibly friendly and welcoming - far more so than people in suburban apartment blocks in which I lived after college before moving here.

But, in the space of 3 years, I was mugged once (phone stolen, bruised and bloodied) and beaten seemingly for sport another time (hospitalized), in both cases by groups of teenagers. I have to say that I am incredibly cautious as a result and will definitely cross the street if I see teenagers approaching.

Is this “racist” or is this the product of my experience? I think the latter. I wish it weren’t so. My heart goes out to people who grew up in environments like the projects I’m talking about. But I really don’t want to get beaten again. I don’t think it’s reasonable to attribute my caution about young men up to racism. My hospital bills and scars are much more significant contributors.

I think this sort of experience may account for my differing perspective on the shooting in Ferguson and the killing on Staten Island. The latter was clearly horrific, unwarranted, disproportionate, and awful. In the former case, it’s terrible what happened to Michael Brown. The disrespect with which his body was treated is an abomination. But I don’t think you can sincerely look at the relationship between police and young men and entirely chalk its dysfunction up to simple racism of the type that led to lynchings in the Jim Crow south.

I think it’s more like the situations between Palestine and Israel. Violent bad actors on one side lead to disproportionate responses that penalize whole communities, a situation which reinforces itself.

It’s very sad.