Educated Black Men Remembered as ‘Whiter’

Medical Xpress, January 14, 2014

A new study out today in SAGE Open finds that instead of breaking stereotypes, intellectually successful Black individuals may be susceptible to being remembered as “Whiter” and therefore ‘exceptions to their race,’ perpetuating cultural beliefs about race and intelligence. This new study shows that a Black man who is associated with being educated is remembered as being lighter in skin tone than he actually is, a phenomenon the study authors refer to as “skin tone memory bias.”


Researchers Avi Ben-Zeev, Tara Dennehy, Robin Goodrich, Branden Kolarik, and Mark Geisler conducted a two-part experiment with a total of 160 university students. In the first experiment, participants were briefly exposed to one of two words subliminally: “ignorant” or “educated,” followed immediately by a photograph of a Black man’s face. Later, participants were shown seven photos that depicted the same face–the original as well as three with darker skin tones and three with lighter skin tones. They were asked to determine which of these seven photographs was identical to the one that they had originally seen.

The researchers found that participants who were primed subliminally with the word “educated” demonstrated significantly more memory errors attached to lighter skin tones (identifying even the lightest photo as being identical to the original) than those primed subliminally with the word “ignorant.” {snip}



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