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Title:White fear, dehumanization and low empathy: A lethal combination for shooting biases
Author(s):Mekawi, Yara
Advisor(s):Hunter, Carla D.
Department / Program:Psychology
Discipline:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:M.A.
Genre:Thesis
Subject(s):Dehumanization
White Fear
shooting task
empathy
Abstract:The question of why some individuals are racially prejudiced is one that has peaked the interests of psychologists for many years (Alport 1954; Bell, 1978; Tajfel & Forgas, 1981). To answer this complex question, scientists have had to adjust their definitions of prejudice to accommodate the changing nature of racial discrimination from more explicit, blatant racism to more implicit, subtle forms of racism (Cunningham, Preacher, & Banaji, 2001; Correll, Park, Judd, & Wittenbrink, 2002; McConahay, 1986). Even in the absence of explicitly prejudicial attitudes or policies, discrimination exists for racial/ethnic minorities in multiple domains such as hiring decisions, police stops, and jury selection (Carter & Mazzula, 2013; Nier, Gaertner, Nier, C. & Dovidio, 2012; Pager & Western, 2012). One area where this presumably unintentional discrimination is especially important is accidental shootings. In general, these shootings exemplify modern racism in that they show a behavior that is clearly disproportionately affecting members of minority groups; however, these incidents presumably occur without conscious awareness of stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes. Given recent high-profile cases of unarmed Black individuals being shot in the past decade (e.g. Trayvon Martin, Jonathon Ferrell, Oscar Grant), a growing number of studies have been conducted to investigate shooter biases. The main goals of the current study were to investigate (1) whether individual differences in affective (i.e., White fear) and implicit attitudes (i.e., dehumanization) play a role in White participants’ decisions to shoot racial ethnic minorities in a shooting simulation task and (2) whether empathy (i.e., empathic concern and perspective taking) moderated those relations. Two hundred seven White undergraduate students completed two tasks assessing shooting bias and dehumanization and two questionnaires assessing White fear of racial minorities and empathic abilities. The results of this study suggested that participants who reported fearing racial minorities and had low self-reported perspective taking had a significantly lower (i.e., more liberal) shooting threshold for Black and Asian targets relative to White targets. Similarly, participants who scored high on dehumanization and had low self-reported empathic concern also had a significantly lower shooting threshold for racial minority targets relative to White targets. Taken together, the results of this study suggested that there may be two pathways that affect individual differences in shooting bias; White fear and low perspective taking, and dehumanization and low empathic concern, respectively. Under such conditions, both pathways predicted low shooting threshold for racial minority targets, but perspective-taking and empathic concern, respectively, protected individuals from the negative consequences of those attitudes. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Issue Date:2014-05-30
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/49550
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Yara Mekawi
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
Date Deposited:2014-05


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