Stereotype Threat and Racial Differences in Citizens’ Experiences of Police Encounters
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We conducted 2 studies to investigate how cultural stereotypes that depict Blacks as criminals affect the way Blacks experience encounters with police officers, expecting that such encounters induce Blacks to feel stereotype threat (i.e., concern about being judged and treated unfairly by police because of the stereotype). In Study 1, we asked Black and White participants to report how they feel when interacting with police officers in general. As predicted, Blacks, but not Whites, reported concern that police officers stereotype them as criminals simply because of their race. In addition, this effect was found for Black men but not Black women. In Study 2, we asked Black and White men to imagine a specific police encounter and assessed potential downstream consequences of stereotype threat. Consistent with Study 1, Black but not White men anticipated feeling stereotype threat in the hypothetical police encounter. Further, racial differences in anticipated threat translated into racial differences in anticipated anxiety, self-regulatory efforts, and behavior that is commonly perceived as suspicious by police officers. By demonstrating that Blacks might expect to be judged and treated unfairly by police because of the negative stereotype of Black criminality, this research extends stereotype threat theory to the new domain of criminal justice encounters. It also has practical implications for understanding how the stereotype could ironically contribute to bias-based policing and racial disparities in the justice system.
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Najdowski, Cynthia J.; Bottoms, Bette L.; and Goff, Phillip Atiba, "Stereotype Threat and Racial Differences in Citizens’ Experiences of Police Encounters" (2015). Psychology Faculty Scholarship. 12.