A new study prompted by the spate of unarmed black men killed in America suggests people may be more likely to mistake a toy or a tool for a gun when an African American is holding it. And this inherent negative bias was found to extend to black kids as young as five years old.
The research, published this week in the journal Psychological Science, conducted several tests to gauge inherent bias towards white or black people. Researchers quickly showed 64 white participants a photo of either a black or white five-year-old’s face and then an image of a gun or a toy. They asked them to ignore the face they saw and then identify the object as either the threatening or safe object.
During the first test, subjects were quicker to identify guns after seeing photos of black boys than they were when seeing white children. When researchers showed the participants white faces, the participants mistakenly labeled guns as toys in greater frequency than when primed with an image of a black kid.