People Associate Education With Lighter-Skin, Study Finds

Psychologists at San Francisco State University have released a new study in the journal Sage Open that might have groundbreaking implications for the way our minds unconsciously think about race — particularly as it pertains to black men. The researchers used 135 university students and subjected them to a two-part experiment. Subjects were asked to watch a screen that briefly flashed the word "ignorant" or "educated" for 33 milliseconds, followed by a picture of a black man's face. Subjects were then shown an array of seven photos with the same black man's face: an original photo of the man, and then six copies. Three of the photos portrayed him with darker skin tones, three with lighter skin tones.

Students who were primed with "educated" were more likely to rate the man as having a lighter skin tone than he actually did, and were also more likely to have memory errors than the students who were primed with the word "ignorant."

Researchers have described this as "skin tone memory bias," and stated that these results are actually contrary to what one might have expected: Black individuals who "defy" negative stereotypes of their racial groups aren't necessarily challenging non-black individuals to reevaluate their preconceptions. Instead, these black individuals are co-opted as "whiter." Sigh.

Here's the image that the experiment used in the second part:

One of the researchers and a San Francisco State professor, Avi Ben Zeev, elaborated his concerns over the results in the study:

This does not necessarily imply that the subjects themselves were racist bigots — rather, it proves that racial biases can be incredibly subtle.

Recent studies by other researchers have proven similar harrowing results for the black community — for example, outward racism and self-internalized racism can cause black men to age more quickly. Studies like this hint at why.

Image: The Atlantic