Jennifer L. Eberhardt, a psychology professor at Stanford University, was named a MacArthur genius on Wednesday for her investigations into how we visually process race.
The insights that come from her work are staggering.
Her research has found that people are more likely to spot guns, knives, and other objects associated with crime after seeing black faces.
“When you expose people briefly to black faces before they see these crime objects, they’re able to tell what those crime objects are with a blurrier picture,” she said an interview with the MacArthur Foundation.
For example, people saw this sequence of images of black faces:
And this sequence of images of many races:
The result? People who saw the black-only images were quicker to spot this blurry gun (among other images of crime objects):
“It’s almost as though blackness is so associated with crime that you’re ready to pick out these crime objects out of the environment than if you’re exposed to a white face,” she said.
Her work has carried over to criminal justice. She found that death row defendants were twice as likely to receive a death sentence if they looked “stereotypically black” than if they did not.
In light of her discoveries, Eberhardt is working with police forces “to design interventions to improve policing and to help them build and maintain trust with the communities they serve,” the MacArthur Foundation says.
“We want to use the work to help people understand how race can influence us in ways that are beyond our control and beyond our awareness,” Eberhardt says.
Her reaction to winning the $US625,000 Genius grant?
“Pretty overwhelming,” she says.
Watch her video profile with MacArthur below.
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