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White fear, dehumanization, and low empathy: Lethal combinations for shooting biases

White fear, dehumanization, and low empathy: Lethal combinations for shooting biases

Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 22(3): 322-332

A growing number of studies have documented the existence racial shooting biases against Black versus White targets (Correll et al., 2002). Little is known about individual differences that may moderate these biases. The goals of this study were to examine (a) whether White participants' fear of racial/ethnic minorities is associated with racial shooting biases, and (b) whether dehumanization and empathy moderate this effect. Participants (N = 290) completed a dehumanization implicit association test and simulated shooting task, then reported their fear of racial minorities (i.e., White fear) and empathic ability. We found that (a) individuals high in White fear showed a shooting bias, such that they had a lower threshold for shooting Black relative to White and East Asian targets, (b) Dehumanization moderated the White fear and shooting bias relation, such that individuals high in White fear and high in dehumanization had a significantly more liberal shooting threshold for Black versus White targets, and (c) Empathy moderated the White fear and shooting bias relation, such that people who were high in White fear and low in empathic ability had a more liberal shooting threshold for Black versus White targets. In sum, fearing racial/ethnic minorities can have devastating shooting bias outcomes for Black individuals, but this effect is stronger when people also dehumanize Black individuals, and weaker when people have high empathy. These findings contribute to the literature by identifying theory driven moderators that identify both risk and protective factors in predicting racial shooting biases. (PsycINFO Database Record

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Accession: 059267934

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PMID: 26371792

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