Researchers at San Francisco State University conducted an interesting experiment with college students that found that they remember Black people who have been identified as being successful as having lighter skin than is actually the case.
Subjects were placed in front of a computer screen and were given a subliminal message that contained the word “ignorant” or the word “educated.” The subjects were then shown a photograph of the face of a Black man.
Later the test subjects were shown seven images of the same Black man with the photographs altered to show seven different skin tones. Subjects were asked to identify the same image that they had seen earlier.
The results found that a majority of test subjects who had received the subliminal message “educated,” chose an image with a lighter skin tone than the man pictured in the original photo. Those who were shown the subliminal message “ignorant” were significantly more likely to choose the image that was the exact match to the original photo.
Avi Ben-Zeev, the lead researcher, stated, “When a Black stereotypic expectancy is violated – herein, encountering an educated Black male, this culturally incompatible information is resolved by distorting this person’s skin tone to be lighter in memory and therefore to be perceived as whiter.”