Educated Black Men Are Remembered as Having Lighter Skin Than Is Actually the Case

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.

SFSU Study

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.”

Related Articles


  1. So, how can people suggest that we live in a post-racial America. These new studies continue to confirm that bias exists.

  2. Good evening,

    As an African American male working towards his Ph.D. I find this studying very interesting to say the least. I am a fair skin and to me one who is educated should not be judge by the old brown bag test. For those of you who are older you would understand. It is very sad that we are still being judge on our color and not by our educational merits. Very sad state.

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Three African Americans Appointed to New Academic Positions

Leon Prieto, Kofi Afrifah, and Andrea Moore have been appointed to new academic positions at Clayton University, Bowie State University, and Savannah State University, respectively.

Historic HBCU Landmark Revitalized Through National Park Service Grant

Through three restoration grants totaling $2 million, the Rosenwald Practice School and Principal House will be fully restored, becoming the new home for the Northeastern North Carolina African American Research and Cultural Heritage Institute.

Five Black Leaders Appointed to Administrative Positions

Here is this week’s roundup of African American who have been appointed to new administrative positions at colleges and universities throughout the United States. If you have news for our appointments section, please email the information to

North Carolina A&T University Establishes Research Partnership with Collins Aerospace

“There are direct relations to the research we do in the College of Engineering and the mission purpose of Collins Aerospace,” said Stephanie Luster-Teasley, interim dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University. “Being able to partner with Collins really gives our students the opportunities for hands-on research at each level – undergraduate and graduate.”

Featured Jobs