Study Finds a Bias in the Perception of the Size and Threat of Black Men

A new study led by John Paul Wilson, an assistant professor of social psychology at Montclair State University in New Jersey, found that people tend to perceive Black men as larger and more threatening than White men of the same size.

In a series of experiments, participants were shown photographs of Black and White male faces who had identical height and weight. The participants were asked to estimate each individual’s height and weight as well as strength and muscularity.

Dr. Wilson reports that “these estimates were consistently biased. Participants judged the Black men to be larger, stronger and more muscular than the White men, even though they were actually the same size. Participants also believed that the Black men were more capable of causing harm in a hypothetical altercation and, troublingly, that police would be more justified in using force to subdue them, even if the men were unarmed.”

Black test subjects also displayed a similar bias. And Dr. Wilson added that “men with darker skin and more stereotypically Black facial features tended to be most likely to elicit biased size perceptions.”

The article, “Racial Bias in Judgments of Physical Size and Formidability: From Size to Threat,” was published on the website of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association. It may be downloaded here.

Related Articles


Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Two Black Scholars Appointed to Faculty Positions

The new faculty are Esther Jones at Brown University and Dagmawi Woubshet at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is Established at Bowie State University

"The new program will help to increase the number of counselor educators within the counseling field and the number of competent Black counselor educators," says Dr. Otis Williams, chair of the Bowie State University department of counseling and psychological studies.

Elizabeth City State University Partners With the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to Increase Representation of Black Graduate...

"We are excited by this partnership with UT Health Science Center and the opportunities this brings to our students who wish to pursue advanced degrees," said Kuldeep Rawat, dean of the Elizabeth City State University School of Science, Health and Technology.

Kimberly White-Smith Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Teacher Education

“Through her leadership and scholarship, Dr. White-Smith inspires a new generation of teachers to serve students and approach their work with equity, compassion, and respect,” said Gail F. Baker, provost and senior vice president at the University of San Diego. 

Featured Jobs