A new study led by Steven O. Roberts, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, finds that prominent psychological publications that highlight race are rare, and when race is discussed, it is authored mostly and edited almost entirely by White scholars.
The researchers examined 26,000 empirical articles published between 1974 and 2018 in top-tier cognitive, developmental, and social psychology journals. To determine the race of the editors and the authors they publish, the researchers searched and categorized photos they found of them online, which were often from their faculty webpage. They then emailed the scholars to ask for their self-identified racial identity.
The researchers found that psychological publications that highlight race have been rare, and although they have increased in developmental and social psychology, they have remained virtually nonexistent in cognitive psychology. Second, most publications have been edited by White editors, Third, many of the publications that highlight race have been written by White authors who employed significantly fewer participants of color.
“The overrepresentation of White authors in top-tier psychology journals is not explained by the quality of the research or by the quantity of the researchers. But it is explained by structural racism,” said Dr. Roberts. “These journals are dominated by White psychologists, which has implications for what and who is excluded from the scientific record.”
“Psychologists are supposed to know about racial bias and how to prevent it from stratifying the world,” Dr. Roberts added. “But if we, the so-called experts, have a problem, then society really has a problem.”
Dr. Roberts is a graduate of New York University, where he majored in applied psychology. He earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Michigan.
The full study, “Racial Inequality in Psychological Research: Trends of the Past and Recommendations for the Future,” was published on the website of the journal Perspectives of Psychological Science. It may be accessed here.