Skin Tone, Crime News, and Social Reality Judgments: Priming the Stereotype of the Dark and Dangerous Black Criminal1

Authors

  • Travis L. Dixon,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Speech Communication University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Travis L. Dixon, Department of Speech Communication, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, 702 S. Wright Street, #244 Lincoln Hall, Urbana, IL 61801. E–mail: tldixon@uiuc.edu
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  • Keith B. Maddox

    1. Tufts University
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  • 1

    This study was partially funded by a grant from the Howard R. Marsh Center for Journalistic Performance. The University of Michigan Institutional Review Board approved the procedures used in this research. The authors thank Heather Sierawski for her assistance with video editing and data collection.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Travis L. Dixon, Department of Speech Communication, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, 702 S. Wright Street, #244 Lincoln Hall, Urbana, IL 61801. E–mail: tldixon@uiuc.edu

Abstract

An experiment examined the extent to which viewers’ emotional discomfort with a crime story and perceptions and memorability of a perpetrator and victim could be influenced by the race and skin tone of the perpetrator portrayed in a newscast. Participants were exposed either to a White, light–skinned Black, medium–skinned Black, or dark–skinned Black perpetrator. In addition, participants provided self–reports of their news viewing habits. Results revealed that heavy television news viewers were more likely than light viewers to feel emotional discomfort after being exposed to the dark–skinned Black perpetrator. Heavy news viewers also had favorable perceptions of the victim when the perpetrator was Black, regardless of skin tone. Results also indicated that all participants, regardless of prior news exposure, found the perpetrator more memorable when the perpetrator was a dark–skinned Black male. The methodological and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

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