More on Schemas, Expectations, and Race

Reactions in light of our new topic of social cognition?

What’s the relevance here of schemas?  The type of associations Eberhardt et al. (2004) discuss?  For that matter, what about the bystander intervention component at play here?

This entry was posted in Bystander Effect, Chapter 3, Media, Racial Bias, Schemas, Social Cognition, Stereotypes. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to More on Schemas, Expectations, and Race

  1. The reactions of the people who pass by the actors trying to steal the bike are consistent with the race-crime association discussed in the first study by Eberhardt et al. Similarly to the study, the participants in this situation are primed by either a black or white man, and an additional white woman in this case. As we read in the study, when people are faced with a primer of a black person, they are subconsciously more likely to make an association to crime. This experiment supports this concept as we see people ignoring and even offering to help both the white man and woman while we see many more accusations of crime for the black man.

    This experiment also does an interesting job in portraying the idea of bystander intervention. When the white man and woman are trying to steal the bike, we see only a few people approach the actor. However, when the black man is shown, there are significantly more bystanders who intervene in the situation. One thought is that when the bystanders see one person intervene, especially in an accusatory fashion, they are more likely to interpret the situation as crime-related, pushing them to intervene themselves.

    • Gideon Wulfsohn says:

      Totally agree! I will say that most of the strong reactions come after the black male makes comments like “nah” when responding to the question of “is that your bike.” The ratio of people walking by to those confronting for the three separate samples is insane. Why the study didn’t quite have a systematic design, the video portrays the point more than clearly.

      Having once woken up to a note on my new bike I left parked in central square over night saying “tall black man tried to steal your bike, called the cops for you :)” I really do hope that I would have had a similar outcome had my attempted thief have been a slender blonde woman. My question then becomes are we primed to trust slender blonde woman or is there a portion of the population that is less than altruistic and optimizes towards sexual incentives versus doing the right thing.

  2. One thing I noticed that I think is worth pointing out is that while occasionally the white thieves are approached and asked something like, “What are you doing?” with the black thief, people approached and asked, “Is that bike yours?” Like even verbally it’s clear how they jump to conclusions, already imposing their inner biases on the situation whereas with the white thieves, the question, “What are you doing” is more what’s being asked. Verbally it’s clear in the exchanges with the black thief that the confronters already have an image in their head of what’s going on, whereas with the white thief, they’re afforded the benefit of the doubt.

    In terms of race vs sex, I feel like they’re completely different issues. The conversations about how different races are treated vs different sexes are very distinct. (louis ck has something to say about this to, starts around 3:20 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-Y17YG63B4) Because with men approaching women, there are a whole range of factors that aren’t as prevalent in our culture as women approaching men. Like, you probably wouldn’t see a 20 year old guy confronting an 80 year old woman in this situation, except to ask if she was lost. But with 50 year old guys approaching a younger woman and trying to look macho by helping her steal a bike, it’s just a different dynamic. So I felt like the contrast between the black and white male thief of the same age was a really well done experiment, but having the white female thief didn’t really serve as an appropriate foil and introduced a lot more unanswered questions than it actually resolved.

  3. Profile photo of tkolbj01 tkolbj01 says:

    This video was really surprising to me, based on the lecture/readings I expected there to be strong difference but I didn’t expect it to be so instant and so dramatic. What really stuck out to me was that 1, almost all interventions were from men (both negative interventions with the black “thief” and aid given to the female “thief”) and that 2, once someone decided to intervene a whole posse seemed to form to back up the person who stepped up. Additionally it seemed as though the interventions almost all came from people older than the thief, it added an interesting power dynamic to the situation.

    It would be interesting to see this experiment repeated in a more diverse area. The video at least made it seem like a dramatic majority of the witnesses were white and I am curious to see if the results would be less dramatic if the witnesses were more ethnically diverse.

    • Michael Rogalski says:

      To the effect of your comment, Tory, I am actually totally unsurprised by both the quicker reaction time to the Black criminal and the fact that men were the ones to intervene in both scenarios given what we’ve learned about and read thus far.

      Studies 1 and 2 in the Eberhardt et al. (2004) paper outlined the bidirectional relationship between Blacks and crime in terms of visual processing, specifically that white males specifically were quicker to identify crime-related objects from degraded images after being primed by a Black face. Additionally, these white males directed their attention to Black faces more so than to white faces when primed with a crime-related stimulus. So, regardless of whether these male onlookers first noticed the criminal’s tools or his race they quickly made an association between the two and were able to identify the crime. Conversely, the Eberhardt et al. study did not find an association between white male subjects and crime-related visual processing so these people would be less quick to interpret the white thief’s actions as a crime.

      In terms of males intervening, this relates to our previous topic of prosocial behavior. Traditionally, it has been observed that there are gender differences in helping. More specifically, men are known to help in more chivalrous, heroic, or daring ways than in caring, nurturing, or long-term ways. In this scenario, we saw several men jump in “heroically” (I put this in quotes because this man taking a bike thief’s backpack isn’t exactly Braveheart) to stop the Black male bike thief. We also saw multiple men chivalrously assist the female thief despite her questionable motives. The helping tactics here are consistent with what we learned in the last chapter, despite the disparate reactions to the three different thieves.

  4. Profile photo of Zihan Chai Zihan Chai says:

    One thing I noticed was the inconsistency in terms of tones in between the White male case and the Black male case. When asked if it is his bike, the White goes like “I guess, technically, no.” (rising tone) But when the Black actor was asked, he said that “Technically it is NOT but it is gonna be mine.” (emphasis on not, with certainty, smile in the end, also suggesting certainty)

    I asked my mom to HEAR instead of WATCH the two different conversations, and she said that the Black actor sounds more like a criminal. And just to clarify, though my mom speaks some English, she had only gone to the U.S. for two short trips and had very limited knowledge regarding the accent stuff (or at least I think so; don’t know if she has a secret life).

    This video clip confirms what a lot of viewers would have expected, that a Black face is more likely to trigger people to think about crime. This is definitely good TV. However, viewing this as a social psychological experiment, I think it has serious flaws in ensuring that everything – except for the IV – stays the same. The internal validity is therefore in question.

    (Note to self, before starting the work on Helping Paper, it is a good thing to keep in mind that intonation, manner, attire can all have a significant effect on EV.)

    • Profile photo of Kavya Boorgu Kavya Boorgu says:

      Hey Zihan, really good point and I totally agree! I wonder how the actors are prepared for the experiment. Ideally they should all have a set script to respond with, and probably should be blind to the hypothesis of the experiment. There are clearly some biases in how the experiment was conducted. It’s easy to think, how much do these small details really matter – but if social psych studies have shown us anything, it’s that even small things can result in drastic changes of behavior.

  5. This video shows one of the disturbing ways in which our ability to form and use schemas can be used against us, with drastic consequences to many members of society. We rely on schemas in nearly every aspect of our day-to-day lives, but clearly they aren’t perfect. Interestingly, the people who approached the black individual likely thought they were doing the right thing as they did so, as they heroically surmounted the obstacle of the bystander effect to stand up for justice. If we hadn’t seen the first part of the video for context, perhaps we would have thought the same. However, knowing that they would almost certainly have not intervened if the thief had been white, we are forced to acknowledge that it was not these peoples’ strong sense of morality that caused them to act as they did, but rather, their subconscious racial bias.

    Schemas associating black men with crime are likely caused by what we perceive (either consciously or subconsciously) as a real, tangible connection between the two in society (e.g. crime statistics, grim-looking mugshot pictures, or the black man we saw being apprehended by the cops last week). But could it be that this connection is caused by these schemas as well? As we saw in the video, the racial biases that people held towards the second man caused him to be apprehended by a large group, with some people even calling the police. The first man was not apprehended, and was not alerted to the authorities. In real life, this would equate to one more black man in prison the next day with his mugshot in the news, while his white equivalent is free and enjoying his new bike. Thus, our racial biases create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where our prejudice leads minorities to be more likely to be caught for criminal activity, even if they are equally likely to participate in it. The resulting racial divide in our criminal justice system then further reinforces the schemas that caused the divide in the first place (people reading the news the next day see the mugshot picture, and their biases are confirmed). This process continues in a destructive cycle that has been highly detrimental to society, and especially to blacks and Hispanics.

  6. Aubrey Tan says:

    I think there are very valid points that are brought up regarding this social experiment. However, I wonder if the circumstances were different since this was not exactly a perfect experiment. What if they held the experiment in a different environment such as a predominately black neighborhood instead of a heavily white populated area. Also, they said the actors dressed similarly, but there are quite a few key differences, the white kid was in tighter clothes with his hat backwards, and the black kid was is saggy clothes, a long shirt, and his hat sideways. Obviously these are minute differences but they make a big impact on impression.

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