Study Finds That Perceptions of Race Can Be Altered by Cues of Social Status

A new study by researchers at Tufts University, Stanford University, and the University of California at Irvine has found that people’s perception of race can be influenced by cues of social status and what subjects wear.

In an experiment, researchers showed study participants computer images of faces. Images of people wearing business attire were more likely to be recognized as white. Faces of people in attire worn by janitors were more likely to be perceived as black.

Lead author Jonathan B. Freeman, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Tufts University and lead author of the study, states, “The study shows how the perception of race is always a compromise between the visual cues before our eyes and the baggage we bring to the table, like the stereotypes we hold. Racial stereotypes are powerful enough to trickle down to affect even basic visual processing of other people, systematically skewing the way we view our social world.”

Here is a video describing the research:

Changing Race by Changing Clothes from Tufts University on Vimeo.


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  1. Khari says:

    Great study. Were there race differences in how people characterized the images?

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