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...And Justice for All? The Effect of Name Cues to Race on Judicial Decisions
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by Dina Shaneberger, Nicole Williamson, and Sheila Brownlow* - Catawba College
This study examined the impact of a subtle cue to race–a person’s name–on attributions of culpability and subsequent sentencing in a fictitious armed robbery case. White participants read a police report containing basic information about a crime that varied only according to the name of the perpetrator on the report. In one condition, the woman suspect’s name was clearly Black, in another White, and in a third condition no name information appeared. We predicted that a perpetrator with a Black name would be judged more harshly and given a longer jail sentence than a perpetrator with a White name. Effects of both name race and participant sex emerged, although the main hypothesis was not supported. Perpetrators with Black names were seen as more likely to have committed similar crimes in the past. Women perceived outside influences to be more contributory to the suspect’s actions when compared to men, whereas men assigned longer jail sentences to all suspects. The results are discussed within a theoretical framework suggesting that racism is most likely to be seen when only subtle or ambiguous cues are present, but will not be manifested when cues for socially acceptable behavior are evident.