Study confirms racial bias behind black shootings

The bias study (CBS)
The bias study (CBS)

For many Americans, recent police shootings of black people are evidence of racial bias.

But new research has found racism isn't just coming from the cops.

"Most people are biased. According to research, the majority of Americans show some degree of unconscious negative attitudes towards minorities," says NYU psychologist David Amodio.

He studies the science of racial bias and prejudice.

In a test, subjects are shown a picture of a black or white male carrying either a gun or a harmless object, and must make a quick decision to shoot or not shoot.

"Now you are in the role of a police officer," he says.

"And what's been found is that if the person who appears is black and they're holding a cell phone or soda can, people are more likely to accidentally shoot them than if they were white."

One study found subjects were about 30 percent more likely to shoot an unarmed black person than an unarmed white person.

However, research in the lab shows focusing on the object in their hands rather than the race reduces mistaken shooting of unarmed black people by as much as 45 percent.

"Often times we need to make a snap decision and it can take effort and some time to overcome an automatic bias," Mr Amodio says.

And contrary to what one might think, Mr Amodio says watching all these videos of black men being shot may actually desensitize both black and white people to injustice.

"That's why it's so interesting to study how these unconscious biases operate in the mind that might be completely different from what we actually believe," he says.

CBS News