Cynthia J. Najdowski

Cynthia J. Najdowski
Project Director

"Effects of Citizens' Stereotype Threat on Police Officers' Perceptions and Decision Making"

This project builds on prior research which has shown that innocent African American individuals are concerned about being perceived unfairly by police due to stereotypes that depict members of their racial group as criminals and, further, that stereotype threat causes Blacks to appear objectively more nervous than Whites during encounters with police-type figures. Because police believe that nervous behavior is a nonverbal cue to deception, stereotype threat could ironically increase the likelihood that individuals will be perceived by police as suspicious and lead police to initiate investigatory contacts with Blacks disproportionately more often than Whites.

The proposed research will test this hypothesis by having actual police officers view videos of "targets" who will be either Black or White men who are experiencing either high or low stereotype threat in the context of a staged encounter with a security officer. After viewing the videos, police officers will report how suspicious they perceived each target to be, and then make judgments regarding whether they would suspect the target of criminal activity or initiate contact with him. The results will contribute to a growing body of work that implicates stereotype threat as a factor contributing to racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Sponsoring Organization
Russell Sage Foundation

Catherine Bonventre

Contact Information
Telephone: (518) 591-8786
FAX: (518) 442-5603