The "Bad Is Black" Effect

Posted on January 19, 2017

Photo: flickr

The "Bad is Black" effect is a term given to the phenomenon that people are more likely to perceive another to commit a crime if their skin tones are darker. Professor Adam Alter and his colleagues from the New York University (NYU) have conducted various studies on this effect to try and understand the relationship between skin tones and perceptions of criminal offense.

One thing Alter and his colleagues discovered concerned media articles covering negative content. These texts about celebrities or politicians were more likely to contain darker colored images of the subjects regardless of race or gender.

In another study, Alter and his team conducted their own study about skin tone and perception of criminal activity. They found that The researchers found that participants were more likely to choose a darker photo when asked who committed an immoral act. Additionally, those who held more negative attitudes towards dark-skinned minorities (like African Americans) were more likely to choose the darker photo option. These results imply a two-way phenomenon: people tend to associate negative acts with darker skin tones, but also believe it is a darker-skinned person who committed the crime when they hear about the incident.

The "Bad is Black" effect leaves people with a unfair bias and impacts our judgements of innocence and truth. These implications have a serious influence on justice systems and court cases. It is important to conduct more research and gain a broader understanding of the extent of these biases.


Source material from Scientific American


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