Date of Graduation

Fall 2020

Degree

Master of Science in Psychology

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

David Zimmerman

Keywords

racial salience, outgroup bias, confession, illusory causation, camera angle, prejudice, police, prejudicial judgments, race

Subject Categories

Social Psychology

Abstract

With the invention of video recording on cell phones and the increased use of social media, the ability to record and distribute instances of police misconduct has become much easier. In recent years, such videos have captured White police officers using extreme force towards black citizens, many times leading to their deaths. Despite the increase in access to these videos, many of the officers involved are not convicted (or even indicted) of any crimes. Researchers have begun to examine variables that impact how people judge videotaped police/civilian interactions. For example, it has been found that when viewing interrogation videos, people judge confessions to be more voluntary when the camera is focused solely on the suspect as compared to an angle focused on both the suspect and detective. This is especially the case when they are viewing people of color. The present research investigated whether this extends to situations outside of the interrogation room. I examined whether camera perspective and civilian race interact to affect bystander’s judgements of police-civilian altercations. Participants watched a video of a police/civilian altercation that either depicted a Black or White civilian and was shown through the lens of a body camera angle or cell phone angle. After watching these videos, participants were asked a variety of questions to gauge how they perceived the actors in the video. Surprisingly, race and video angle did not impact participants’ judgments of the officer or civilian. However, I found that people who perceived the officer’s actions as more justified were more likely to have empathy for the officer and see him as playing a less causal role than the civilian. In contrast, people who perceived the actions of the civilian as more justified saw the police as playing a more causal role in the incident. There are a variety of factors that could have influenced the results. I explore these factors as well as address the implications of the role of pre-existing attitudes in making judgments.

Copyright

© Shelby Gabrielle Wynn

Open Access

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