Profiling racial minorities could lead to an increase in
illicit activity by non-minorities, according to a new
study online in the June 17, 2013, issue of the journal
Law and Human Behavior. The study’s researchers
found that when black students were singled out and
watched for dishonesty, white students cheated more
Lead author Amy A. Hackney, PhD, of Georgia
Southern University, and co-author Jack Glaser,
PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley,
conducted experiments with 278 students, of whom
72 percent were white and 60 percent were female.
The researchers divided the students into groups
in separate classrooms, averaging six students per
group that were all white, all black or mixed. The
researchers had each student unscramble difficult
anagrams and told them the exercise was a test of
their cognitive skills. Researchers allowed the students
to score their own tests using answers provided at the
back of the test — opening a door for them to cheat.
“Our study found an unintended consequence —
that when confronted with African-Americans being
profiled, whites became more dishonest while the
black subjects’ honesty did not vary,” says Hackney.
The researchers also found that the black students
did not cheat more when they were in classrooms
with white students who were closely monitored to
prevent cheating. In fact, the cheating among black
students remained about the same whether they
were in all-black classes with some of the students
singled out or in mixed-race or single-race classes
with no students being profiled.
The authors say further research will be necessary
to confirm whether the same behavior occurs in
real-world cases of profiling, such as New York
Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy, which was
recently ruled unconstitutional in district court.
— R. TRICOLES
Profiling may lead to increase in illicit behavior
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