Study: People Remember ‘Educated’ Black Men As Lighter Skinned

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When primed to think that a black man is more educated, people are more likely to remember him as having lighter skin, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal SAGE Open.

Researchers conducted the study in two parts: First, they flashed images at 160 university students with either the word “ignorant” or “educated,” followed by the face of a black man. After that, the researchers showed the same students pictures of that same black man’s face, but with his skin tone altered to be lighter or darker.

When asked to identify which was the man they’d seen in the first part of the experiment, those who had seen the word ‘educated’ were significantly more likely to pick a lighter-skinned version of the man — a type of racism that the researchers characterized as “skin tone memory bias.”

“When a Black stereotypic expectancy is violated (herein, encountering an educated Black male), this culturally incompatible information is resolved by distorting this person’s skin tone to be lighter in memory and therefore to be perceived as “Whiter,” main researcher Avi Ben-Zeev said.

The results of this study also gel with similar studies on the subject, along with previous research that shows people have a bias against “Afrocentric” facial characteristics — including “hair texture, skin tone, facial features, cheek bone structure, height.” The effects of the subconscious biases can play out on juries, for example, where studies have found that darker skinned women get longer prison sentences.

(HT: National Journal)