The Face of Crime: Viewers' Memory of Race-Related Facial Features of Individuals Pictured in the News

Mary Beth Oliver, Ronald L. Jackson, Ndidi N. Moses, Celnisha L. Dangerfield
2004 Journal of Communication  
This study examined news readers' memories of race-related facial features of an individual pictured in the news. Participants were presented with a series of news stories, including one of four different versions of the news story of interest: nonstereotyped, stereotyped/noncrime, nonviolent crime, violent crime. Each of the four versions contained a photograph of an individual who was the focus of the story, with the same photograph appearing across news story conditions. Subsequently,
more » ... pants reconstructed the photograph of the individual by selecting from a series of facial features (i.e., noses, mouths, skin tones) presented on a computer screen. Although selected features did not differ from the actual photograph in the nonstereotyped and stereotyped/noncrime conditions, selected facial features for the crime stories featured more Afrocentric than Eurocentric features, particularly for the story concerning violent crime. If asked to imagine a "prototypical" criminal, what characteristics would most people bring to mind? Perhaps they would picture characteristics reflecting actual arrest statistics, with images reflecting a larger proportion of males than females, for example. Undoubtedly, many characteristics would also reflect stereotypes of criminality and common depictions, including media portrayals of criminals. Given the considerable amount of research that reports that news stories associate criminality with African Americans, coupled with research reporting people's greater fear of and assumed guilt of Blacks compared to Whites, it follows that many people would likely envision a Black rather than a White criminal (
doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2004.tb02615.x fatcat:wa6jiqwetjay7g55fphshbtvs4