Dehumanization of Black Children Leads to Suspicion of Guilt, Study Shows
Date:  04-15-2014

Black children often perceived as older, and therefore more responsible for their actions
The following was posted in The Sentencing Project’s Race and Justice News on April 15, 2014.

Black Children Are Not Allowed to Be Children

In The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children Phillip A. Goff and colleagues explicate why black youth are not afforded the same perception of innocence that is reserved for white youth. For their paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they asked undergraduate students and police officers to estimate the age of adolescent boys depicted in photographs and accused of having committed a felony. Respondents overestimated the age of black boys by over four and a half years – at higher levels than they overestimated the age of white and Latino suspects. Both students and officers also described black suspects as more culpable than whites, with officers rating Latinos similarly as blacks in culpability and students rating them closer to whites. The researchers showed that the more subjects dehumanized blacks – measured by their implicit association of blacks with apes, a lingering historical stereotype – the more they overestimated black suspects’ age, attributed to them the highest levels of culpability, and – among officers – disproportionately used force against black youth. The tendency to miscategorize black 13-year-old boys as adults, the authors argue, leads black youth to be “prematurely perceived as responsible for their actions during a developmental period where their peers receive the beneficial assumption of childlike innocence.”