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Dissertation

Effects of racial bias reduction strategies on case-related judgments of juvenile offenders

1 January 2016

Abstract

Although sociopolitical movements have inhibited overt expressions of racism over the past five decades, implicit racism is still universally present today. In the juvenile justice system, Black youths are overrepresented at every contact point, receive harsher sentences, and are viewed as more dangerous. Recent research suggests that racial disparities in the legal system are due, at least in part, to implicit biases, which operate outside one’s level of awareness and have a measurable influence on behavior. Research suggests that implicit processes are malleable and can be influenced by a number of different techniques. Thus, the purpose of this study was two-fold. First, the study aimed to determine whether racial bias was present in a controlled legal decision-making task. Second, the study examined whether specific strategies were able to attenuate racial bias in legal decision-making. The present study included 233 adult White males who were provided a summary of a legal case that identified the defendant as either Black or White. Participants were then assigned to one of four intervention conditions. Results revealed that, when participants visualized a Black role model, they perceived the Black defendant as less mature than the White defendant. The implications of these findings and future research directions are discussed.


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