IMPLICIT COGNITIVE BIASES, RACIAL ATTITUDES, AND THREAT DETECTION

Open Access
Author:
Grimaldi, Elizabeth Mary
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 07, 2016
Committee Members:
  • James Marshall Lebreton, Thesis Advisor
  • Kisha Shannon Jones, Committee Member
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • implicit personality
  • cognitive biases
  • signal detection
  • racial biases
  • implicit attitudes
  • threat detection
Abstract:
The current study aimed to integrate multiple streams of research in order to better understand the underlying mechanisms of threat detection malfunctioning and the decision to use lethal force. Signal Detection Theory (SDT) was used as a guiding framework around which to frame the hypotheses. Specifically, the roles of implicit racial biases, cognitive load, and implicit personality were examined. It was expected that each of these would influence the proportion of false alarm responses, participants’ willingness to fire a weapon (criterion, an SDT parameter), and participants’ reaction times. Data were collected from a sample (N = 110, 78% female) of undergraduate students at a large, northeastern university. Participants completed personality assessments, a measure of implicit racial bias, and an experimental procedure where they were asked to shoot or not shoot stimuli consisting of Black and White adults under strict time constraints. Findings did not generally support the proposed relationships, however a significant three-way interaction between target race, cognitive load, and implicit personality emerged when examining the three outcome variables together in a multivariate ANCOVA. Findings indicate that further research is needed in order to more fully understand the complex relationships between these variables.