Implicit rather than explicit threat predicts attentional bias towards Black but not Asian faces in a White undergraduate population

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Attentional biases are driven by type of stimulus in our environment (faces capture our attention in preference to non face items, e.g. Ro, Russel & Lavie, 2001), and motivation to seek out specific stimuli (e.g. spider images will capture attention more readily in those with arachnophobia, e.g. Ohman, Flykt & Esteves, 2001). Hence, attentional biases have been used as a behavioural measure of positive or negative attitudes to stimuli in the environment. The finding that the faces of Black people capture attention in a sample of White U.S. participants (Trawalter, Todd, Baird & Richeson, 2008) has been interpreted as Black faces being a threat stimulus, which is an interpretation in accord with other experimental evidence on the stigmatized representation of Black people as threatening (e.g. in a simulated first person shooter task, White participants shoot both armed and unarmed Black targets more frequently and more quickly than White targets, e.g. Correll, Urland and Ito, 2006). Al-Janabi, MacLeod and Rhodes (2012) suggest that attentional bias to Black faces may not represent threat but rather novelty of the stimulus, supported by the finding that an attentional bias was found towards faces of Asian females, where these faces had not been rated as more threatening than White faces. However, as noted as a possibility by these authors and as demonstrated by Donders, Correll and Wittenbrink (2008), implicit measures of danger can predict attentional bias towards Black faces. Implicit attitudes are often poorly correlated with conscious attitudes and are thought to stem from simple exposure to stereotyped information in the environment without being necessarily consciously endorsed. Hence, there is still uncertainty as to whether implicit bias as opposed to explicit bias better underpins attentional bias to other race faces.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2018
EventAssociation for Psychological Science Annual Convention - Hilton Union Square, San Francisco, United States
Duration: 24 May 201827 May 2018


ConferenceAssociation for Psychological Science Annual Convention
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco


  • face recognition
  • attention
  • biases
  • implicit


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