Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




The current study explores whether stereotype threat, or fear of confirming negativestereotypes about one’s in-group, might manifest in the criminal justice system. This study specifically asks whether the threat of confirming stereotypes connecting race and crime manifest, among Black defendants, in nonverbal behaviors that might be perceived by observers as guilt. This research further explores whether racial centrality, the degree to which one identifies with one’s race, moderates effects of stereotype threat. Black female-identifying college students, who rated their degree of racial centrality, were randomly assigned to experience the activation of the race-crime stereotype or to a control condition. They filmed a legal statement of defense for a purported trial based on a crime for which they were being falsely accused and rated their perceptions of that experience and how they believed they appeared to others. Trained coders were shown these videos and rated nonverbal behaviors representing anxiety, as well as broader perceptions of guilt. No significant main effect of stereotype threat was found alone. However, Black participants higher in racial centrality were rated by objective coders as displaying more anxious behaviors on average than Black participants with lower racial centrality. Further, Black participants high in racial centrality that were in the stereotype threat condition were perceived by coders as displaying more anxious behaviors. Racial centrality also significantly interacts with stereotype threat activation conditions for self-report ratings of perceived guilt and coder ratings of guilt and apprehensiveness.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.