Americans still linking blacks to apes


February 8, 2008 |

Crude historical depictions of African Americans as ape-like may have disappeared from mainstream U.S. culture, but research presented in a new paper by psychologists at Stanford, Pennsylvania State University and the University of California-Berkeley reveals that many Americans subconsciously associate blacks with apes.

In addition, the findings show that society is more likely to condone violence against black criminal suspects as a result of its broader inability to accept African Americans as fully human, according to the researchers.

Co-author Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford associate professor of psychology who is black, said she was shocked by the results, particularly since they involved subjects born after Jim Crow and the civil rights movement. “This was actually some of the most depressing work I have done,” she said. “This shook me up. You have suspicions when you do the work—intuitions—you have a hunch. But it was hard to prepare for how strong [the black-ape association] was—how we were able to pick it up every time.”

The paper, “Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences,” is the result of a series of six previously unpublished studies conducted by Eberhardt, Pennsylvania State University psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff (the lead author and a former student of Eberhardt’s) and Matthew C. Jackson and Melissa J. Williams, graduate students at Penn State and Berkeley, respectively. The paper is scheduled to appear Feb. 7 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

The research took place over six years at Stanford and Penn State under Eberhardt’s supervision. It involved mostly white male undergraduates. In a series of studies that subliminally flashed black or white male faces on a screen for a fraction of a second to “prime” the students, researchers found subjects could identify blurry ape drawings much faster after they were primed with black faces than with white faces. The researchers consistently discovered a black-ape association even if the young adults said they knew nothing about its historical connotations. The connection was made only with African American faces; the paper’s third study failed to find an ape association with other non-white groups, such as Asians. Despite such race-specific findings, the researchers stressed that dehumanization and animal imagery have been used for centuries to justify violence against many oppressed groups.

“Despite widespread opposition to racism, bias remains with us,” Eberhardt said. “African Americans are still dehumanized; we’re still associated with apes in this country. That association can lead people to endorse the beating of black suspects by police officers, and I think it has lots of other consequences that we have yet to uncover.”

Scientific racism in the United States was graphically promoted in a mid-19th-century book by Josiah C. Nott and George Robins Gliddon titled Types of Mankind, which used misleading illustrations to suggest that “Negroes” ranked between “Greeks” and chimpanzees. “When we have a history like that in this country, I don’t know how much of that goes away completely, especially to the extent that we are still dealing with severe racial inequality, which fuels and maintains those associations in ways that people are unaware,” Eberhardt said.

Although such grotesque characterizations of African Americans have largely disappeared from mainstream U.S. society, Eberhardt noted that science education could be partly responsible for reinforcing the view that blacks are less evolved than whites. An iconic 1970 illustration, “March of Progress,” published in the Time-Life book Early Man, depicts evolution beginning with a chimpanzee and ending with a white man. “It’s a legacy of our past that the endpoint of evolution is a white man,” Eberhardt said. “I don’t think it’s intentional, but when people learn about human evolution, they walk away with a notion that people of African descent are closer to apes than people of European descent. When people think of a civilized person, a white man comes to mind.”
Consequences of socially endorsed violence

In the paper’s fifth study, the researchers subliminally primed 115 white male undergraduates with words associated with either apes (such as “monkey,” “chimp,” “gorilla”) or big cats (such as “lion,” “tiger,” “panther”). The latter was used as a control because both images are associated with violence and Africa, Eberhardt said. The subjects then watched a two-minute video clip, similar to the television program COPS, depicting several police officers violently beating a man of undetermined race. A mugshot of either a white or a black man was shown at the beginning of the clip to indicate who was being beaten, with a description conveying that, although described by his family as “a loving husband and father,” the suspect had a serious criminal record and may have been high on drugs at the time of his arrest.

The students were then asked to rate how justified the beating was. Participants who believed the suspect was white were no more likely to condone the beating when they were primed with either ape or big cat words, Eberhardt said. But those who thought the suspect was black were more likely to justify the beating if they had been primed with ape words than with big cat words. “Taken together, this suggests that implicit knowledge of a Black-ape association led to marked differences in participants’ judgments of Black criminal suspects,” the researchers write.

According to the paper’s authors, this link has devastating consequences for African Americans because it “alters visual perception and attention, and it increases endorsement of violence against black suspects.” For example, the paper’s sixth study showed that in hundreds of news stories from 1979 to 1999 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, African Americans convicted of capital crimes were about four times more likely than whites convicted of capital crimes to be described with ape-relevant language, such as “barbaric,” “beast,” “brute,” “savage” and “wild.” “Those who are implicitly portrayed as more ape-like in these articles are more likely to be executed by the state than those who are not,” the researchers write.
The way forward

Despite the paper’s findings, Eberhardt said she is optimistic about the future. “This work isn’t arguing that there hasn’t been any progress made or that we are living in the same society that existed in the 19th century,” she said. “We have made a lot of progress on race issues, but we should recognize that racial bias isn’t dead. We still need to be aware of that and aware of all the different ways [racism] can affect us, despite our intentions and motivations to be egalitarian. We still have work to do.”

For Eberhardt, two stories of race exist in America. “One is about the disappearance of bias—that it’s no longer with us,” she said. “But the other is about the transformation of bias. It’s not the egregious bias anymore, but it’s modern bias, subtle bias.” With both of these stories, she said, there is an understanding that society has moved beyond the historic battles centered around race. “We want to argue, with this work, that there is one old race battle that we’re still fighting,” she said. “That is the battle for blacks to be recognized as fully human.”

This research was supported by a Stanford University Dean’s Award to Jennifer Eberhardt.

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295 Responses to Americans still linking blacks to apes

  1. J March 22, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    Outside of overly sensitive politically correct types, and black people themselves, this is a common thing. Just because some white people cannot handle ideas that make them uncomfortable or would make other people feel “bad” and choose to avoid conflict does not change anything about reality of the situation.

    On average, Africans are 2 standard deviations below the intelligence of Caucasians and Asians. Until acted upon by outsiders they were living in prehistoric levels of civilization, with all the trappings of peoples from that period. Simply because those on the extreme left of he African IQ bell curve can function in modern society does not change the fact that the rest are incompatible by nature, and are lesser humans.

    Africa will never get better in our lifetime. The African people will never “rise up” in any significant numbers – it is beyond them. By wasting our time, energy and money on these foolish things it has contributed to dragging us down as a collective to accommodate them, just like a parent treating a small child as an equal.

    That is what they are compared to us – physically adults and mentally children. Look at Africa, look at every American city they have come to control – just like children being left alone when parents go on vacation, the longer they have power the faster things devolve into chaos due to their shortsightedness.

    Again, it will not get better. They are tens of thousands of years behind us. To mix with them drags our evolution down, and very little to bring theirs up. We are incompatible. The longer they are here the more they will simply drag us down as we try to politely accommodate them.

  2. letsgotrippin March 9, 2015 at 4:47 am #

    @Homo Sapien Sapien–The blacks/apes association might be unfortunate, but it does blacks no good to invent revisionist fantasies that black Africans invented mathematics, literature, philosophy, architecture, etc. All this does is create a false scenario in order to soothe wounded black self-esteem.

    The fact is that all these innovations were developed by Eurasian peoples. Sub-Saharan Africans were highly primitive until modern times. It is well-documented that blacks had not invented writing, math, the plow nor the wheel when other peoples discovered them.

    To make matters worse, blacks eagerly sold each other into slavery, thereby effectively destroying their own race–the devastating effects of which we still see today.

    Ancient Egyptians themselves were Caucasoid peoples whose ancestors back-migrated into North Africa from West Asia. This is confirmed by their original Neandertal DNA. This is why pharaonic mummies have Caucasian hair shape and color, tall, narrow noses, and orthognathic face shapes.

    The good news is that there is still hope for blacks to beat this “ape rap.” All they have to do is study and work hard, raise their kids right, be entrepreneurial, and obey the law. And above all, work hard to raise their group IQ to a level commensurate with, or higher than, whites’ and Asians’.

    If blacks can accomplish this, then they will be able to say:

    “We might look more like apes–but we are just as successful as any other race on this planet. Therefore, our humanity cannot be questioned.”

  3. kris February 22, 2015 at 8:06 am #

    If black males are so peaceful, why do they make up the majority of the violent offender prison population?

  4. Mike P. February 20, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    You all look like apes to me, and it matters not what race you identify yourselves with or your skin color.

  5. Truth February 19, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    Every single race of human being in existence enslaved niggers for thousands of years, and they did so extremely easily.
    That will tell you all you ever need to know about niggers.
    They simply are not human. Never were, never will be.

  6. Homo sapien sapien February 4, 2015 at 1:33 am #

    Modern white people are decendants of Neanderthal . That’s where they get there district ivy nature. Look the entire world has been destroyed by the Neo Neanderthal . All the mathematics, architecture and engineering that they learned from humans from Africa they have used for evil. They are not wholistic that’s why their Y chromosome became extinct. Nature tried her best to eliminate this beast in the form of the white man, or the Neanderthal Y chromosome , and she succeeded! What Mother Nature didn’t expect was that the Neanderthal male would try and reconstitute himself through his mothers mitochondria dna. Well unfortunately for humanity and nature he has. The reason that white women and non black women are so attracted to black men is because we have the human seed that they so desperately need for survival. The white male gene has a recessive Neanderthal chromosome that will eventually be diluted out of humanity, if he doesn’t destroy the world first. The sad thing is that every white man has a human african Y chromosome, everything they cherish and exalt, a tall muscular lean physique, brad shoulders, naturally smooth hairless skin, well endowed man hood. Folk like Arnold Swartznigger owe their physiques to their ancient black african human ancestors. Even his name Swartznegger means BLACK MAN. Neanderthals have short fat hairy dumpy bodies to stay warm in the freezing desolate ice caves they lived in. And of course they have small penis’s , we all get a little shrinkage when it gets cold outside! Lol! but imagine what 40,000 years of freezing cold will do to a mans penile evolution… Well let’s just say elongated clitoris syndrome ECS or LDS or SDS. ( contact me if you need clarification on the last two ). Again, this is sad, sad because the white man does come from us, but he has forgotten who his father is. LUKE I AM YOUR FATHER.

  7. Iron Lyon February 2, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    An AFRICAN American woman, Stanford Professor WROTE the article. If you don’t like it ……Take it up with her! You’re not going to convince Whites, Asians or Hispanics that she’s wrong.

  8. homosapien sapien February 2, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    It’s amazing that folk that are descendants of non human Neanderthals are calling REAL humans non human. The fact is that the Neanderthal y chromosome was sterile once a male Neanderthal and human offspring were born. Only the female offspring could reproduce. I’m sorry to tell all you white ass Neanderthals that you are indebted to REAL humans for your very existence. And all these claims that you are superior have been exposed! It’s like a virus that kills humans claiming that it’s superior over humans.

  9. tsizz'e January 4, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    Blacks are a violent race and are not the same as us. Numbers don’t lie.

  10. Macrocompassion January 2, 2015 at 4:29 am #

    Ironlyon:
    If your community of racists was only a 13% total of the rest and if you and your children were denied fair opportunities to housing, salaries, education and social intercourse, then surely your disgruntled youth would be committing 50% of the crimes too!

    As long as the racists in the US continue with this kind of attitude it is little wonder that there are so many American citizens in jail, only its a pity that the causes for this phenomena are not wanted to be understood by the likes of your tribe.

  11. Ironlyon January 1, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    The article being commented on was written by a BLACK PROFESSOR!!!!!! Take it up with her. Whites and the other races will always fear black males in particular until their violent crime rates come down. With only 13% total of the American population, blacks account for 50% of all violent crime. Every black run country has descended into anarchy, and black run cities are falling into bankruptcy. I know blacks have a lot of excuses (some valid) on why they’re a failed race, but the truth is they’re the race that evolution forgot because Sub-Saharan blacks were not subjected to the same evolutionary pressures the rest of humanity suffered while conquering the planet. As long as blacks fail to own up to, and change their actions, this sort of sentiment is all they have to look forward to.

  12. Macrocompassion January 1, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    I wonder how many of these racist comments come from people who have any real knowledge of the history of Mankind. After all this blog is supposed to be a scientific one and not an excuse to proclaim anyone’s inferiority.

    I am very disappointed with the kinds of comments here. For all those Christian racists who agree with these comments, please recognize that Jesus was black and so were most of the Jewish people of that time. The current situation is partly due to the mixing of races and why not! It is wrong to think you are superior and the Bible make this clear by its demand for loving your neighbors.

    And for those racists who are atheists, for a type of person opposed to dogmatic belief, how come you have these wrongly stated ones? Your philosophy should not have any beliefs at all!! Hypocrites all.

  13. Sean December 31, 2014 at 7:46 am #

    Irony! It’s quite interesting that how ALL the puffed up, racist Gentiles (white people), whose comments disparage and blame black people for our condition due to all of the oppression that black people have had to endure from their oppressors in the days of slavery down till present day with the subtly and hidden institutional racism, fail to realize through their high minded and demeaning commentary, that their attitudes are in full agreement with the demonstrated conclusion of the authored rchers, that “Americans are still linking blacks to apes.”

    Gentiles, I recommend that you look into the mirror of your history: I’m certain that what you see reflecting back to you is an hostile, untrainable, thieving, lying, murdering beast who is still to this day reaping the benefits of your ancestors wickedness through your white privileges and white supremacy.

    Consider and think for a second, you racist people: if Africa was so poverty stricken as most of you believe it to be, why would your European ancestors invest so much time, energy, manpower and resources invading, raping, plundering, killing and stealing from a resource less land?

    Makes no sense right!
    Just as no superpower is interested in invading North Korea because there is absolutely nothing of interest to them, your racist ancestors would not have invaded the resource wealthiest continent of Africa if it was as poor as you falsely depict and believe it to be.

    Consider who gave you hygiene and civilization: Africans!!!!
    Know for certain that Egypt was not white but a pure BLACK civilization.
    Also know that Egypt was not the only substantial civilization on the continent of Africa.
    Know just like Europeans, Asians and the indigenous Americans, that Africans comes in many shades of brown and varying features.
    You Europeans are not the only blonds: we have pure blacks with blond hair and light eyes.
    Pure Africans also come with varying texture hair.
    Know our history and be humble by your origins.
    Gregor Mandel’s genetics will teach you that white is recessive. Therefore, you are a mutation from the original–black people; Which makes Adam and Eve black as well as Noah and his sons.

    However, please feel free to hate us black people whose ancestors were stolen and sold into slavery to the four corners of the earth by ships, God’s Chosen people, the true Israelites (Deut 28, Lev 26, Joel 3 and the fact that circumcision originated in Africa

  14. JD December 19, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    Wow I love how these “studies” with their “research” are constantly twisted such as this one …so after mind f******* it’s participants “that involved mostly White undergraduates” they come up with the conclusion that Whites are the problem! And there it is. Blah blah blah. That last line was especially comical. Wah wah wah.

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  1. White women need to understand the reality of dating black males | 2cypher - Real Politics for real people - January 12, 2015

    […] imagine when a White female sees a black male there is a strong subconscious understanding the black male is indeed primitive and ape-like. As implied by the link, this is indeed entirely a natural perception without the conflicting […]

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