Americans still linking blacks to apes

February 8, 2008
Blog Entry, Brain & Behavior, Health

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Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences,” is the result of a series of six previously unpublished studies conducted by Eberhardt, Pennsylvania State University psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff (the lead author and a former student of Eberhardt’s) and Matthew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.


270 Responses to Americans still linking blacks to apes

  1. Enlightened Lemur March 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    Do people really dispute the ancestral link between blacks and primates? The fact that many blacks bear striking resemblances to apes is only scratching at the surface of the similarities. Their social hierarchies is clearly like that of a pack of chimpanzees. You have a brutish leader of the pack and a gaggle of dumb followers who mindlessly follow the orders of the leader. The pack leader can walk straight over a cliff and the mindless followers will dutifully march behind him to their fate.

    Like apes, most only understand animalistic behavior and – although considered ‘social’ animals – they can not, and will not, ever evolve past the pack mentality. Their herders are not the “evil whites” that they habitually love to attack (both physically and verbally), but the herders are other blacks who have evolved an extra brain cell or two and have come to realize that it’s a simple – almost mindless – endeavor to rile the pack up into a frenzy to accomplish their own selfish desires. Looting, pillaging, raping, murdering, burgling, etc., it’s all in the nature of the slaves who have been trained by their masters who, once again, are not white. Whites are merely the scapegoats used by the slightly more evolved black ringleaders.

    There is a reason why so many people equate blacks with primates. Because they act – and look – just like them. Evolutionary biologists and geneticists will not deny this link. Only dumb blacks in denial will.

  2. Leaky March 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    There is no question that an African or African American is a direct descendant of a lowland gorilla. If you seat a large African male next to a silverback gorilla the resemblance is shocking. The African male can easily weigh in at three hundred pounds or better and there facial features are ape-like. If you walk in a crowd of people in a big city and study this species, watch their behavior and listen to how they communicate with each other it will become perfectly clear as to where they come from. The rift valley of Africa The question now becomes where does a Caucasian fit in the picture? Jennifer Eberhardt should have done her research at Berkley and not at Stanford and I advise her to watch the movie “The Planet of the Apes” because somebody got it right. At the present time network advertisers are fighting hard to integrate this species into American society and are suggestive of interbreeding African American males with white woman to produce a new species I would refer to as a hybrid. Things have gone wrong….very wrong, and I want to fall down on my knees and yell. Get your hands off me, you dirty ape!

  3. Eileen February 27, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    First of all, it is a cruel and ignorant for racist whites or any unintelligent white person to get on this board and post nasty lies. There are innocent African American who hear this garbage that is being spewed and God forbid their children hear this. This would only make them hate who they are. I know this is the white man’s agenda, to degrade African Americans. You’ve been doing it since you kidnapped and brought the first blacks over against their will. You keep that slave trader mentality that your ancestors had. They wanted blacks to think they were animals so that they would think slavery was justified and that it was their duties. If blacks are running around acting crazy, it’s because of Post Traumatic Stress from slavery and Jim Crow laws and the crap that is still happening today to African Americans.

  4. Just Me September 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Blacks have herpies rate of 48%, 1 in 3 black males will serve time in prison and over 70% of black females do not know who the father of their baby is. Black culture is drummed up to the rap song called, “The Booty Clap”, it’s a real song.

    Black graduation rates are horrible, not gonna look that one up. Blacks have poor social skills and it shows across America. Blacks are more violent and wherever they go property value plummets. They lash out and blame whitey for everything, but deep down Negroes know it’s innate for them to screw it all up so they have to blame whitey.

  5. Sam August 19, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    Blacks are worse then apes. Perhaps they are just Bonobos on natural PCP?

  6. Brandon August 12, 2013 at 2:26 am #

    I was so shocked about Whites thinking they were the best “Breed” of Human. I’ve never had a problem going toe to toe with any white in my studies of Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, History, etc… I believe many people just need to get over themselves when it’s all said and done. Mankind will always find a way to separate themselves from others who are “Different”. If we were to segregate the entire world, by placing each race in a certain region of the world, people would still find a way to divide and exalt themselves over another group of people for SOME reason or another. There are black Doctors, Lawyers, Surgeons, etc… There’s no reason to think whites are all that.

  7. Paddyroller January 8, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Just look at this website for the truth, particularly the section on this article:

    When a Negro rapes, it is referred to as “ape-rape.” When a Negro goes ballistic, it is known as a “chimpout.” Another name for “TNB” (Typical Negro Behavior) is “monkeyshine.” Tackles in the NFL (Negro Felon League) are known as “Gorillas,” etc.

  8. drspock December 6, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Loooooool at some of the sad uneducated Caucasian here!! remember we were here 1st! we gave u this world but we just had a few uncle toms who ruined it and sold us out so you could have a chance at ruining it which you have,…I will let you have it,…the highest murder rate crimes committed by the cracker,.. pedophiles are dirty scummy white men and women! mentally unstable the white man! everything negative is from the whites! we dont fear you we feel sorry for you! with your melanin recessive assses you will eventually die off when the sun gets hotter and your skin camcer will soon prevail

  9. Michael November 16, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Genetically Inferior and jealous, this is fact…

    Blacks hate whites because they can’t compete with whites, and they can’t succeed on the same level as whites in an advanced civilization in spite of the fact they’re awarded jobs, positions and social benefits strictly on the basis of race. Jealousy and envy are the fuel that propels their hate.

    All their attempts at being successful in any of the sciences or professions have either proved fruitless or very limited. So when they see whites succeeding all around them in business, academics and the sciences, and just about everything else that requires intelligence, they can’t stand it. Limited in their mentality and therefore limited in their understanding, but being arrogant in spite of it, they conclude that whites get their positions through favoritism, knowing somebody, etc., and they conclude that whites in business succeed because they do dishonest things to get ahead, but all the while these same whites have oodles of time doing what they can “to keep the black man down.” Black demagogic leaders and preachers reinforce their beliefs with fiery, lying rhetoric.

    They have a HUGE percentage of black males in prison, who failed to try in school because it is “acting white,” and they have a propensity for crime and violence, they condemn whites for the high incarceration rates. It’s never the fault of the black criminal who turns to crime, because he’s too dumb to learn academically and refuses to learn a trade, because stealing and other crime pays better.

    Everything is the fault of whites. Everything. And their rage grows.

    Only an imbecile would believe that a people who have had more than equal opportunities for the last 40 plus years have not succeeded because they got a late start due to slavery or racism, but that’s the nonsense the black rank and file are fed, and they eagerly eat it up, because it provides them with an excuse for failing at everything so miserably. It’s not their lack of intelligence and ability that holds them back, it’s the superior white man.

    It’s not their lack of intelligence. It’s not their propensity for crime and violence. It’s not their lack of effort put forth to learn a trade. It’s the white man again..

    So if anybody were to conclude that nothing can be done to appease the black anti-white racists he would be right. Nothing will appease this hateful population of people. Nothing. Whites could give them the entire country and leave and when they made a mess of things and imploded, don’t worry, that would be white man’s fault too.

    No nation will ever know peace, serenity and prosperity that has these savages as citizens.

  10. birdy November 16, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    This article tries to paint a picture that only whites associate certain blacks with primates, but I have found it widespread. I have spoken to asians, indians especially and they don’t trust blacks.for obvious reasons. You see there is different breeds of blacks that originated from Africa, and most that ended up in the states are of inferior blood. Blacks slaves came mostly from west africa or tribal area’s like congo, and these area’s are still run down and in the stone age. They have no major inventions or scientific accomplishments to speak of to even put a candle next to Caucasians or Asians. To put it plainly, if someone wanted to find the closest “human” to the primate that we have alive today-people of all races would look towards blacks. No there is different black’s that are simply black, like Somalians, but these types are not the types that ended up on slave boats mostly. I consider this black more intelligent. Most of the prisons are filled with blacks and they are only 13% of population roughly, because they did something wrong not because they were singled out. Whites, Asians, Indians all think you are obnoxious and loud and stupid and always causing trouble. Yet we have people like this author,albeit intelligent for a black, still pulling the wool over your eyes and unable to swallow the truth that a good 75% of the US black race are simply genetically inferior.

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