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Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences,” is the result of a series of six previously unpublished studies conducted by Eberhardt, Pennsylvania State University psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff (the lead author and a former student of Eberhardt’s) and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


307 Responses to Americans still linking blacks to apes

  1. Pobscot December 15, 2010 at 5:33 am #

    I don’t think Richard HernSTEIN is going to answer any questions. LOL

  2. Pobscot December 15, 2010 at 5:31 am #

    very true.

  3. Pobscot December 15, 2010 at 5:29 am #

    Back when they started teaching Bonobo Apes how to communicate using picture cards, I read in the newspaper a story of how one of the workers was an african black man and every time he came into the lab, the apes would go berzerk. I think there were 2 or 3 apes that were in the program, and when asked why, each one of them, individually, used the cards to say that he was an ape just like them, and then showed the “you” card and pointed to the “human” card toward the white workers. Bonobo apes mock humans as well, but when they do, they do it to make fun of us, and actually laugh. Maybe they were mad because the black person did the act so well that it wasn’t funny, and it seemed a compliment to the humans, which bonobos DON’T do.

  4. miss m December 2, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I think micheal jackson is watching everything with PAINFUL HEART.

  5. Anonymous December 2, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    I think micheal jackson is watching everything with PAINFUL HEART.

  6. White people are going to hell December 2, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    Yes just like how white people look like albinos, it’s the same right? That’s why when my little niece saw an albino she said is that a white person? You just can’t tell. Just like how we are supposedly linked to apes white people should be linked to albinos, but since white people make these articles they won’t admit they are apart of the albino race. And ton of Indians have dark skin like us… why aren’t anyone calling them apes? White people are an evil race… nothing good about them.

  7. Anonymous November 9, 2010 at 8:12 am #

    If you have no evidence then you are just stating an opinion. That opinion seems to be grounded in social prejudice. And there seems to be quite a few disgusting examples of this in the comments to the article.

    Well, the evidence is that your darker skinned brother is exactly that down to 99.99% of his DNA. Human beings are virtually clones. Of that 0 .01%- 85% of the variation between individuals happens within so called” races”, 7% between so called “races” and 8% between ethnic borders, for instance, between the different countries in Europe. Genetically, you are likely to be more different to someone within your own “race” than to someone outside it.

    In fact, all mankind originated from a few hundred humans in Africa.. All that evolution has conferred across large groups is darker skin in areas on the planet of high ultra violet exposure. In fact, everyone was black but as humans moved toward latitudes with less ultra violet lighter skin was more beneficial because the darker protective skin was interfering with Vitamin D synthesis.

    To say that they are lesser evolved is absolute bunk. They are homo sapiens just like every other human being on the planet. The only differences which conspired to cause a difference in social developement were geographical factors such as domesticable plants and animals ( which made it possible for civilisations to start), competitive societies living in close and accessible proximity to each other ( either keep up with technical knowledge or go under by the sword)as opposed to say the relative isolation such as the Australian Aborigine, a uniform climate along the “civilisation belt” if you like that allowed portability of inventions, animals and plants, an amenable terrain that was also conducive to this. In Africa you had too many natural barriers in climate and terrain.

    To date, there has been no scientific evidence that establishes any greater or less genetic endowment or ability to any of the so called “races”. This is not to say that there isn’t a lot of racist pseudo-science floating around. Although it has some currency because of prejudice in society, it has been and continues to be debunked. In fact, the notion of race as biologically significant is a case in point.

    You should also bear in mind that up until the last 11,000 odd years all mankind had been hunters and gatherers. Civilisation is relatively new in our history- too recent to be explicable by miniscule genetic differences.

    The racists will jump and scream this post down. You know, the knuckle draggers who have been beating their chests so far. However, some of the more savvy racists will roll out the babble from their pseudo-scientific poster heroes.

    Please note all of their heroes have been shot down by mainstream scientists who have time and again proved that these paragons of prejudice have used shoddy methods, poor samples, fallacious arguments and outright fraud.


  8. Mammy November 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    It isn’t fair to compare the niggers to apes. Apes are so much better than niggers/

  9. Bunny Violence November 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    And BTW, associating nigger with apes is wrong. Apes are doing thier best to destroy everything they touch.

  10. sayyed November 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    get a white toddler who sees a black baby for the first time and they point at it and say “monkey!” that’s not racism… they haven’t been taught that behavior. take the same toddler and show them a zebra and they will say “horse!” show them a wild boar and they will say “pig!” show them a wolf, they will say “dog!” Are they prejudiced against zebras, boars, and wolves? No, they resemble those other creatures… so do blacks look like monkeys. Ask an adult and they will say no, because it is politically correct. Ask a toddler, and they will tell you the truth… blacks look like monkeys.

  11. Bunny Violence November 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Wow, for someone supposedly impartial you’re reply there seemed to a bit anti White there. Some of these comments tweak the nose of truth?? I’ll make it easy for you, name me ONE majority monkey (African American in your newspeak) city, town, or country that isn’t a crooked, crime infested shithole.

  12. Ken November 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    You are in dire need of a history lesson. Everywhere the white man has expanded bring religion, technology of the time, such as medicine,construction,and farming the savages have attacked us first. Dumb ass.
    Also whites don’t hate any other humans. You are not human. Science has proven you don’t have the same brain compacity as humans. You are a evolved ape meant to be on the plains of Africa, not in any town or city having to comingle with humans.
    On a personal note, I have other human friends from other races such as asians and arabs and guess what, they call ya’ll nigger too. Not becauce of your skin color rather your bahavior. When you people quit acting like monkeys, the reference will go away.

  13. Jose November 2, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Read “The Bell Curve” by Richard J. Herrnstein. Should answer all of your questions.

  14. good old rebel November 2, 2010 at 5:52 am #

    once the yankees let these darker than blue cockroaches run wild with full voting rights, the country was on the road to becoming the next New Zimbabwe.

  15. nomorenigsplease November 2, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    The Negro has more in common with an Ape than it ever will with a Human being.

    I like how Jim has tried to close the argument right there with “Racists have zero credibility, points were proven”. Question buddy, have you ever met a nigger? are we even talking about the same thing?

    Next time you move houses I’m sure you’ll ask “May I please have a house in a mainly black community?” because if you don’t ask that you’re just as racist as the rest of us.

    By the way pal, people aren’t born racists, hating any chosen race of the day, people become so from experience and contact with the feral beasts.

    Wake the fuck up you idiot!

  16. PCT November 2, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    Chinga tu puta madre joto.
    Negorids are the lowest of the low. If it weren´t for the European getting involved in taking these groids out of Africa and leaving hem to their own device, they´d be dying off by now and in much less numbers. These groids are a major problem in every single city thy´re spread out in. They count for the majority or the crime and decandence and rotting society from the inside out.

  17. DeMessiah November 2, 2010 at 3:14 am #

    I don’t think Blacks are Apes, Apes are far more advanced up the evolutionary scale than Blacks will ever get.

  18. JiggaBoo Hunter October 29, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

    Whites create everything only to have niggers destroy it.. Its a fact… Niggers are good for only one thing and thats to rape, pillage and plunder everything the white man has worked so hard for in this country..

  19. Negron James October 26, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    ALL humans, whether they are the original negro proto-humans or the more evolutionarily advanced races are prone to violence. But none can match the negro for pure, brute, bloody – murderous savagery. (Rwanda, Dafur, Uganda… suffice it to say, Africa, as a whole!)

  20. Negron James October 26, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Has the possibility that negroes are more closely ASSOCIATED with apes because they more RESEMBLE apes been considered? Any honest observer would confirm that the more profound the negro characteristics of an individual are, the more profoundly that individual resembles an ape.

    The resemblance between negroes and gorillas is particularly striking: The color of the hide, the disproportionately small ears, the folds on the back of the neck, the massive jaw and teeth, the flat nose, etc…

    I sympathize with anyone who’s objective is to deny a physical resemblance between the two animals. It is like pointing at the daytime sky and insisting frantically to a group of observers that it isn’t really blue after all. Show a photo of a gorilla and a white man to a black child and ask him which one more closely resembles “Uncle Tyrone”. See my point? Negroes look like apes — end of story!


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