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Study Shows Whites Think Blacks are ‘Superhuman,’ Magical

In "The Green Mile," Michael Clarke Duncan plays John Coffey, a death row inmate with healing powers.
In “The Green Mile,” Michael Clarke Duncan plays John Coffey, a death row inmate with healing powers.

JC Sevcik, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

 

EVANSTON, Ill., Nov. 14 (UPI)—A recent study posits white people may possess a bias which causes them to imbue black people with superhuman qualities.

“A Superhumanization Bias in Whites’ Perceptions of Blacks,” published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, examines the idea that black people have been historically dehumanized, “from constitutional denial of full legal personhood to enslavement.”

But while psychological research on dehumanization has focused largely on subhuman representation of others, the phenomenon of “superhumanization,” defined in the study as “the representation of others as possessing mental and physical qualities that are supernatural,” has remained largely unexamined as a means by which others are cast as nonhuman.

In the first of a series of five studies, researchers Kelly Marie Hoffman and Sophie Trawalter of the University of Virginia and Adam Waytz of Northwestern University performed Implicit Association Tests and found white participants were more likely to link words commonly associated with the supernatural, (ghost, paranormal, spirit, wizard, supernatural, magic, mystical), to pictures of black people, and more likely to link seven “human words,” (person, individual, humanity, people, civilian, mankind, citizen), to pictures of white people.

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