Polluting Black Space

By Courtney M. BonamHilary B. BergsiekerJennifer L. Eberhardt
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
2016 Vol. 145 Issue 11 Pages 1561–1582.

Social psychologists have long demonstrated that people are stereotyped on the basis of race. Researchers have conducted extensive experimental studies on the negative stereotypes associated with Black Americans in particular. Across 4 studies, we demonstrate that the physical spaces associated with Black Americans are also subject to negative racial stereotypes. Such spaces, for example, are perceived as impoverished, crime-ridden, and dirty (Study 1). Moreover, these space-focused stereotypes can powerfully influence how connected people feel to a space (Studies 2a, 2b, and 3), how they evaluate that space (Studies 2a and 2b), and how they protect that space from harm (Study 3). Indeed, processes related to space-focused stereotypes may contribute to social problems across a range of domains — from racial disparities in wealth to the overexposure of Blacks to environmental pollution. Together, the present studies broaden the scope of traditional stereotyping research and highlight promising new directions.