Very few of us can avoid stereotyping others. …But the very fact that we can try to avoid it suggests that there’s something more to racial stereotypes than a “stereotype center” in the brain. If stereotyping was completely automatic, we’d be no more able to resist stereotypes than we are able to stop seeing.
So if we can try to resist stereotyping, why doesn’t resisting always work? The article I just linked points to a study showing that people — even police officers — are more likely to mistakenly “shoot” a black person holding a harmless object instead of a weapon, compared to a white person.
…Non-black viewers appear to implicitly associate black faces with negative words and weapons.
… During the weapons identification task, viewers are more likely to erroneously identify a harmless object as a weapon if it was preceded by a black face compared to a white face. They are also more accurate identifying weapons after seeing black faces compared with white faces.
Payne argues these results demonstrate that executive control — the
ability to control our impulses, both in terms of stereotyping and in
other realms — is a separate process from automatic bias. Automatic
biases, Payne argues, are task-specific. So stereotyping blacks as more
likely to be carrying a weapon, for example, might be separate from
other stereotypes. Controlling whether to act based on those
stereotypes, however, is a general ability.