NPR logo The 'Thumbprint Of The Culture': Implicit Bias And Police Shootings

The 'Thumbprint Of The Culture': Implicit Bias And Police Shootings

In the aftermath of a police-involved shooting, there's often a familiar debate about what led to it. But research shows there's an underlying cause that we often miss. JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images

In the aftermath of a police-involved shooting, there's often a familiar debate about what led to it. But research shows there's an underlying cause that we often miss.

JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images

On a September evening in 2016, Terence Crutcher's SUV stopped in the middle of a road in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A woman saw him step out of his car. The doors of the car were open and the engine was still running. The woman called 911. Officer Betty Shelby was on her way to an unrelated incident when the call came in.

Unfortunately, the way this night ended has become all too familiar. An unarmed black man was shot by a cop.

In the weeks after the incident, accusations flew back and forth. Betty Shelby's lawyer tried to defend her fear as reasonable. Terence Crutcher's family said he was shot because he was black.

So was he really a threat? Was the cop just racist? Or is there something more complicated at play? Something that affects everyone in the culture, not just police officers who shoot unarmed African-American men?

This week on Hidden Brain, we explore research about implicit bias and how a culture of racism can infect us all.

This episode includes references to research by Mahzarin Banaji, Eric Hehman, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, and Joshua Correll. You'll also hear from Philip Tetlock. If you'd like to take the Implicit Association Test yourself after listening, click here.

The Hidden Brain Podcast is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Renee Klahr and Rhaina Cohen. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.