Baby Names 2015: 'Black'-sounding Names Usually Met With Prejudice, Assumed To Be Large, Dangerous People [Study]

By Julio Alberto Cachila, Parent Herald October 09, 05:04 am

A recent study shows that although they are anonymous, men with “Black”-sounding names are thought to be larger and more dangerous than those with “White”-sounding names.

Names say a lot about people. Now, a study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior has found that people are generally perceived with prejudice when their names sound like they belong to a certain race.

“I’ve never been so disgusted by my own data,” said they study's lead author Colin Holbrook, a research scientist at the UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution,and Culture, via a press release.

The study has found that men with black-sounding names, such as Jamal, DeShawn, or Darnell, were assumed to be physically larger, more aggressive, and lower in status, compared to men with white-sounding names such as Connor, Wyatt, or Garnett.

The researchers arrived at the findings after involving more than 1,500 participants from all across the U.S. Read varying vignettes. They were aged 18 to mid-70s, mostly white, and were self-identified as politically slightly left of center.

The participants were asked to read a “neutral” vignette describing one day in the life of a man. He begins his day in the usual way, gets invited by a friend to a bar that night, and upon arriving at the bar, he bumps into another man and gets berated. The man's name is changeable, either to have the name of a black or white man mentioned earlier.

Next, the participants read a slightly more “successful” vignette, this time describing the man as a college graduate and successful business owner. Then, a third, “threatening” version was read. This time, the man had been convicted of aggravated assault.

In all three versions, the participants were asked to describe their impression of the man's build, height, status, aggressiveness, and other factors.

For the “successful” scene, both black- and white-sounding named men were perceived the same way, said Holbrook. When the character was described as having been convicted, they were also perceived similarly regardless of name. However, people imagine the “neutral” black man to be similar to the “threatening” white man.

Additionally, the larger the black-sounding man was perceived to be, the lower his assumed status is. This is unlike how white men are perceived: the larger they are, the better status they are thought to have.

"The surprising finding was the difference between the white and black characters with respect to violence and status," Holbrook said in an email to the Huffington Post.

“It’s quite disturbing,” Holbrook added.

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