Date Awarded

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)




Cheryl L Dickter

Committee Member

Danielle H Dallaire

Committee Member

Joanna Schug


A racialization of crime exists in American society with Black men in particular being associated with crime. The purpose of this research was to examine whether perceptions of criminal sentencing decisions and perceptions of male criminal offenders would vary as a function of race and are associated with explicit and implicit racial bias. Four studies were conducted utilizing a within-subjects design in which participants viewed fictitious case records for Black and White criminal offenders and completed measures of bias and perceptions of the sentencing decision and the offenders themselves. Two studies included samples of White American adults (n = 113 and 111) obtained through online paid research participation systems and two more were conducted with samples of undergraduate participants (n = 111 and 150). The first set of studies examined this in the context of individuals accused of drug crimes with both an adult and undergraduate sample and the second set examined this in the context of violent crimes also with both an adult and undergraduate sample. For the adult samples, perceptions did not differ as a function of race but individual differences in explicit and implicit racial biases were significantly associated with negative evaluations and harsher sentencing for the Black target. For the student samples, perceptions significantly differed as a function of race in favor of the Black target, while individual differences in explicit biases were consistent with those of the adult samples. This work can add to our understanding of the factors that can impact the decisions made about accused offenders of color as they progress through the criminal justice system in America.



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