Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)




Xiaowen Xu

Committee Member

Cheryl Dickter

Committee Member

Meghan Quinn


​​​​​Despite the prevalence of police brutality videos online, research examining the effects of exposure to such videos is extremely limited. The current work examined racial differences (among both participant and victim) in psychophysiological responses to videos of police brutality. Over the course of three sessions, participants (total N = 56) responded to questionnaires measuring attitudes toward police legitimacy, trait empathy, and justification of police use of force. EEG activity was recorded while participants watched four short videos depicting real-life incidents of excessive police use of force (two with Black victims and two with White victims). We examined mu suppression, commonly believed to be involved in processes of empathy and emotional reactivity. ​ ​We found marginal effects of Black participants showing greater mu suppression when exposed to White victims of police brutality than Black victims. Contrastingly, White participants showed greater mu suppression when exposed to Black victims of police brutality than White victims. Additionally, racial differences (by participant and victim) emerged in ratings of perceived responsibility, aggression, and punishment decisions for each incident. For instance, in comparison to White victims, Black victims were perceived to be more responsible for the incident (along with its escalation), more aggressive, and more deserving of punishment. As well, White participants were more likely to judge the victims as being more responsible, aggressive, and deserving of punishment, compared to Black participants. The results of the current study support the idea that race matters in the context of how individuals perceive social phenomena.




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