The Police Officer's Dilemma
The Paradigm

Since 2000, we have been working to develop and refine a first-person-shooter videogame, which presents a series of images of young men, some armed, some unarmed, set against realistic backgrounds like parks or city streets. The player's goal is to shoot any and all armed targets, but not to shoot unarmed targets. Half of the targets are Black, and half are White. We have used this game to investigate whether decisions to "shoot" a potentially hostile target can be influenced by that target's race.
Basic Findings

Our research has provided robust evidence of racial bias in decisions to shoot (Correll, Park, Judd & Wittenbrink, 2002; Correll, Park, Judd, Wittenbrink, Sadler & Keesee, in press; Correll, Urland & Ito, 2006). Participants shoot an armed target more quickly and more often when that target is Black, rather than White. However, participants decide not to shoot an unarmed target more quickly and more often when the target is White, rather than Black. In essence, participants seem to process stereotype-consistent targets (armed Blacks and unarmed Whites) more easily than counterstereotypic targets (unarmed Blacks and armed Whites).
Moreover, by recording fluctuations in the brain's electrical activity (ERPs), we have observed that participants differentiate between Black and White targets about 230 milliseconds after the target appears on screen. This type of differentiation has also been observed when participants see a threatening (vs. a non-threatening) image. Strikingly, the more participants differentiate by target race (processing Black targets as if they were threats), the more bias they show on our task (Correll, Urland & Ito, 2006; see Ito & Urland, 2003, 2004, for more on race and ERPs).
Additional Resources

To read more on this line of research, please see the Publications page.

For an online version of the First-Person Shooter Task, click here.

To download the First-Person Shooter Task and image files
For a version programmed in E-Prime 2.0, click here.
For original 80-trial task image files (2002), click here.
For 100-trial task image files (2007 and thereafter), click here.