According to the racial phenotype theory, the extent to which members resemble or depart from the physical prototype of a particular race will determine how strongly the perceiver associates them with preconceived racial stereotypes. For Blacks, skin color was predicted to be a primary feature attended to and those with dark skin were more negatively stereotyped. The current study aimed to explicitly measure visual attention during judgment of faces through the use of eye-tracking. Past methodologies measuring the attention to skin tone and its relationship to stereotype judgment were not directly measured. The study used a mixed model design: Label (perpetrator/victim) x Trial (24) with skin tone (dark, medium, light) embedded within trials. Twenty-eight White participants were instructed to find a crime target (perpetrator or victim) from a fictitious crime scene by selecting a face from an array of three faces ranging in skin tone. Visual attention and selection of faces were recorded. Results showed an interaction between tone and label. Dark and medium faces were attended to more often than light faces in the perpetrator condition. In the victim condition, they are attended to less than light faces. A tone effect was also seen, dark faces were frequently looked at first. Despite biased visual attention, preference for a particular tone was not found. Racial phenotype bias theory need to be re-evaluated because eye-tracking data showed that dark and medium faces were attended equally in the negative perpetrator condition. Dark faces had not monopolized visual attention as predicted.
Chau, Sathiarith, "Biased Visual Attention to Out-Group Members' Skin Tone Does Not Lead to Discriminatory Behavior" (2012). Honors Projects Overview. Paper 60.