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Schools should be safe and supportive spaces for all students, yet Black students tend to face biased treatment in the education system, which often results in harsh disciplinary measures. This research examined the role of animalistic dehumanization (i.e., perceiving others as animal- like and uncultured and denying uniquely human characteristics), in predicting choice of harsher disciplinary measures for Black students as opposed to White students. It was hypothesized that individuals who dehumanize Black students to a greater degree would be more likely to believe that Black students need to be disciplined through harsher measures. Both Study 1 (in which dehumanization was assessed) and Study 2 (in which dehumanization was experimentally manipulated) failed to provide evidence supporting the role of dehumanization in differential choices of school disciplinary measures for Black vs. White students. However, both studies provided evidence suggesting that dehumanization of, and negative attitudes toward, Black Americans are still prevalent and related in American society, and that animal learning perceptions and paradigms influence participant perceptions of threat from students and disciplinary decisions. These findings indicate a need for continued investigation of racial stereotypes about students when assessing racial disparities in school discipline.

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Health Psychology | Psychology

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VCU Graduate Research Posters

Shedding Psychological Light on the Racial Disparities in School Disciplinary Measures: The Role of Dehumanization as a Potential Mechanism