Crime reports often include suspect descriptions to alert community members and aid in police investigations. However, vague descriptions of suspects with racial identifiers can potentially do more harm than good. We first conducted an archival study to examine the frequency of reporting suspect race, as well as the relationship between the inclusion of race and the likelihood that the suspect was caught. Then we conducted an experimental study to examine how reporting race may affect overt and subtle racial attitudes. We found no significant relationship between the racial identification of a suspect and the likelihood that the suspect was caught in our archival study. However, our findings from the experimental study demonstrate increased overt and subtle racial bias towards Black people when comparing participants who read a crime report with a Black suspect to those who read one about a suspect with no racial identification. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Corresponding Author Information

Shannon K. Cheng


Rice University, Department of Psychology, Houston, TX 77005



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