What is it about?

Risk is an inherent quality of the decisions we make everyday. Sometimes these risks can be responsible and other times reckless. But is the concept of risk inherent even in racial stereotypes? Little work has connected the concept of risk to social stereotypes. In five experiments, we examined whether conceptions of risk-taking--as either responsible or reckless--were associated with racial stereotypes. Our studies found consistent evidence that these risk concepts are imbued with racial stereotypes, such that reckless risks were viewed as a stereotypical attribute of Black people (and responsible risks an attribute of White people).

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Our work illuminates insights into the conceptions of risk-taking and how such concepts are biased with racial stereotypes. These findings have implications for contexts in which the perception of risk-taking is common and consequential, such as in healthcare, financial lending, and policing. For example, when deciding whether to prescribe a risky medical treatment, lend a mortgage at a reasonable rate, or sentence a convict harshly, we should all take a step back and examine whether such decisions could potentially be biased by these racial stereotypes of riskiness.


Studying racial biases and stereotypes are tough. Because the topic is inherently negative, socially sensitive, and morally repugnant, participants are very reluctant to share their honest opinions and perceptions on such matters. Beyond the desire to look non-biased, people typically don't have very accurate insight to their psychological faults. Despite such methodological issues, our experiments leverage creative and innovative techniques to measure stereotyping largely without the problem of defensive responding clouding the results. In addition to this methodological achievement, we shed some light on a potentially pernicious stereotypical association. Given that the perception of risk surrounds our daily decisions, understanding how risk perceptions connect to social stereotypes is important, consequential, and yet mostly unexplored. My hope is that this work lays the foundation for a program of research that studies the mechanisms, the boundaries, and the orgins of such risky social stereotypes.

James Wages
University of Central Arkansas

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Reckless gambles and responsible ventures: Racialized prototypes of risk-taking., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, February 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000287.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page