6. A “Genius” on Race and Law
Jennifer Eberhardt, a social psychologist at Stanford University, studies the subtleties and depths of racial biases, especially as they pertain to criminal justice. For her work, she was awarded a 2014 “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Her studies on policing and sentencing show that African Americans are more likely to be considered criminals than white people. Black suspects are more likely to receive death penalties if they have stereotypical features and the victims were white. And juvenile offenders tend to be perceived as adults and face greater sanctions.
“Those biases can actually influence our psyche,” Eberhardt explained. “We want to use the work to help people to understand how race can influence us in lots of different ways and in ways that are beyond sometimes our control and beyond our awareness.”
Eberhardt works with law enforcement agencies to improve public trust and policing. “We’re at a moment in time where we can begin make progress, I believe, on those issues,” she said. An associate professor at Stanford, The MacArthur fellow is also co-director of SPARQ: Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions.