Are most people more likely to pull the trigger of a gun if the person they’re shooting at is black?
A new meta-analysis set out to answer that question. Yara Mekawi of the University of Illinois and her co-author, Konrad Bresin, drew together findings from 42 different studies on trigger bias to examine whether race affects how likely a target is to be shot.
“What we found is that it does,” Mekawi tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “In our study we found two main things: First, people were quicker to shoot black targets with a gun, relative to white targets with a gun. And … people were more trigger-happy when shooting black targets compared to shooting white targets.”
That is, shooters weren’t just faster to fire at black targets; they were also more likely to fire at a black target.
On the kinds of studies they were analyzing
Our inclusion criteria was pretty much that they used what’s called a first-person shooter task. … Participants are generally told that police officers are often put in high-stress situations where they have to make very quick shooting decisions.
And so they are presented with images of targets from various races that either have a gun or have some kind of neutral object. So, sometimes it’s a soda can; other times it’s a cellphone. And what they’re told is, to make the decision to shoot when they see a target with a gun.