Pulling the Trigger: Dehumanization of African Americans and Police Violence

This manuscript is available for download here


Police shootings and killing of African American targets has reached epidemic proportions and has captured the attention of the entire country. Research in social psychology has studied many dimensions of this layered issue, and has generated disparate findings regarding the role of racial bias in police violence. The process of implicit dehumanization of African Americans, especially youth, has been proposed as particularly salient in making shoot/don’t shoot decisions. This paper suggests that the paradigm of dehumanization could complete the understanding of racialized police violence and reconcile contradictory research findings, while highlighting areas for future research.

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Themal I. Ellawala

Themal I. Ellawala

Themal Ellawala '17 is a Psychology major with a special interest in the intersection of Clinical Psychology and social justice. He is particularly interested in the prevalence of mental health issues in racial and sexual minorities, and how stigma and discrimination leads to poorer outcomes among such demographics. He is currently involved in studies in Clark’s Hyatt School of Psychology examining internalized psychopathology, e ective interventions to mediate relationship stress, and volunteers in Clark’s CAVE program. He hails from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and hopes to use his research to create greater awareness of sexual minorities who live in the shadows of his country.