Apr. 05, 2013

What's in a Label?

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
On this week's show we're talking with Adam Alter, assistant professor of marketing and psychology at NYU's Stern School of Business and author of the new book Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave.
In his book, Alter presents a wide breadth of research showing how forces we aren't aware of can shape our thoughts and behaviors. In the chapter called "Labels," Alter describes a set of experiments done by researchers at Stanford University who were trying to determine whether labeling someone as "black" or "white" affected perception of the person.
The image above (taken from the book) illustrates one of those experiments. As Alter writes:
"...a second experiment showed that people believe the same face is darker when its owner is described as black rather than white. Here are three faces from that experiment -- one depicting a black man, one depicting a white man, and the middle face depicting a man who could plausibly be called either white or black. Which face looks the darkest? And which looks the lightest?... If you cover up the facial features with your hand and focus only on the foreheads, you'll be able to see that the faces share an identical skin tone."
What do you think? If you compare the foreheads, does the tone of each look the same to you?
Related Science Friday Links
Adam Alter talks about his new book with Ira in the following segment:
About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.