Black Police Uniforms Implicitly Increase Hostile Perceptions and Behavior

Amber Kristin Lupo, University of Texas at El Paso


Use of excessive, and sometimes deadly, force by U.S. law enforcement officers is a critical and costly problem. An enclothed cognition framework suggests that clothing, such as a uniform, can implicitly affect cognitive processing and behavior of the wearer (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). Previous research demonstrated that darker clothing implicitly affects judgments and behavior in two ways. First, persons who wear darker clothing are perceived more negatively (Vrig, 1997; Vrig & Akehurst, 1997). Second, actors wearing darker colored clothing demonstrate greater aggressive behavior than actors wearing lighter colored clothing (Frank & Gilovich, 1988; Peña, Hancock, & Merola, 2009). The present research investigated the psychological effects of wearing a black or a white police uniform. Experiment 1A found that, when provoked, participants evaluated a confederate as more aggressive when wearing a black versus a white t-shirt. Experiment 1B failed to replicate this effect using a confederate dressed in a police-like uniform. Experiment 2 tested the enclothed cognition effects of a police-like uniform on self-perceptions and judgments within ambiguous policing contexts. There was little support for the hypothesis that the color of a police uniform biases judgements of the wearer. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.

Subject Area

Law enforcement|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Lupo, Amber Kristin, "Black Police Uniforms Implicitly Increase Hostile Perceptions and Behavior" (2017). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10685479.