A new study finds that prospective teachers, most of whom are white, are more likely to identify Black children than white children as angry, even when they’re not.
Madeline Will reported on the study in the July 8 issue of Education Week.
The study examines teacher-candidates’ “racialized anger bias”—a term coined by the researchers that means seeing anger when none exists. One of the researchers, Amy Halberstadt, had previously done a study that looked at how teacher-candidates perceived the facial expressions of Black adults.
“In that first study, we discovered what Black people already know largely—that people perceive Black adults as angry even when they’re not,” said Halberstadt, who is a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University. “[In this new study], we found that even older elementary school children are also experiencing racialized anger bias. With prospective teachers who care deeply for children, this is still happening.”
Future Teachers Tested
In this study, researchers studied 178 prospective teachers who were enrolled in education programs at three southeastern universities. Most of the future teachers in the study were white women, which is in line with the national teaching force.
Both white candidates and candidates of color were equally likely to misidentify Black children as angry, Halberstadt said.
Participants were shown 72 short video clips of child actors’ facial expressions and were asked to identify the emotion being displayed. The clips were equally divided between Black and white children and between boys and girls. The children in the clips were between the ages of 9 and 13.
Racialized Anger Bias
Researchers recorded the number of errors that participants made, especially seeing anger when there was none. The study notes that the findings were “clear and robust”: Prospective teachers were 1.36 times more likely to exhibit racialized anger bias against Black children than against white children and incorrectly view the Black child as angry.
Future teachers were 1.74 times more likely to incorrectly identify a Black girl’s facial expression as angry than a white girl’s. Participants were 1.16 times more likely to mistake a Black boy’s expression as angry than a white boy’s.
Black Boys More Likely Perceived as Angry
Overall, Black boys were the most likely to be incorrectly assumed to be angry by future teachers, Halberstadt said. White girls were the least likely. Past research has found that adults view Black girls, aged 5 to 14, as less innocent and more adult-like than white girls.
Researchers said they would expect to see even higher levels of anger bias in the actual classroom, when teachers have to make split-second judgments of the situation.