The Eyes Don’t Lie

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Whittler and Spira (2002) suggest we react more favorably to similar racial representations and become hyper-aware of our own appearances when certain traits are idiosyncratic to social surroundings. Combining eye-tracking measurements with post-test questionnaires, we examine the degree to which skin tone and facial features are related to visual attention, identity construction, and implicit racial attitudes. Our research promotes data collection that documents involuntary responses to racial attributes and subconscious attitudes toward ethnic indicators. Because our mixed-method approach stems from “a less biased, more objectively empirical means of examining visual attention and cognitive responses,” this study guards against contemporary pressures for political correctness that commonly plague racial attitude measurements (Bott et al. 2010, 3). Analysis of implicit attitudes and impression management strategies provide insight to racial influences on cognitive processing and reactionary attitudes. Our work expands upon Greenwald et al.’s (1998) Implicit Association Test (IAT) and Saucier and Miller’s (2003) Racial Argument Scale (RAS). Research has yet to unite eye-tracking with the aforementioned instruments, even though fixation analysis alleviates some of the often-cited limitations of such tools. Furthermore, few studies (if any) examine IAT within the social cognitive framework. Therefore, this work bridges two important theoretical streams and contributes to the implicit bias measures toolkit. Our findings suggest that people who spend less time, attention, and cognitive effort identifying race tend to score higher on the RAS.