Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Cora Lou M. Sherburne, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Donald U. Robertson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Maureen C. McHugh, Ph.D.


Previous research has indicated that participants often display bias on computer simulated “shoot”/“don't shoot” tasks in which the race of the “suspect” and the object he holds are varied. For example, non-African-American participants have been found to “shoot” more unarmed African-American “suspects” than unarmed non-African-American suspects on these simulated tasks. In this study, participants were required to complete a shoot/don't shoot task with the race of the suspect (i.e., non-African American or African American) and object the man is holding (i.e., gun or non-gun object) on the task as independent variables. That is, while completing the task, participants were required to make the decision to “shoot” or “don't shoot” non-African-American and African-American men holding guns or non-gun objects (e.g., a cell phone) in a rapid manner (less than 630ms). Participants were also read a number of different instructions depending on their randomly assigned condition that have been found to affect performance on the task. Additionally, participants were required to complete the task a second time, approximately one week following their original participation in order to test the lasting effects of the instructions they read prior to completing the test initially. In total, 152 participants completed the task at Time 1. One-hundred-thirty-nine participants returned at Time 2. Based on the results, it is suggested that the instructions read prior to the task had a significant affect in two conditions. Participants who were instructed that the task was a measure of racial bias and that the majority of previous participants displayed bias on the task displayed increased bias on the task. Participants who were misinformed that most do not show bias on the task performed without bias. Participants responded similarly at both times.