Mammies, jezebels and other controlling imagery: an examination of the influence of televised stereotypes on perceptions of an african american woman.
Brown-Givens, Sonja M.
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Two contrasting predictions about how African American female stereotypes influence judgments of other African American females were tested. Participants were undergraduate college students in basic speech communication courses (N = 182). Participants observed a stereotypical mammy, stereotypical jezebel or non – stereotypical image on video. Participants then observed one of two videos involving either an African American or European American female interviewing for employment. Participants completed a series of self-report scales to measure their explicit perceptions of the interviewees. Participants were also instructed to respond to a series of adjectives (positive, negative, mammy, jezebel) using "YES" and "NO" computer keyboard keys as an indirect assessment of racial prejudice. Devine's (1989) Dual Process Model was supported by the data. Specifically, participants associated only the African American interviewee with negative terms (aggressive, hostile, lazy) more quickly than with positive terms (sincere, friendly, kind). Conversely, participants associated positive terms with the European American interviewee more quickly than negative terms. This effect was obtained across all stereotype conditions. In addition, partial support was obtained for Hansen & Hansen's (1988) activation-recency hypothesis. Participants who observed the jezebel stereotype video and the African American female interviewee responded more quickly to jezebel related terms (e.g. sexual, exotic) than positive, negative and mammy terms. In addition, participants who viewed a stereotypic image judged only the African American interviewee as consistent with the portrayed stereotype. Stereotype priming occurred in the hypothesized directions, however the finding was not statistically significant. Future research should look to strengthen the priming effects observed in this study by conducting rigorous pilot tests on multiple forms of media imagery. Results of this inquiry evidence the influence of televised schemas on perceptions of African American women. Moreover, evidence of a clear dissociation between explicit (selfreport) and implicit (response latency) measures of prejudice was exhibited in this experiment. Future studies of social stereotypes and implicit perceptions should consider the role of televised imagery on social judgements and behaviors.