People Faster to Shoot White Suspects than Black Suspects

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

People are faster to shoot white suspects than black, a new study has found:

When confronted by an armed white person, participants took an average of 1.37 seconds to fire back. Confronted by an armed black person, they took 1.61 seconds to fire and were less likely to fire in error. The 24-millisecond difference may seem small, but it’s enough to be fatal in a shooting.


This behavioral ‘counter-bias’ might be rooted in people’s concerns about the social and legal consequences of shooting a member of a historically oppressed racial or ethnic group.


  1. Space Nookie says:

    I’m pretty sure that is a 240-millisecond difference, not 24 as stated.

  2. Isegoria says:

    Centisecond should be a more common term.

  3. Toddy Cat says:

    Funny how none of the usual suspects are squealing “racist!” about this. If blacks were shot very slightly sooner than whites, instead of the other way around, you can bet that the shrieks would be long and intense.

  4. Boonton says:

    I suspect if you put fear of being shot by an unknown person against fear that shooting an unknown person may end up resulting in some type of media firestorm against you, the first fear wins every day.

    I think what might account for the study is not really about the anticipated reaction to a shooting. After all, as the article noted there’s hardly any shortage of blacks being killed in police confrontations (although at only 352 killings by police in 1998, it is pretty clear most police and most criminals will go their entire lives never seeing anyone shot).

    I think the difference can be accounted for by that old racist adage “you all look alike to me”. If someone in your family suddenly went crazy, you’d probably notice something was wrong pretty fast. Your mom might even know something is wrong with you by just a glance! Yet if you saw a stranger on the street you’d probably need a few moments to determine if he was ‘wrong’ or just different.

    Whites deal with other whites, in general, a lot. Even black police officers, unless they are operating in mostly black neighborhoods all the time, also have to deal with more whites in the general public than blacks. Spend enough time in a group and your ability to quickly see something that feels ‘wrong’ goes up. Don’t spend as much time and everyone ‘looks the same’ and your brain will require more time to make a snap judgement.

Leave a Reply