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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Reading Non-Verbals: Racial Bias

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


November 29, 2018

Non-verbals communication is a critical facet of what we read in others, even greater than verbal communication. Recent research informs us on the way we may misread or misinterpret facial expressions, especially for black students. In Halberstadt and Sims study of those entering education, they considered what factors might contribute to the discrepancy in the number of black students facing disciplinary action compared to white students.

After viewing video of black and white men and women and black and white boys in school settings, she found participants were 1.5 times more likely to be accurate at in interpreting white faces compared to black faces.

…black faces were three times more likely to be perceived as angry even when they were not.

Additionally, hostility was more likely to be attributed to black boys. On a 5-point scale with 1 being not hostile and 5 being very hostile, the average for black boys was 3.37 and 2.12 for white boys.

As a coach, how might your cultural background impact the way you attune to and adjust for human uniqueness?

How do the findings of this study fit with your experiences in schools?

What is most important to you in this research that you might become more conscious of in your interactions with black students and coachees?

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