Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

John Paul Wilson

Committee Member

Laura Lakusta

Committee Member

Peter Vietze


Classic work in social psychology found that children’s perceptions of ambiguously aggressive events are biased by race (Sagar and Schofield, 1980). The present research is an attempt to extend upon that work by including an examination of perceptions of the physical size of vignette actors, based on more recent work by Wilson et al. (2017). In this study, 41 children aged 9-13 were recruited to watch cartoon clips of vignettes of Black and White characters in ambiguously aggressive interactions. Participant watched one clip of each target-actor race combination and rated many characteristics (e.g. mean, friendly) of the targets and actors. In a separate task, participants were shown the faces of the same characters from the vignettes with some additional unseen faces and rated how tall and heavy they appear to be using visual scales. I hypothesized that participants would generally view black actors as meaner and more threatening than White actors, and that these race differences would be mediated by a “size bias” such that Black actors would be seen as larger than White actors. Most hypotheses were not confirmed, although participants did rate Black actors to be stronger than White actors. These findings suggest that future research is needed to shed further light on the processes that impact stereotype-consistent judgments of ambiguously aggressive interactions.

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