Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt.

Social psychologist Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt is among four Black Americans who are recipients of the 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Grant.

The coveted prize is a product MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest independent foundations that supports creative people and effective institutions that are committed to being experts in their field, as well as being committed to “building a peaceful world,” according to the organization’s website. Eberhardt along with her fellow awardees will receive a $625,000 stipend that will be paid over a period of five years.

As a Stanford University social psychologist, Eberhardt’s  research provides insights on the unconscious racial biases related to crime and race. Her bio from the Association for Psychological Science website explains that her research on visual attention and racial stereotypes, especially associated with African Americans and crime, shows how “racially coded” features such as “a defendant’s skin color and hair texture, impact the decisions of juror and the harshness of sentencing.”

Through her research, she shows how African-American defendants with facial features that are stereotypically depicted as “Blacker” features are more likely to receive the death penalty, especially if their victims were of European descent.

In her study, Eberhardt found that police officers were more likely to develop internal bias. This stereotypical bias concludes that African-American faces were more likely to be mistakenly linked to crime than Whites’. This finding has extended Eberhardt’s research to working with law enforcement agencies to design interventions in an effort to improve trust and cooperation between police officers and the communities they serve.

In a three-minute video on the MacArthur website, Eberhardt described her initial reaction to finding out that she was a recipient for the award as a “pretty overwhelming” feeling. “It was just such an amazing honor and I was just blown away actually,” she said.

Eberhardt received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1987. In 1993, she obtained a doctorate from Harvard University. She currently is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University.

The remaining three Black recipients include: jazz composer and saxophonist Steve Coleman; poet crafting musician Terrance Hayes and public artist Rick Rowe.

Recipients of this award are anonymously nominated by a group of people who are experts in their fields of study.

Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO