The face of terrorism: Stereotypical Muslim facial attributes evoke implicit perception of threat

Faculty/Professorship: General Psychology and Methodology  
Author(s): Harsányi, Géza ; Raab, Marius  ; Hesslinger, Vera M. ; Düclos, Denise; Zink, Janina; Carbon, Claus-Christian  
Title of the Journal: Perception
ISSN: 0301-0066
Corporate Body: 35th European Conference on Visual Perception (ECVP), 2012, Alghero.
Publisher Information: London : Pion
Year of publication: 2012
Volume: 41
Issue: 41 ( 2012), supplement
Pages: 111
Language(s): English
Nur Abstract
Al-Qaida’s founder Osama bin Laden wore highly iconic paraphernalia (Carbon, 2008 Perception 37(5)
801–806), namely a turban and a characteristic beard. As the media consistently presented him in
this distinctive style, his outward appearance formed a visual stereotype of Islamist terrorists that, in
most cases, did not match the appearance of Islamist assassins. Using the multidimensional Implicit
Association Test (md-IAT, Gattol et al, 2011 Plos One 6(1) e15849) we tested the effect of adding
accordant stereotypical paraphernalia to male Caucasian faces (‘Muslim-version’): Compared to the
original, non-manipulated versions, the ‘Muslim-versions’ were evaluated as being more irrational,
unintelligent, unreliable and, particularly, as being more dangerous. Importantly, non-psychologists’
and psychologists’ data did not show any significant difference concerning these implicit measures but
did so for explicit measures assessed by a further test. This dissociate data pattern demonstrates that
iconic presentations elicit stereotypical associations independently of explicit reports. We argue that
visual attributes like a particular kind of beard and a turban are associated with conformity to Islam,
which is again associated with terrorist threat. More generally, the results suggest that the mere presence
of visual attributes can induce implicit black-and-white categorization and undifferentiated prejudice
toward people of other cultures.
Keywords: face perception, islamophobia, iconic face representation, multi-dimensional Implicit Association Test (md-IAT)
Type: Conferenceobject
Year of publication: 15. July 2013