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Strategic race blindness: not so black and white?

Vincent Egan (Associate Professor in Forensic Psychology Practice with the Centre for Family and Forensic Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Nottingham, UK)
Nicola Gilzeane (Student at the School of Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Maria Viskaduraki (Biostatistician, based at Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Analysis Hub, College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 20 September 2013




Strategic race‐blindness (purposely avoiding mention of a target's ethnicity to appear unprejudiced) potentially hinders eyewitness testimony.


The current study examined whether participant and interviewer race affected the recollection of black, white or Western Asian individuals, where it was indicated the targets were criminal or not. Data were gathered using a cognitive interview‐type methodology whereby stimulus questioning was open, rather than prompted. After a short interval participants spontaneously described the targets and the point at which race was used as a descriptor was noted.


There was a clear effect of differential race mentioning in free recall by participants. However, multi‐level ordinal logistic regression found neither race of the interviewer nor race of the participant (or their interaction) influenced the mentioning of the race of the face in the photograph. This remained irrespective of the guilt of the person in the stimulus picture.

Originality /value

Extending the paradigm to persons of Western Asian heritage enabled strategic race bias to be considered in the context of persons sometimes regarded as being sympathetic to terrorism. Gathering information using the cognitive interview makes out study closer to the process by which the police in the UK are trained to gather information.



Egan, V., Gilzeane, N. and Viskaduraki, M. (2013), "Strategic race blindness: not so black and white?", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 127-135.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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