Researchers at Minnesota University have been studying the link between drinking alcohol and racial bias for a while, but a recent study from Bruce D. Bartholow found that just seeing alcohol-related images can increase expressions of racial bias.
"Walking by a bar or seeing an ad for beer could be enough to affect someone’s mindset. You don’t have to be aware of the effects for it to affect you," he told Psypost.
In the study, participants looked at a series of magazine ads for either alcoholic beverages or nonalcoholic beverages. Then, they were shown pictures of white and black men's faces, followed by a picture of a handgun or a tool in a fast-paced picture test.
Those who saw alcoholic beverage ads were more likely to mistake a tool for a handgun after seeing a black man's face, the study shows.
Bartholow told Columbia Tribune that alcohol could spark a cue to tell people to loosen up. "Possibly what's happening here is people are loosening their standards and allowing automatic beliefs about groups that they try hard to control in other situations," he said.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, has been linked to Trayvon Martin's case, where a neighborhood watch guard in Florida shot an unarmed black 17-year-old. Alcohol was not involved, but "Mr. Martin was essentially a victim of racial stereotypes that so many in our society hold, and that cost him his life," co-researcher Elena Stepanova said.