Researcher examine why many consider Barack Obama a black man

Nov 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Why is President Barack Obama — the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya -- considered a black man?

While historic, social, political and more sinister factors almost certainly influence the prevailing view of the president’s race, a new study co-authored by a University of California, Davis, researcher has found that a basic learning pattern also is involved.

People learn about new things -- such as diseases, dogs or cars -- by noting attributes that distinguish them from the same types of things that they already know, past research has shown.

The new study by UC Davis psychology professor Jeffrey Sherman and two colleagues demonstrated for the first time that the same basic learning pattern also applies when people place others into ethnic categories based on facial characteristics.

“Features that are more typical of minority group members draw more attention,” Sherman explained. “So, when someone has a mixture of features, the minority features are the ones that we tend to grab onto. We pay more attention to them and they are used more heavily in our judgments. They influence us to a greater degree.”

The study — published today in the online edition of Psychological Science — was conducted by Sherman; lead author Jamin Halberstadt, a psychology professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand; and Steven Sherman, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University and Jeffrey Sherman's father.

The study looked at two groups: Chinese people who had grown up in China or elsewhere as part of a majority Asian population and Caucasian New Zealanders.

When shown a series of computer-morphed faces with both Asian and Caucasian features, the Chinese group tended to identify ambiguous faces as Caucasians, and the Caucasian group tended to identify ambiguous faces as Asian.

To control for sociopolitical and other variables, the researchers ran a second test in which the two groups were shown just two different faces. But they were shown one much more often than the other. For example, the groups were shown two different Caucasian faces, although they saw one of the two faces three times more than the other.

“We made the one face the majority face and the other the minority face,” Sherman explained.

When the two were morphed together, participants were more likely to categorize the result as the minority face. This again shows that features of the minority face are given more weight in an ambiguous situation, Sherman said.

Thus, while motivational, political, sociological and economic factors may play a role in the assignment of mixed-race individuals to minority groups, they are not necessary for that to occur, the researchers wrote.

The study, Sherman said, showed that the phenomenon "could be based on a very basic and general cognitive process of how we learn to distinguish things from each other — one kind of dog from another dog, one kind of disease from another disease, one kind of car from another car."

Explore further: Researchers discover what makes us feel European - and it's food

More information: Why Barack Obama Is Black: A Cognitive Account of Hypodescent

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User comments : 12

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Bartolo
5 / 5 (2) Nov 25, 2010
So if they'd ask about what what 'race' Obama is in Kenya they'd get the response he's caucasian? Or does pride play a role as well?
marjon
1.9 / 5 (9) Nov 25, 2010
Affirmative action laws demand classification.
freethinking
2.4 / 5 (14) Nov 25, 2010
Since I don't believe in race I classify him as a person with black skin, with bad politics, stupid ideas, supported by the Progressive media establishment, communists, union thugs, and other corrupt groups and organizations.
getgoa
1 / 5 (7) Nov 25, 2010
The only book/reference that I know of that keeps an actual record of groups of people is called the bible so I would return him or classify Obama as a Phut mixed with Gomer according to drbo.org maps(the ancient world and probable settlements of Noah)

People have to make sense and for the most part if you think you can pick apples from an orange tree something is missing here? The concept is the same here--- no matter what principle you are trying to fulfill it has to make sense.

the problem with obama is that according to this reference book called the bible(my thoughts aside) his lineage was already filled-- cham and Japheth light but obama decided to revert this cross and stayed more Cham than Japheth since his wife is Cham light.

And so here is the answer that makes the most sense that Barack is considered black because he decided to backcross into Cham rather than continue Japheth.
Shootist
4 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2010
In 1961, the year of our lordling's birth, Barack Sr, being Arab, would have been listed as white (by law, Arabs were considered Caucasian, in Hawaii (and many other States), in 1961).

If you were living in the US in 1961 and had an option . . . I bet the reason Barack's long form birth certificate has never been seen is because both he and his father are listed as Caucasian.
jjoensuu
5 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2010
OK so as a father of mixed child (my wife is African-American, I am Finnish), I do find it a bit odd that some people in USA would classify our child as "black". I mean, that would be like ignoring my half of her genes altogether.
lengould100
5 / 5 (1) Dec 04, 2010
Such classifications are foolish. Humankind will continue to fail to progress so lang as we continue to identify others in groups according to such meaningless external characteristics.
Mike_Beck
not rated yet Dec 06, 2010
Classifications are necessary for how our brain works. We categorize. The fact that we get stupid with how we act on those classifications is irrelevant.

As for the article: it's the "us vs. them" classification. It doesn't look like "us" (the more familiar concept), so it must be "them" (the unfamiliar concept; USUALLY the minority).
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2010
The classification of Obama should be, he is a person with black skin, who happens to be the worst modern day president the US has ever had.

I wish that the first person with black skin who became president of the US was competent. Unfortuantely he has taken the previous worst president title from Jimmy Carter who's skin is white.

I like the phrase judge a man on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Neither Jimmy Carter nor Obama have character.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2010
In 1961, the year of our lordling's birth, Barack Sr, being Arab, would have been listed as white (by law, Arabs were considered Caucasian, in Hawaii (and many other States), in 1961).
You're completely incorrect as he wasn't an arab or of arabic descent. He was Luo Kenyan born under British Imperial Rule. His step father wasn't an arab either. He was Javanese. The whole arab nonsense was dreampt up by crazy right wing fanatics, like "freethinking", who also made up the lie that the President was educated in a madrassa, which he wasn't.

Try not to swallow the bullshit whole, especially since you're far smarter than that, Shootist.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2010
The only book/reference that I know of that keeps an actual record of groups of people is called the bible
Posts like this make me long for Kevin or Mabarker. Even they would likely this level of ignorance astounding.

I take it that reading this website is an aberration and other than this site all you read is the Bible?

That post is just ... stunning. How can anyone think that way and still be able to read and post on the net?
And so here is the answer that makes the most sense that Barack is considered black because he decided to backcross into Cham rather than continue Japheth.
In this part he seems to think Obama actually chose his parents. How does it manage to feed itself much less type?

Please tell me this is a Troll experimenting with new ways to confound people.

In ten years of discussing things online, even with profoundly, aggressively, even drug addled ignorance I have never seen such a display of cluelessness about reality.

Disturbing that was.

Ethelred
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Dec 07, 2010
Please tell me this is a Troll experimenting with new ways to confound people.
No, what you're witnessing is the synergy between Indian new age hucksterism and ultra-fundamentalist Christianity. Basically it's what happens when two malformed belief sets procreate.

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