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The Effect of Ethnicity and Body Size on Perception of Authority Posed by Police Officers

Hillary Pletcher and Marlina Mackie
Ohio Northern University

This 2x3 between subjects design investigated peoples’ perceptions of authority in relation to ethnicity (Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic) and body weight (normal weight or overweight).  One hundred and forty-one college students ranging in age from 18-26 were given a newspaper article containing a photograph and brief story about a police officer who was either: a normal weight Caucasian, an overweight Caucasian, a normal weight Hispanic, an overweight Hispanic, a normal weight Asian, or an overweight Asian.   A questionnaire assessing their perceptions of the police officer’s authority was then completed.  Contrary to the hypotheses, findings indicated that people’s perceptions of authority were not significantly influenced by ethnicity or body weight, p>.05.  This implies that neither body weight nor ethnicity affect how people perceive authority figures.

2010 Student Research Colloquium
Psychology and Sociology