Destiny Peery, a graduate student in psychology, and Galen V. Bodenhausen, professor of psychology and marketing at Northwestern University, are co-investigators of the study "Black + White = Black" -- which suggests the immediate response of non-black study participants is to categorize a racially ambiguous person as black when it was known that one of the person's parents was black and one was white.
In the study, non-black study participants were asked to view a series of profiles of college students, with photos that depicted each one as black, white or racially ambiguous. Some of the racially ambiguous photos were accompanied with profiles indicating that one of the student's parents is black and the other is white.
Later, when participants completed spontaneous or immediate racial categorization tasks, they were more likely to consider the racially ambiguous faces to be black when they knew the person had mixed-race ancestry, than when they did not have that knowledge, the researchers said.
However, the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, said that upon more thoughtful reflection, study participants were more likely to categorize the same faces with the known mixed-race parentage as "multiracial."