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Out of sight, out of mind: racial retrieval cues increase the accessibility of social justice concepts

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Photographs provide critical retrieval cues for personal remembering, but few studies have considered this phenomenon at the collective level. In this research, we examined the psychological consequences of visual attention to the presence (or absence) of racially charged retrieval cues within American racial segregation photographs. We hypothesised that attention to racial retrieval cues embedded in historical photographs would increase social justice concept accessibility. In Study 1, we recorded gaze patterns with an eye-tracker among participants viewing images that contained racial retrieval cues or were digitally manipulated to remove them. In Study 2, we manipulated participants’ gaze behaviour by either directing visual attention toward racial retrieval cues, away from racial retrieval cues, or directing attention within photographs where racial retrieval cues were missing. Across Studies 1 and 2, visual attention to racial retrieval cues in photographs documenting historical segregation predicted social justice concept accessibility.
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Keywords: Collective forgetting; Jim Crow; history; photography; racism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology and Africana Studies Program, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA 2: Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA 3: Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA 4: Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

Publication date: September 14, 2017

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