BLACK VOICES
10/17/2011 12:10 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2011

A New Study Asks: Is Race Reflected By Your Outfit? (POLL)

Do clothes reflect your race?

This is the question being explored in a new study entitled “Looking the Part: Social Status Cues Shape Race Perception,” by Jonathan B. Freeman, Andrew M. Penner, Aliya Saperstein, Matthias Scheutz and Nalini Ambady, published in PLoS ONE.

There are certainly styles of clothing that we associate with specific races (and classes for that matter), right? Baggy jeans and a white t-shirt? A black kid from the hood. A suit and tie? A white guy on Wall Street. Though we know these examples are the extreme and often based on stereotypes, we must also see the reality in them.

This study aims to record these thoughts and essentially prove that identifying race goes beyond skin color and can be invoked through clothing as well.

Participants in this study used mouse-tracking analysis to determine the race of a person wearing a particular outfit. For example, users were shown a race-less (or colorless) picture of a man dressed in a janitor's uniform and were asked to identify the color of his skin based on a scale of 13 skin tones between white and black.

The study found that "even when users decided a man dressed as a janitor was white, the speed and path in which they moved their mouse to the 'white' button was slower and veered closer toward the 'black' button than when the same man was dressed in a business suit. The more racially ambiguous the face, the more pronounced the results," says Pamela Paul of The New York Times.

“We tend to think that our perception of a face depends on their facial features, but what we found is that the cues around the face and the stereotypes we bring to the table influences our perception of race,” the lead study author, Jonathan B. Freeman told The New York Times.

However, for a study judging perceptions on race there were no African American or Hispanic participants used. A major misstep to say the least. Most of the participants were white undergraduates, a few Asians students and one person who identified themselves as biracial.

What is the use of a study about race perception when the two largest minority groups in the country were not questioned? None.

But, it does allow us to ponder a question that we may have never asked ourselves. Here's your chance to sound off. Answer the poll below and discuss in the comments section.