the effect of skin tone

The Science of How We See Obama’s Skin Color

Andrew Romano

When it comes to the policies and politics of Barack Obama, it’s no secret that liberals and conservatives don’t see eye to eye. But according to behavioral sciencist Eugene Caruso of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, these differences in perspective may literally be a difference in perception. In a new study, Caruso and colleagues Emily Balcetis of New York University and Nicole Mead of Tillberg University asked a group of undergraduates which of a series of photographs of Obama–some of them secretly lightened and darkened–best represented who he is as a person. The results were striking: while self-described liberals tended to pick the digitally lightened photos of the president, self-described conservative students more frequently picked the darkened images. The more one agrees with a politician, in other words, the lighter his skin tone seems; the less you agree, the darker it becomes. To discuss how political affinities influence perception–and how politicians and the press could take advantage of these findings–NEWSWEEK’s Andrew Romano spoke to Caruso. Excerpts:

How did the study actually work?
Essentially we were interested in whether political party influences how people literally see the world, and how they may see different depictions of candidates as representative of who they really are. So to test this we gathered up a bunch of photos of Barack Obama and digitally altered them to create a version where his skin tone appeared a bit lighter and a version where his skin tone was a bit darker than it appeared in the original photograph. And then we just showed people several different photos and asked them to rate each one on how much they represented who he really is. What we found was that participants who told us that they had a liberal political orientation rated the lightened photographs as more representative of Obama than the darkened photographs, whereas participants who told us they had a more conservative ideology rated the darkened photographs as more representative of Obama than the lightened ones. 

I’m no expert here, but you’re confident that it’s the skin tone that changes “representativeness” in the eyes of the voter, as opposed to something else about the photographs—like pose, or background, or facial expression?
That’s a great question. What we did was essentially take three different photos with three different poses, and created for each photo a lightened and a darkened version. And then we randomly selected the combination of pose and skin tone that we showed each participant.

So your findings about “representativeness” were consistent across poses—the conservative will be twice as likely to say a “darkened” Obama was representative, regardless of which image of Obama was being darkened?
Right. We were experimentally able to isolate the effect of skin tone because some people saw a lightened version of pose #1 and others saw a darkened version of pose #1—and independent of the pose the lightened versions seemed most representative to liberals and the darkened most representative to conservatives.

Were you surprised by the results?
A little bit. Some of my research deals with how people who have different views on a subject are able to try to understand the views of someone on the other side, and the general finding is that people aren’t particularly good at really coming to understand the perspective of someone with whom they disagree. Beyond that, though, I got interested in this notion of whether our beliefs can actually affect the way we see the world—of whether they can actually affect our perception of objects or people in our environment. And it turns out they can.

Ultimately, what does it mean that someone believes a lightened version of Obama is more representative of him than a darkened version, and vice versa? What are the larger implications of these differences in perception?
Partisanship can affect all sorts of beliefs. It’s not surprising that a liberal and a conservative who read the same health care bill would come to very different conclusions about its merits. But I think our work is more akin to having a liberal and conservative look at the exact same physical copy of a bill sitting on the desk in front of them and disagreeing over how thick it is. That is, even something that we feel we should be able to see similarly, like a person’s racial identity or physical characteristics, can be influenced by our desire to see that person favorably or unfavorably.

But isn’t there a chicken or egg relationship here? Do conservatives see Obama as darker and are thus prone to dislike him, or do they dislike him first and then see him as darker because of it?
That’s a great question. One of the things we’re trying to do now is experimentally try to tease those two options apart. Basically, what we have in our current paper, the one that’s out now, is correlational studies of Obama where we don’t really know what comes first or what’s causing what. The first study in the paper tries to address part of what you’re asking. If we get people to think about a novel candidate and simply manipulate whether they agree with a candidate or not, we can show that people who think this novel biracial candidate agrees with them later report that the lightened photos are more representative of him, suggesting that if you agree with someone then you may come to see him as lighter. From that we can speculate, exactly as you have, about the reverse path—and that is, seeing images of someone when his or her skin tone looks darker may cause people to like that person less than seeing images of that person with lighter skin tone.

read the entire interview here

rainbow children

British family have rainbow children

A mixed race couple have nicknamed their kids the Rainbow Children after a genetic quirk left them with a remarkable spectrum of skin colours

via Published: 6:48PM BST 06 Jul 2009


White mum Carla Nurse, 27, and her black husband Cornel, 31, were not surprised when their first child Jermaine was born with a mixed race complexion.

But they were amazed when daughter Tanisha arrived with an Afro-Caribbean appearance -and their second son Jayden was born with white skin and blonde hair.

“Where I live it is a predominantly white town and I admit it looks pretty strange when I walk around with my brood of rainbow children,” said Mrs Nurse.

“I am at a complete loss to explain why they are all different colours – I can only think that it is some type of freaky genetic thing.

“After Jayden was born and he looked Aryan my friends nicknamed us the United Nations.”

Mrs Nurse , a part-time model from Lowestoft, Suffolk, said her only concern is that many people assume the children have different fathers.

She said: “I remember giving birth to each one of them at the hospital and all the doctors were looking at me thinking I had all these children to different men.

“When people think I’ve cheated it makes me so angry. “I would never stray from Cornel and never have – I’m totally devoted to him and always will be.”

Mr Nurse ,whose Afro-Caribbean father came from Barbados and white mother came from London, grew up in the Suffolk village of Halesworth just 30 miles away.

Their eldest son Jermaine, now six, has brown eyes with golden brown skin while daughter Tanisha, four, takes after her father with Afro-Caribbean skin, dark eyes and tight black curls.

Youngest son Jayden, now two, has white skin, blonde hair and bright blue eyes.

All three siblings have their mother’s nose and big eyes while Tanisha has full lips similar to Mr Nurse.

Mr Nurse said: “They are definitely all mine and the whole thing is just a freak of nature. Tanisha was dark from the start but as the boys got older one has gone darker and one has got whiter.

flesh tone line



“As far as color correction is concerned, all people are basically the same ‘color’ when you define color in terms of hue angle. The variation in our ‘skin color’ is a really variation in tone, or relative lightness-darkness value of the human hue. We all line up on the same line on a vectorscope, this line is called the ‘Flesh Tone Line’ or FTL and its on most vectorscopes.”

So someone with dark skin:

Is the same hue as someone with light skin:

We all line up along that line:

It makes sense though, right?


Our skin ‘color’ is largely determined by the amount of the pigment melanin, and blood present in our skin. Melanin and blood color are the same color in all humans, its just the amount and relationship between the two that determine our tone. 

reblogged from via

for real!?

Is this for real guys?  I’m not judging it as good or bad, I’m just asking because the whole time I was reading this I was waiting for “just kidding.”  It is a funny article.  I think.  One could argue that it would be equally as “off” to have a “monoracial” black man play Obama. In fact, it sounds like something that I would argue.  But NAAMP!? I don’t think that exists.  I googled.  It doesn’t.  I just don’t know how I feel about this…


Robert Downey Jr. to Play Obama in Biopic

Bill Matthews

(BROOKLYN) Fresh off an Oscar nomination for his comedic turn as a white man wearing black face in Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr. will again cross racial barriers when he portrays Barack Obama in a star-studded movie.

“Playing the president is a challenge, but I know I can pull it off, especially if I can master that cool stride he has–you know, that ‘swagga,’ as CNN might say,” said Downey, who in his next film, Sherlock Holmes, actually plays a white man who doesn’t wear brown makeup.

The Obama biopic is an adaptation of the president’s 1995 bestseller, Dreams of My Father. Ron Howard is directing and Gabrielle Union has signed to star as Michelle Obama…

…Howard was torn casting Downey. Since Obama has a mixed heritage–his father was a black Kenyan and his mother was a white American–Howard knew he was going to upset someone no matter who he chose.

“When I announced that Sam Jackson was going to play Obama, the National Association for the Advancement of Mulattos really tore me a new one,” Howard said. “After he dropped out, I looked hard for someone of mixed race, but let’s face it: Shemar Moore can’t act.”

Hollywood has a history of being unconcerned with skin color when casting African American roles–witness the brown-skinned Diana Ross and Cicely Tyson playing the light-skinned Billie Holiday and Coretta Scott King, respectively. And Angelina Jolie, who is white, played a woman of mixed race, Mariane Pearl, in A Mighty Heart.

Downey’s complexion, however, isn’t that far from Obama’s.

“Honestly,” said Howard, “after Tropic Thunder, when you think of African American men, you think Robert Downey Jr.”



It’s totally a joke! Filed under ‘comedy news.’  Kinda thought provoking though. And I can sorta see it…