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McNair Scholars Program

Akea (Crum) Cosby, M.S.

she/her

Education: Bachelor of Science in psychology (May 2003)

Master of Science in counseling from Mid-America Nazarene University

McNair Project: Perceptions of Ethnically Ambiguous Entertainers (2002)

Mentor: Richard Harris, Ph.D.

Although the primary categories that come to mind when talking about race are black and white, but how about those individuals who are in the middle? Many individuals who are not clearly defined as black or white are often left out in the "in between". There are few studies about the perceptions of ethnically ambiguous entertainers in the media and how they may influence people's perceptions of the characters' quality of performance. In this study, fifty-seven Kansas State University students (15 female and 42 males) watched a series of 16 short video clips (eleven ambiguous, five unambiguous). The term "ambiguous" is defined as being difficult to distinguish between two or more ethnicities. After each clip, a questionnaire was completed to evaluate the entertainer's performance. The findings support that participants who viewed the ambiguous characters did not as a group show consensus on identifying characters' ethnicity/race. Many participants showed a tendency to evaluate African-American entertainers higher than European-American entertainers. Future research will focus on a larger sample size and to increase diversity among participants.