Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Picturing Success: Photographs and Stereotyping in Men's Collegiate Basketball

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Picturing Success: Photographs and Stereotyping in Men's Collegiate Basketball

Article excerpt

Stereotypes are enmeshed in the tendency to assign membership based on phenotypical characteristics. The most salient identification form using the biological concept of "race" is via a very generalized assessment of skin color (Loring Brace, 1964; Montagu, 1964). The concept of "race" most often takes a black/white image. The common perception holds that Blacks are uniformly dark-skinned and Whites are uniformly light-skinned, making for an homogeneous and undifferentiated set of images (Birrell, 1989). This dichotomous classification causes the stagnation of intergroup relations and fails to consider the wide variations of physical, mental, psychological, emotional, and cultural differences displayed within any population group. Furthermore, it renders the various population groups as units of analysis instead of cultural agents of change (Coakley, 1993). Phenotypical characteristics become irrelevant in the identification of population groups as the variety of skin coloring and the history of intermixture places the stance for separate "races" with separate gene pools on unstable ground (see Allen and Adams, 1992; Hallinan, 1994; Phinney, 1996). In spite of this, skin color remains a strong determinate of stereotyping and prejudice (Marshall, 1984).

The popular perception in sports holds that Black athletes are genetically better equipped to participate in sports like basketball, football, baseball, and sprinting events; but not sports like swimming, tennis, ice hockey, golf, gymnastics, and skiing (Cunningham, 1973). It is also well-known that some studies have suggested that Black athletes may possess longer legs and arms relative to overall body size, less body fat, greater muscle mass, narrower hips, different heel structure, more fast twitch muscle fibers, wider calf muscles, or a greater ratio of tendon to muscle when compared to White athletes (Cunningham, 1973; Malina, 1972; Tanner, 1978). Presumably to fortify the author's view, illustrations and selected photographs have been incorporated in some of this work. For example, Tanner (1978) provided photographs of two Olympic 400 m runners so as to demonstrate the "distinct advantages and disadvantages" of "European" and "African" physiques.

Indeed, the purpose of this study incorporated the use of photographs. However, we did so to investigate the effect population that group identification has on the strength of belief that certain factors contribute to success in men's collegiate basketball. As a method for studying stereotypes, "the use of pictures is the best because it allows the most latitude in determining the content of the stereotype" (Cauthen, Robinson, and Krauss, 1971, p. 105). According to Snyder (1990), "photographs may be used as a research tool to evoke thoughts, reactions, and feelings from individuals about some aspect of social life" (p. 256). That is, photographs provide an opportunity for the viewer to describe and interpret. The use of pictures as a research technique in studying the content and process of stereotype is well documented (Cauthen, Robinson, & Krauss, 1971; Ferree & Hall, 1990; Stringer, 1989; Thomas & Lee, 1990). Several sport studies have incorporated photographs in the research design as a basis for elicitation of responses (Curry, 1986; Kane, 1987; Snyder, 1990; and Snyder & Kane, 1990).

Method

Participants

248 students from a large state university in the United States volunteered to participate in this study. These subjects were undergraduate students enrolled in a university-wide course, ranged in age from 17 to 41 years with a mean age of 20.97, and consisted of 95 men and 153 women who indicated residence in 25 different states with vast majority from Alabama, Florida, Georgia or Tennessee. The subjects indicated population group membership as: White 212 (85.5%), Black 30 (12.1%), Other Groups 6 (2.4%), which closely reflects the overall representation of the university population groups. …

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