Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Neil Van Leeuwen

Second Advisor

Dr. Dan Weiskopf


A series of experiments reveal that people are more likely to mistake black men as holding a gun than white men (Payne 2001; Payne et al., 2002; Correll et al., 2002). These data suggest that real-world cases of racially biased object-identification occur, such as in cases of police killings of unarmed black men. The aim of this paper is to correctly model what goes on in people’s heads, leading them to misidentify objects in these instances. One possibility is that people are making the wrong judgment about the object in question; perception might proceed as it should, but the viewer may think that they’re seeing a gun due to a cognitive error. Instead, I present a model which construes the error as a result of a visual illusion: even though the object is a hand tool, erroneous visual processing causes them to have the illusory experience of a gun.