Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

James Craig, Leroy Metze, Carl Martray

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


During the social turmoil of the 1960's, the expression of anti-establishment attitudes and the consequent rebellion against authority brought law enforcement agencies across the United States into frequent and often violent confrontation with citizens. Responding to what was perceived as a negative image of police, law enforcement agencies began to change their traditional uniform to a "soft-look" civiliantype blazer uniform. The movement to change the uniform was based on the assumption--which had not been empirically examined--that the traditional uniform with its official insignia and other accouterments overwhelmed citizens and engendered a wide range of negative reactions and that removal of these symbols (i.e., the uniform) would result in a more positive relationship between the public and the police. The purpose of the present investigation was to assess the reactions of individuals to varying modes of police dress using a methodology that considered both physiological and cognitive components of affective responsivity. A 2 (race of participant) X 3 (style of police dress) between -within design was used. The between factor was race of the participant (i.e., black or white), and the within factor was style of police dress (i.e., full uniform, full uniform minus weapon and accessories, and "plain" clothes consisting of blazer, slacks, coat, and tie). Eighteen black and 18 white male undergraduate students viewed color slides that depicted the varying styles of police dress. During the first showing of the slides, heart rate and skin conductance were recorded. During a second showing, participants rated each stimulus slide using word descriptors in a semantic differential format. The results reflected that participants did not evaluate the various modes of police dress differently and that there were no racial differences in the evaluation of the various modes of police dress. The implication is that the cost of adopting the blazer-style uniform is not justified on the basis of reducing negative affective reactions toward police and that improvement in the public image of the police cannot be achieved by merely changing the uniform. It is suggested that the major benefit of the uniform change may be that it facilitates an examination by the individual police officer of his or her role in the community. Limitations of the present study and recommendations for future research are also discussed.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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