James Arthur Bayton

James Arthur Bayton (April 5, 1912 August, 1990) was an American psychologist. He conducted research in areas of personality, race, social issues, and consumer psychology.

Early life and education

James Arthur Bayton was born on April 5, 1912 in Whitestone, Virginia to George and Helen Bayton.[1] His father, a physician, had graduated from the medical school at Howard University.[2] Bayton graduated from Temple University’s high school in 1931 and subsequently matriculated at Howard University as a Chemistry major. Bayton began his undergraduate career planning to go into medicine, however, taking psychology courses taught by Francis Sumner, Max Meenes, and Frederick Watts sparked Bayton's interest in the behavioral sciences. During his undergraduate career, Bayton was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Bayton graduated from Howard in 1935 with a B.A in psychology and began his M.S. studies at Howard. After graduating from the M.S. program, Bayton began further graduate study at Colombia University, where he was taught by R. S. Woodworth and A. T. Poffenberger. When Bayton’s father died, Bayton moved back to Philadelphia in order to be closer to his family. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania and continued his graduate studies under psychologists such as L. Witmer, S. W. Fernberger, M. G. Preston, and M. Viteles. While conducting his doctorate studies, Bayton was offered a teaching position at Virginia State College. Partly due to the financial devastation of the Great Depression, Bayton delayed his graduate studies and became an associate professor of psychology from 1939 to 1943. During this time he published several papers, and was finally awarded his Ph.D. in psychology in 1943.[2]


From 1943-1945, during World War II, Bayton worked as a social service analyst for the U.S Department of Agriculture. Afterward, he became a professor of psychology at Southern University in Louisiana. He taught at Morgan State College in Maryland in 1946 and returned to Howard University as a professor in 1947, where he worked for the remainder of his life. He was the head of the Psychology Department from 1966–1970, as well as a graduate research professor from 1982-1988.[3] From 1948-1953, Bayton also worked part-time in the U.S Department of Agriculture conducting research on consumer behavior. While working at the USDA, Bayton headed a psychological research program focused on policy development and program evaluation, as well as survey programs.[2]

While working as a professor at Howard, Bayton also served as the vice president of National Analysts, Inc. from 1953–1962 and 1966–1967, the vice president of Universal Marketing Research, Inc. from 1962–1966, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution from 1967–1968, and a staff psychologist at Chilton Research Services from 1968-1976.[2] Working in these positions, he contributed to over 70 corporate sponsored projects. He conducted survey and marking research and focused his work on consumer psychology.[3] He conducted research for Dupont, IMB, Armstrong Cork, Chrysler, Eli Lilly, Curtis Publishing, Johnson and Johnson, Schick, Pet Milk, American Dairy Association, Federal Reserve Board, Smith Kline, Rench, Procter & Gamble, and the Office of Navel Research. He also was a member of the Research Advisory Committee, Social Security Administration, the United States Department of Health Education and Welfare, and the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Science in theDepartment of Agriculture. He was also the chairman of a committee designed to evaluate equal employment opportunity policies in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.[2]

Bayton was an expert witness for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in several cases of school desegregation and job discrimination. He also served as an expert witness for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He played an important role in cases of the desegregation of Arlington and Roanoke schools after the “massive resistance” to desegregation headed by U.S Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. He also led desegregation sessions for government agriculture extension systems. Continuing in this line of work, Bayton assessed urban police complaint boards, summer youth programs, community relations, and civil rights commissions in relational to desegregation policies. Throughout his career, Bayton directed over 50 government-sponsored projects. Bayton was a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Marketing Association, and the National Academy of Public Administration.[3]

Honors and awards




Selected publications

Bayton addressed overlap in issues of race and class in his 1956 study, “Race-Class Stereotypes.” 92 White and 180 Black college students were asked to choose five adjectives, from a list of 85 words, that described "upper-class white Americans", "upper-class Negroes", "lower class white Americans", and "lower-class Negroes" respectively. Generally, the upper-class was characterized as “intelligent, ambitious, industrious, neat, and progressive”, while the lower-class was considered to be “ignorant, lazy, loud, and physically dirty.” The only race difference noted was that White subjects characterized Blacks as musical and ostentatious regardless of class. Overall, the assignment of stereotypes varied more due to class than race. In other words, there were more differences between upper-class and lower class stereotypes than stereotypes between different races of the same class. Bayton suggested race differences in stereotyping tasks were partially the product of assumed class differences.[4]

In another study conducted by Bayton regarding race and class, 80 Black and 74 White college students were asked to assign traits (chosen from a list of 80 adjectives) to describe the Black lower class, the Black middle class, the White lower class, and the White middle class. The students were asked to choose five or fewer traits for each group and rate the traits on a scale from -5 to +5. Both Whites and Blacks assigned more advantageous traits to the middle as opposed to the lower class (though the effect was larger for White subjects).[5]

In his study, “Negro perception of Negro and white personality traits,” Bayton had the Guilford-Zimmermann Temperament Survey administered to 240 Black students at Howard University. The subjects were prompted to answer in the way that they thought the "average Negro male", "average Negro female", "average White male", or "average White female" would respond. The survey addressed aspects of temperament such as emotional stability, thoughtfulness, and sociability. The results indicated better personality adjustment when the participants were asked to answer as if they were White. Bayton theorized that this tendency to associate positive temperament with Whites may have resulted from an inclination to “idealize the aggressor” and “incorporate his negative views” towards views of the minority group.[6]

Bayton was prominent amongst the psychologists of his time in his efforts to advance minority group participation in professional psychology. In his article, “Minority groups and careers in psychology” he reported on the National Institute of Mental Health conference in 1969. The major topic discussed at this conference was the issue of how to produce more Black and minority Ph.D.s in psychology. Bayton addressed the need for an increased number of minority psychologists in the field in order to develop psychological programs focused on the needs of minority groups. He also referenced the importance of equal opportunity in the field. He reviewed the obstacles to increasing the number of minority psychologists in the field, such as the perception amongst students that psychology is a risky or nontraditional route for a minority member to pursue professionally. He claimed that these students had to be shown that possibilities exist in psychology for minority students, perhaps through the use of brochures or films to be circulated at various institutions. While graduate programs were attempting to recruit Black students in psychology, Bayton suggested that undergraduate psychology programs needed to increase their efforts to attract Black students to the field. He also addressed the issue of quality of education and lack of resources at primarily black institutions. Bayton suggested an attempt to gain federal and private funding for black students at predominately black colleges in order to ensure competent faculty and adequate resources. He proposed requesting funding to create summer programs for undergraduates that could aid in exposure to psychology for minority students at schools lacking psychology programs. He also emphasized the need to continue holding conferences of this nature in the future.[7]

In another paper, “Reflections and Suggestions for Further Study Concerning the Higher Education of Negroes,” Bayton reported on another conference that took place in April, 1967. He addressed similar issues regarding how to improve the state of affairs for Black students in higher education.[8]

Throughout his career, Bayton conducted significant research in the area of consumer behavior. His paper, “Motivation, Cognition, Learning—Basic Factors in Consumer Behavior,” drew attention to the role of psychological theories as lenses for research in consumer behavior. While he acknowledged that marketing at the time addressed psychological theories of motivation, he claimed that theories of cognition and learning were neglected in consumer behavior research. Bayton explained the importance of cognitive processes in consumer behavior, for one, by explaining what determines whether or not we remember a particular product. In addressing theories of learning, Bayton outlined the role of reinforcement in determining whether a consumer will purchase a good repeatedly and explained the formation of consumer habits as a lessening of conscious decision-making while making a purchase.[9]

Other research contributions made by Bayton pertained to sex differences in decision making, issues of race in military settings,[2] Blacks’ decision making in dialysis, Black attitudes regarding kidney transplantation, and Blacks’ blood donation and organ and tissue transplantation.[3]


Bayton’s research interests were widespread. He furthered psychological research in areas of personality, race, social issues, and consumer psychology. His research was generally of an applied nature, and thus, his efforts helped increase the scope and depth of applied work in the field of psychology.[3] In particular, several studies conducted by Bayton foreshadowed the emergence of system-justification theory, which addresses the tendency to support the status-quo or the “system,” even when the “system” may not be beneficial to an individual or group. In particular, the idea of out-group favoritism (a subset of system-justification theory), or viewing a high-status group positively and one’s own low-status group more negatively, emerges in Bayton’s research.[10] In his study, “Negro perception of Negro and white personality traits,” he found that Black participants perceived Whites as having more positive temperaments than Blacks. He theorized that this bias resulted from a tendency to “idealize the aggressor” and “incorporate his negative views” into participants’ views of their minority group.[6] In other words, out-group favoritism emerged in this study, and the participants appeared to support a racial hierarchy, or “system,” that was not beneficial to these subjects. Additionally, in another of Bayton’s studies, “Evaluative Race-Class Stereotypes by Race and Perceived Class of Subjects,” subjects assigned more advantageous traits to the middle as opposed to the lower class regardless of their own class. This study also illustrates a tendency for people to justify the "system", or in other words, support the American ideal of a social meritocracy whether or not this "system" is truly just or beneficial to them.[5]

Additionally, Bayton made important efforts throughout his career to increase the number of minorities in psychology and improve educational opportunities for Black people.[7][8]

According to Sherman Ross and Leslie H. Hicks of Howard University, Bayton was “always responsive to students and colleagues” and was “never too busy or uninterested.” They also described him as a “model professor and researcher.” [3]


Journal of Farm Economics

Journal of Applied Psychology

Journal of Marketing

The Journal of Negro Education

Growth & Change

Journal of Research in Personality

Journal of Psychology

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

Journal of General Psychology

Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

American Psychologist



  1. 1 2 Hicks, L., & Roberts, A. (1991). In Memoriam: James A. Bayton (1912-1990). Journal of Black Psychology, 17(2), 51-51.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Guthrie, R. (1998). Even the Rat was White: A historical view of psychology (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ross, S., & Hicks, L. (1991). James A. Bayton (1912-1990): Obituary. American Psychologist, 46(12), 1345-1345.
  4. Bayton, J., Mcalister, L., & Hamer, J. (1956). Race-Class Stereotypes. The Journal of Negro Education, 25(1), 75-78
  5. 1 2 Bayton, J., & Smedley, J. (1978). Evaluative Race-Class Stereotypes by Race and Perceived Class of Subjects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(5), 530-535.
  6. 1 2 Bayton, J., Austin, L., & Burke, K. (1965). Negro perception of Negro and white personality traits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1(3), 250-253.
  7. 1 2 Bayton, J., Roberts, S., & Williams, R. (1970). Minority groups and careers in psychology. American Psychologist, 25(6), 504-510.
  8. 1 2 Bayton, J., Lewis, H. & The Journal of Negro Education Editorial Committee. (1967). Reflections and Suggestions for Further Study Concerning the Higher Education of Negroes. The Journal of Negro Education, 286-294.
  9. Bayton, J. (1958). Motivation, Cognition, Learning: Basic Factors in Consumer Behavior. Journal of Marketing, 22(3), 282-289.
  10. Jost, J., (2001). "Outgroup favoritism and the theory of system justification: A paradigm for investigating the effects of socioeconomic success on stereotype content.". Cognitive social psychology: The Princeton symposium on the legacy and future of social cognition: 89–102.

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