Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unconscious Prejudice

It is a fact that people don’t always speak their minds. But sometimes people do not speaking their minds because people don’t know their minds.  The IAT Test exposes the unconscious prejudice that people do not self report.
Implicit racism can be seen in many cases. Jennifer Eberhardt (2006) experimented implicit racism by making judges decide if a shown criminal should be sentenced to death or not. It was seen that between two images of criminals (where both had no records of crime but the judges did not know about it) the judges would find the person who was considered to be more stereotypically black to be sentenced to death.
The IAT Test goes from different stages such as people are asked to categorize the faces of black and white people. Then, they are asked to categorize negative and positive words. The test later on asks to combine the faces and words together. They ask to press the left key on the computer when a black face and a positive word comes up and asks to press the right key when a white face and a negative word comes up. In the last stage opposite pairs like ‘black or negative, white or positive’ are shown. By taking the test the emotions and attitudes towards African American’s can be measured by the time the person takes to respond to black-bad/white-good versus black-good/white-bad pairs.  
The IAT Test was found by Anthony Greenwald (1998) to measure the implicit racism. Greenwald tested a group of white students with the IAT Test to see the automatic reaction that they would give toward race. The test revealed the true responses and attitudes that were suppressed. Even though the white students did not show any explicit negative thoughts in the self evaluation reports, they demonstrated more quick responses to the grouping of ‘white + pleasant and black + unpleasant.’ This concluded to students showing more positive automatic evaluation towards white people.
The implicit racism makes me question where does these unconscious thoughts comes from? Is it the environment that we live in? Is it the society that embeds these thoughts? Or is it the background knowledge and historical facts that we keep on learning today embeds thoughts to our minds to differentiate race? Would it be better not to talk about these issues from the past to new generations so that they would not differentiate people by seeing that once there was a difference between races? Or is it better to talk about them and try to come up with solutions to the thoughts of the older generations and how? 


Zeynep Ercan


  1. An occurrence today is the perception of being racists. Whites may not react towards Blacks how they would normally for fear of being a racists (Kassin 162). Since racism is no longer socially acceptable but the change is fairly recent, one is still very cautious as to how he or she is perceived.
    As far as how to reduce prejudice Allport found that the contact hypothesis works and so have many other studies. It is believed that intergroup contact works with 4 conditions. There has to be a common authority that is in support of the two groups interacting. The two group members have to be in an environment where they are of equal status. The interactions between the two parties have to be positive to each group. Finally, a common goal or superordinate goal should be present.

  2. Similar to the IAT, Russel et al. (1995) employed the "bona fide pipeline" procedure, to measure the speed of participants' negative/ positive reactions immediately after being presented with someone from another race. One of the observations they found was how white participants took more time to react positively after viewing someone black as opposed to another white individual. The study doesn't show signs of any less positives, but simply a delay in the positive response. This indicates the lack of any negative intention and suggests its almost an instinctual reaction. Intergroup contact is necessary to eradicate any preconceived negative emotions as this familiarity will assist individuals to reduce the stereotyping, prejudging and discriminating against outgroup members.

  3. Since racism is socially unacceptable nowadays, people become more conscious of what they have to say and how they should say it. Metasterotypes, according to Jacquie Vorauer (2003), refers to individuals engaging in intergroup interactions often activate thoughts about the outgroup’s stereotypes about them, and worry about being seen as consistent with these stereotypes. This however, may lead to them being seen as more racist than not. Studies have shown that interaction with a black individual can be emotionally and cognitively exhausting since they are worried about appearing racist (e.g., Amodio et al., 2007; Devine et al,. 2005; Dovidio et al, 2002). So it might be possible that in doing the IAT test, participants might score worse because they are trying not appear racist subconsciously.

  4. I also wonder whether these results have anything to do with the idea that people tend to be more attracted to others who resemble themselves. In a study by R. Chris Fraley (2010) people rated faces that had been digitally morphed with their own as more attractive than faces that did not resemble their own. It could be that these same subconscious feelings are activated while taking the IAT.

  5. During this IAT test, the participants were told "[R]espond rapidly in categorizing each stimulus,
    but don't respond so fast that you make
    many errors. (Occasional errors are okay.)" This time parameter may be why the student answered correctly or incorrectly. Because the participant were told to answer as quickly as possible without making errors, this may have produced untrue answers that were not errors but that were simply not what the participant truly felt. I wonder if the experimenters took into account the fact that the participants were pressured into an answer because of the time allotted.

  6. The book gives an example of Eberhardt's research on page 163 (Figure 5.9). Although I actually wish they gave a few more examples, because the two people seem to have very different opinions on having their picture taken. Maybe this is just my own rationalization, but the guy on the right has bored/angry eyes. I wonder if anyone else felt the same way.
    As for the origin of such thoughts in society, I think it is an understandable (yet not entirely excusable) reaction to the world around us. We've learned recently that stereotypes are just the brains way of simplifying information, the same way the brain learns that strawberries taste good and doorknobs don't. But I think the best way to combat these feelings are with exposure to good role models of varying backgrounds.

    Also, I've taken a couple of psyche classes, so I don't know if we already went over this but you can actually take the IAT test online at: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/

  7. Agreeing to David, the example that is given in the book (p.163) the only difference that makes the right more "considered more stereotypically black than the face on the left" is the fact that the person on the left seems to be much more awake while the guy on the right has droopier eyes. It seems to me that the guy on the right didn't really care that his photo was being taken. Also, I think it is unfair that that the study was based off of images, because photography is only really a split second of time.
    With that being said, the person determining who would be more considered "negative" look might be judging through a different experience they went through. For example, if they had a strong disliking towards someone and that one person in the image looks similar or has some similar characteristics as the person they disliked, that idea could be judged against the person in the image.
    Racism is still a common occurring problem, but for one to be judged "more black" is still one of the reasons why racism still does occur. Who defines what "more black" even looks like?? The society is imprinting the idea into our brains to believe that there even is such existence of someone who is "more black" or "more white". More of any skin color just means an exaggerated version of that stereotype's skin color.

  8. I believe that the unconscious racism/prejudice revealed in IAT results are influenced by the environment that the person is exposed to, as well as how modern society makes it taboo to express racist thoughts in public. In a study using the IAT, the test takers were exposed to different associations/attitudes before taking the test; the results reflected the influence of the associations and attitudes that they were exposed to before the test, suggesting that things in the environment may have an effect or influence on how they respond on the IAT. Additionally, in the study, the explicit attitudes of the test takers are shown to be independent from the IAT results, and that explicit attitudes were more important in predicting the person’s actual behavior than what their IAT results indicated (Karpinski and Hilton, 2001).

    To me, this shows that even if someone shows racism/prejudice unconsciously as seen on an IAT, they will behave based on their explicit attitude. The environment and society around them can manipulate their outward attitude, and furthermore, one has to take into consideration that people self-monitor himself or herself. People generally don’t want to be seen as a racist, bigot, or ignorant, so they’ll act in ways that say otherwise, even if their unconscious attitudes are completely racist/bigoted.

  9. I think this idea of implicit racism is also seen in the idea that White women are more allegedly raped by Black men. According to Tracey Owens Patton and Julie Snyder-Yuly) media has had an influence on people thinking this way (Patton and Snyder-Yuly, 865). In their research, they stated “As Cuklanz (1996) noted in her work on mainstream news coverage of rape trials, “new coverage, though purporting and attempting to be ‘objective,’ presents a skewed picture of many trials, emphasizing verbatim testimony related to character that can be attention-getting, colorful, and even shocking” (p. 49).” (865). They state that because there is this misconception of black men committing crimes against white women, the press bolsters this conception, which tends to give stories more play than other kinds of rape. (865). Thus, implicit racism can be influenced by our surroundings, and the media. If the media is doing what Patton and Snyder-Yuly state, I believe it can really shape the way people think and perceive people of different races.


  10. Outgroup homogeneity bias also plays a role in the implicit racism that occurs in our society. Once the race card was taken into consideration by the media and overused, we began to immediately associate all outgroup members with one other. "This false assumption, known as the outgroup homogeneity bias, is reflected in statements such as 'They're all alike' and 'If you've seen one, you've seen them all!'" (Social Psychology and the Human Nature, 2007) Therefore, I feel that after several portrayals that seem to favor the non-minority group in media, a person will slowly adjust and form an outgroup homogeneity bias that can lead to prejudices against specific groups.

  11. In an attempt to identify where these implicit associations come from, a study (Steiger, Goritz, Berger), done to personalize the experiments and control for anxiety and calmness showed no relation between anxiety level and results. I find this interesting because I would have expected the participants current emotional states to effect their results.

  12. The Implicate Association Test measures not only black and white prejudices but any stereotypes or prejudices one might make, weather the person is elderly, overweight, young, asian, european etc. But sometimes people make implicate associations even when their isn't a significant physical characteristic. The website AllLookSame.com tests just this. It posts pictures of people from China, Japan and Korea and the quiz tests ones ability to identify where each person is from. The purpose of this is to show that despite tension between the peoples, one cannot visually distinguish where someone is from. This shows that the ability to tell outgroup from ingroup is not a key fact having implicate racism towards people you perceive as different from you.

  13. A serious factor in discovering human nature and the several reasons for our inborn prejudice is the "Availability Heuristic" (Kassin, 105) The "availability heuristic" is the tendency to estimate the likelihood that an event will occur by how easily instances of it come to mind. In terms of the Implicate Association Test it immediately screens us for inborn prejudice. These instances of examples we see come from our experiences, the stories we hear most frequently from others, the examples that stick out furthest in our minds and the news. There are several other examples of where we can pick up stories but the news is an interesting example. Different News channels cater to different majority groups and focus on the wrong doing that occurs to them. There is often a certain level of bias on these programs and they make the typically white viewers believe a certain amount of prejudice to a minority group as true or at least plants the seed in our mind to immediately associate white as good and black as bad.

  14. I think that this can be strongly related to attitudes, even though it is essentially discrimination. The book talks about the how our attitudes are formed and "rooted in our genetic makeup." This can be hypothesized by Abraham Tesser.This can be linked to twin studies as well. Attitudes in identical twins are more similar than those in fraternal twins. Attitudes in distant twins are also pretty similar as those in twins who were raised in the same home. So according to this, genetically, attitudes determine our prejudice.