The brain and bias a.k.a. I feel ravaged

One of my favorite subjects, that despite our best intentions our underlying biases poke out. I’ve recently seen this bias rear its ugly head with underhanded comments about Hillary Clinton’s apparent bitchness, from those whose only proof is her assertiveness. And discomfort with Obama’s blackness which has taken the form of his pastor Jeremiah Wright to be discussed and analyzed separately. (We like you Barack, but about this overt blackness . . . I mean your association with this pastor)

As I discussed in Sit Racist Sit these prejudices stem from an emotional reaction in the limbic region, also the emotional region, of the brain. This is the same area that makes us cringe at Brussels sprouts despite their nutritional value. That said, most of us use that handy Neocortex to moderate our biases with reason, and not shout obscenities when we see a person stepping out of their culturally designated roles.

However a Harvard test called “Project Implicit” is seeking to extract our underlying biases by putting the subject through a barrage of associations to be made as fast as possible. I took the Gender test and the Gay test, and I wasn’t terribly surprised by either results. According to the test I have a moderate association of women to the home and men to careers, and a moderate preference of gays to straights. I encourage everyone to take the demonstration tests and let me know if you found it as frustrating as I did.

If you are going to take the test do it now and come back to the rest of the post, I might ruin it for you if you read on.

The test claims to control for the order they put the associations in. But I feel like they had me make more immediate associations within the test which I think effected my scores. *Spoiler*
Plus the man in the hetero cake topper looked like a butch lesbo in a suit, I’ll be damned if I didn’t pick gay on that picture every time!

This is interesting though, after I got my results I read on to this from the studiers:

In recent years, it has become less socially acceptable to express negative attitudes toward some groups, for example groups defined by race or by physical disability. In this context, attitudes toward gay people are of special interest because laboratory studies show that the social acceptability of negative attitudes toward gays has changed relatively little in recent years. We also know that anti-gay attitudes are observed on measures of implicit attitude such as the IAT, and that a person’s conscious and implicit attitudes toward gays are more often in agreement with each other than they are for some other socially significant domains.

Everybody!
If you hate gays and you know it clap your hands.
If you hate gays and you know it clap your hands.
If you hate gays and you know, and you really want to show it;
If you hate gays and you know it, it is socially acceptable.

Second verse!
If… you … hate blacks and you know it shut your mouth.
If you hate blacks and you know it shut your mouth.
If you hate blacks and you know it, and you really want to show it;
If you hate blacks and you know it, socially condition your kids to hate them too, only discussing it in the comfort of home and with like-minded friends until an episode of racial bigotry incites violence.

It’ll catch on.

Some sites on the subject:
US News Article
My Blog post with more Brain Links at the bottom
The Tests
The Project Implicit Site

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~ by The Great and Powerful RB on May 3, 2008.

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