Retraining the biased brain
Is it possible to break people of unconscious prejudice?
One researcher’s work suggests it is.
BY BRIDGET MURRAY LAW
Researchers have long suspected that many people hold implicit prejudices — immediate, unconscious biases against people of other races and ethnicities.
These biases show up on tasks in which people rapidly
match negative and positive words with black and white faces.
It turns out that they are quicker to match the positive words to
the white faces and the negative words to the black faces.
In fact, about 80 percent to 90 percent of white people show
this bias, said prejudice researcher Patricia Devine, PhD, at an
APA 2011 Annual Convention session.
But most of the time people don’t realize they have these
biases, instead believing that they are open-minded and blind
to race. Meanwhile, a growing number of leading scholars in
the prejudice field, such as Princeton University’s Susan Fiske,
PhD, implicate this unseen bias in fueling discrimination, said
“Implicit biases are associated with a wide range of
discriminatory outcomes,” she said, “everything from seemingly
mundane ones — like how close or far you sit to someone or
the kind of eye contact you make with them in an intergroup
situation — to undeniably consequential ones like being denied
an employment opportunity or being less likely to receive
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