March 21, 2007

It's in all of us and I hate it

Writing about web page https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/uk/measureyourattitudes.html

My housemate isn’t a beacon of enlightened thought. He is, however, a very nice chap at heart and I know he believes that we should treat people equally regardless of their background. But he just took an online test that reveals he has bq. a moderate automatic preference for White British over Asian British.

This is not just any old online testing website. No Love Calculator to be found here. It forms part of Project Implicit, an academic project linked to some of the top institutions in the US. They admit the online test isn't perfect, but reading their FAQs reveals the perhaps obvious fact that although it only takes 5 minutes and is pretty simple, it is rather well thought through.

This test is not the only evidence of such bias either. The French charity SOS Racisme sent CVs identical in all but name to companies across France. Those sent out with typically French names had a much higher rate of positive responses than those without and I’m sure similar tests here would yield the same results. Yet, I don’t think this is indicative of conscious racism.

As Project Implicit is designed to demonstrate, this prejudice is so ingrained that it probably has a hold on the most ardent supporters of equality without them even knowing. Racism is about so much more than ill-thinking yobs shouting abuse at innocents. It’s about the preconceptions that we all have of other people.

Clearly, we can’t just kick these off, no matter how much we might want to. They pervade all parts of our society, from job interviews to Top Gear. What do we do then? Long term – I’m not sure. I hope they just slowly fade away, but at present, the opposite may well be happening. In the meantime, an awareness that the problem exists is a start. So that even if we have these prejudices against our will, we can very much consciously try to do our utmost to prevent it clouding our vision.

Go on, take the tests yourself.


- 6 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. Mathew Mannion

    Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for White People compared to Black People.

    :( Stupid ingrained social values.

    21 Mar 2007, 16:12

  2. I think the downside in this sort’ve research and “awareness” is that it exaggerates divisions and problems that are often minimal and serves to breed a victim culture among those affected races or ethnicities. Not to say racism isn’t a problem, but too much of it is made these days, particularly at Warwick where I’m often pondering what our “anti-racism” officer actually does given the miniscule levels of racism that I see on campus.

    22 Mar 2007, 21:14

  3. Gareth Herbert

    I just took that test, it’s a load of crap. It has absolutely nothing to do with ingrained racial values and everything to do with learned association. The first half of the test teaches you to think in a certain way and then the second half asks you to act against the instincts you learned in the first bit, had they done it the other way round I have no doubt whatsoever that these “academics” would have found an ingrained social bias against white people. It’s abusing psychology to make a political point and it’s really cheap.

    23 Mar 2007, 06:43

  4. They do it both ways round. The order changes I believe. They admit the test is an imperfect approximation, but I think the point is well made and is indeed far from cheap.

    23 Mar 2007, 09:10

  5. Fran

    Apparently I’m biased too. I think that science is a white male dominated subject. How stupid of me.

    23 Mar 2007, 14:15

  6. Jonathan

    I got a kick out of the eloquent words spoken by Gareth in comment #2 only to be followed by “I just took that test, it’s a load of crap.” in #3. Well said.

    07 Jun 2007, 03:41


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