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Thread: Harvard unconscious bias test

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    My Brane Hertz spikepipsqueak's Avatar
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    Harvard unconscious bias test

    http://implicit.harvard.edu/...n/Register.jsp


    I thought this would be interesting, but the design of it gave me real problems.

    In the aftermath they say that they compensate for order effects, but I did it twice and both times the order in which the questions were presented would tend to confirm an existing unconscious bias by associating negative concepts with gay people prior to the reverse condition.

    I would be interested in your thoughts.

    (Just so you know, I came up with a very slight bias towards straight people. I might need to work on that.)
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    I'd like to help you out, but looks like more work than I'm willing to give on a Monday night. Maybe later in the week.

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    It's come up on here more than once. It's bunk. As you have noticed, it's order-dependent. Thus it's not possible to determine if any given taker is racist, only if there is a trend amongst all the test-takers. Furthermore, I have yet to hear from anyone who got the non-racist paring first.

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    Intergalactic Villainess Angry Floof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spikepipsqueak View Post
    http://implicit.harvard.edu/...n/Register.jsp


    I thought this would be interesting, but the design of it gave me real problems.

    In the aftermath they say that they compensate for order effects, but I did it twice and both times the order in which the questions were presented would tend to confirm an existing unconscious bias by associating negative concepts with gay people prior to the reverse condition.

    I would be interested in your thoughts.

    (Just so you know, I came up with a very slight bias towards straight people. I might need to work on that.)
    Bias plays a role in reactions before the frontal lobes have a chance to rationalize a story about the reaction after the fact. I suspect that might have something to do with why certain people wave off such tests. Not that the tests don't have problems, but you can't argue with a reaction that doesn't wait for the socially acceptable story of the ego to smooth it over and stuff it back down.

    Accepting this reality would also mean taking a view of the reflexive actions of police without regard to the after-the-fact story we want to believe about police. It's also a lot easier to continue ignoring the cultural and social influences that instill, perpetuate, and reinforce bias in otherwise good people.
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    Without actually doing the test, I'm of the perspective that bias is deeply ingrained in our instincts. Even before culture our sensory systems have ways to discriminate - this thing stands out among these other things, this object is bright, this object is moving faster than other objects. It's very likely that these neural systems were widespread long before humans evolved, and there was any kind of language for the concept of racism.

    So I'd think gravitating towards things that are like us, and avoiding things that aren't like us has real survival value. For instance, if I were to walk through a neighborhood in the Central African Republic as a wealthy, white man, I wouldn't last an hour. So this kind of natural fear that people have tends to keep them safe when they would otherwise be too stupid to avoid a situation that very likely could be dangerous. IOW, there is much more survival benefit to be had from racist attitudes overall, than the converse, which is why racism persists.

    So with that in mind I'd assume that literally everyone experiences unconscious bias towards everyone and everything that's different from them. You can try to teach it away, but realistically we're fighting hundreds of million, if not billions of years of evolution.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Without actually doing the test, I'm of the perspective that bias is deeply ingrained in our instincts. Even before culture our sensory systems have ways to discriminate - this thing stands out among these other things, this object is bright, this object is moving faster than other objects. It's very likely that these neural systems were widespread long before humans evolved, and there was any kind of language for the concept of racism.

    So I'd think gravitating towards things that are like us, and avoiding things that aren't like us has real survival value. For instance, if I were to walk through a neighborhood in the Central African Republic as a wealthy, white man, I wouldn't last an hour. So this kind of natural fear that people have tends to keep them safe when they would otherwise be too stupid to avoid a situation that very likely could be dangerous. IOW, there is much more survival benefit to be had from racist attitudes overall, than the converse, which is why racism persists.

    So with that in mind I'd assume that literally everyone experiences unconscious bias towards everyone and everything that's different from them. You can try to teach it away, but realistically we're fighting hundreds of million, if not billions of years of evolution.
    You're ignoring the role of enculturation here. Yes, biased reactions are instinctive, and occur faster than conscious thought. But that doesn't make every biased reaction natural and inevitable; we are applying learned social categories when we, say, immediately assume someone's social class or mental state familiar to us only due to our shared expectations of dress and comportment. In an unfamiliar culture, suddenly all those familiar markers are gone, and you have relearn what it looks like to be poor or rich or crazy or sane or Indian or Malay.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Without actually doing the test, I'm of the perspective that bias is deeply ingrained in our instincts. Even before culture our sensory systems have ways to discriminate - this thing stands out among these other things, this object is bright, this object is moving faster than other objects. It's very likely that these neural systems were widespread long before humans evolved, and there was any kind of language for the concept of racism.

    So I'd think gravitating towards things that are like us, and avoiding things that aren't like us has real survival value. For instance, if I were to walk through a neighborhood in the Central African Republic as a wealthy, white man, I wouldn't last an hour. So this kind of natural fear that people have tends to keep them safe when they would otherwise be too stupid to avoid a situation that very likely could be dangerous. IOW, there is much more survival benefit to be had from racist attitudes overall, than the converse, which is why racism persists.

    So with that in mind I'd assume that literally everyone experiences unconscious bias towards everyone and everything that's different from them. You can try to teach it away, but realistically we're fighting hundreds of million, if not billions of years of evolution.
    You're ignoring the role of enculturation here. Yes, biased reactions are instinctive, and occur faster than conscious thought. But that doesn't make every biased reaction natural and inevitable; we are applying learned social categories when we, say, immediately assume someone's social class or mental state familiar to us only due to our shared expectations of dress and comportment. In an unfamiliar culture, suddenly all those familiar markers are gone, and you have relearn what it looks like to be poor or rich or crazy or sane or Indian or Malay.
    Perhaps, although I'd argue that enculturation naturally emanates from our inclination to judge and discriminate, and not vice versa. In a new situation we need to understand others in reference to ourselves so we know when there's, e.g. danger, an ally, a potential mate. This means that we're constantly judging and discriminating through everything we come across. So in your example of an unfamiliar culture you do need to re-learn, but you're still doing the same type of discrimination for the same reasons.

    This process starts with our ability to discern things as simple as is their skin the same colour as mine, is their face symmetrical, and so on. As for as calling them natural and inevitable, I don't know, specific biases can have a lot of variation, but I do believe that they can be reduced right to our sensory systems, which to me implies that that we're natural discriminators to some extent.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Without actually doing the test, I'm of the perspective that bias is deeply ingrained in our instincts. Even before culture our sensory systems have ways to discriminate - this thing stands out among these other things, this object is bright, this object is moving faster than other objects. It's very likely that these neural systems were widespread long before humans evolved, and there was any kind of language for the concept of racism.

    So I'd think gravitating towards things that are like us, and avoiding things that aren't like us has real survival value. For instance, if I were to walk through a neighborhood in the Central African Republic as a wealthy, white man, I wouldn't last an hour. So this kind of natural fear that people have tends to keep them safe when they would otherwise be too stupid to avoid a situation that very likely could be dangerous. IOW, there is much more survival benefit to be had from racist attitudes overall, than the converse, which is why racism persists.

    So with that in mind I'd assume that literally everyone experiences unconscious bias towards everyone and everything that's different from them. You can try to teach it away, but realistically we're fighting hundreds of million, if not billions of years of evolution.
    You're ignoring the role of enculturation here. Yes, biased reactions are instinctive, and occur faster than conscious thought. But that doesn't make every biased reaction natural and inevitable; we are applying learned social categories when we, say, immediately assume someone's social class or mental state familiar to us only due to our shared expectations of dress and comportment. In an unfamiliar culture, suddenly all those familiar markers are gone, and you have relearn what it looks like to be poor or rich or crazy or sane or Indian or Malay.
    Perhaps, although I'd argue that enculturation naturally emanates from our inclination to judge and discriminate, and not vice versa. In a new situation we need to understand others in reference to ourselves so we know when there's, e.g. danger, an ally, a potential mate. This means that we're constantly judging and discriminating through everything we come across. So in your example of an unfamiliar culture you do need to re-learn, but you're still doing the same type of discrimination for the same reasons.

    This process starts with our ability to discern things as simple as is their skin the same colour as mine, is their face symmetrical, and so on. As for as calling them natural and inevitable, I don't know, specific biases can have a lot of variation, but I do believe that they can be reduced right to our sensory systems, which to me implies that that we're natural discriminators to some extent.
    We're natural discriminators, but the categories we use are arbitrary and acquired through social contact. Twenty years ago, most Americans would have barely noticed someone walking by in a hijab. Today, many people will have a miniature panic attack. That's not because they evolved a new perceptive organ to detect Muslims, it's because they were trained to interpret the perceptive data they already had in a new way. What yesterday was white noise is now information; processed too quickly for conscious thought to check because our amygdala is like that. Trainable but not preventable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    Perhaps, although I'd argue that enculturation naturally emanates from our inclination to judge and discriminate, and not vice versa. In a new situation we need to understand others in reference to ourselves so we know when there's, e.g. danger, an ally, a potential mate. This means that we're constantly judging and discriminating through everything we come across. So in your example of an unfamiliar culture you do need to re-learn, but you're still doing the same type of discrimination for the same reasons.

    This process starts with our ability to discern things as simple as is their skin the same colour as mine, is their face symmetrical, and so on. As for as calling them natural and inevitable, I don't know, specific biases can have a lot of variation, but I do believe that they can be reduced right to our sensory systems, which to me implies that that we're natural discriminators to some extent.
    We're natural discriminators, but the categories we use are arbitrary and acquired through social contact. Twenty years ago, most Americans would have barely noticed someone walking by in a hijab. Today, many people will have a miniature panic attack. That's not because they evolved a new perceptive organ to detect Muslims, it's because they were trained to interpret the perceptive data they already had in a new way. What yesterday was white noise is now information; processed too quickly for conscious thought to check because our amygdala is like that. Trainable but not preventable.
    That's fair, I definitely wouldn't argue that racism can't be minimized, but I do think that it's ever-present on some level.

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    My Brane Hertz spikepipsqueak's Avatar
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    rousseau, I haven't time to argue the "millions of years" proposal properly, but they've pretty well shown that kids don't discriminate on the basis of race until adults model it for them.
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