Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Our Brains Perceive Race
“'You’re not, like, a total racist bastard,'” David Amodio tells me. He pauses. 'Today.'

I’m sitting in the soft-spoken cognitive neuroscientist’s spotless office nestled within New York University’s psychology department, but it feels like I’m at the doctor’s, getting a dreaded diagnosis. On his giant monitor, Amodio shows me a big blob of data, a cluster of points depicting where people score on the Implicit Association Test. The test measures racial prejudices that we cannot consciously control. I’ve taken it three times now. This time around my uncontrolled prejudice, while clearly present, has come in significantly below the average for white people like me.
You think of yourself as a person who strives to be unprejudiced, but you can’t control these split-second reactions.

That certainly beats the first time I took the IAT online, on the website UnderstandingPrejudice.org. That time, my results showed a 'strong automatic preference' for European Americans over African-Americans. That was not a good thing to hear, but it’s extremely common — 51 percent of online test takers show moderate to strong bias."

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