Are you racially biased?
But if you don’t believe me, you can find out for yourself – there are tests for that.
By clicking on the video below, you can test your implicit bias.
Above: Video clip, taken from The Truth About Racism.
First, you will see two faces, representing two different races. Each face initially appears on the screen with a happy look. The test participant is asked to note the number that corresponds with the point at which they believe the face becomes 'angry'.
Although each face in the video morphs into an angry expression at the same time, viewers who are implicitly biased may think that each character becomes angry at a different times.
Another test is the Implicit Association Test (IAT), developed by scientists as a way to look at people’s unconscious biases – including those about race and gender. Using a variety of images, it usually measures a person's attitude to a concept by determining an automatic association between the mental representation of the subject matter and our memory.
The test, developed in the late 90s, has also cleared the path for other tests to reveal hidden racial bias, like the one featured in the video below.
The truth about the IAT
The social psychology test is not new. It was first introduced almost 30 years ago in the USA and has garnered plenty of controversy since.
Scientists don’t all agree on how reliable it is – they’ve warned against using the test to inform policy or other major decisions. It’s important that users don’t try and over-interpret their results – and have a good look through the information on Project Implicit’s website before taking the test themselves.
The test is important because it allows psychologists to look at people’s attitudes, whether or not they are willing or able to report them independently.
For example, an individual who smokes four packs a day may only admit to smoking just two – because they are ashamed to reveal the true extent of their habit. Alternatively, they might genuinely believe that they do only smoke two packs a day.
It’s only because we’re unable to see our own racism that we don’t acknowledge it.
In one instance, the individual is unwilling to give a correct answer, whereas in the other they are unable to give the correct answer.
What do you do if you are implicitly racist?
Most of us (I hope) would describe ourselves as ‘not racist’, but the IAT would most likely prove otherwise. It’s only because we’re unable to see our own racism that we don’t acknowledge it.
While the test is a quick and easy way to give you an idea of your own levels of underlying bias, it’s important to emphasise that racism itself isn’t exactly something which can be easily explained away by a nifty little app.
It’s crucial that we, as a society, understand and acknowledge that that racism as a whole is a complex cultural phenomenon. What the IAT allows us to do is to start us on the path of basically taking a long hard look at ourselves.
Unfortunately, we tend to feel less empathy for people who don’t look like us (out-groups) than those who do (in-groups).
While this attitude may not be entirely our fault, there are ways that we can stop it from affecting our day-to-day decisions.
And the first step on the road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.
The IAT is based on categorisation of words or images (i.e. subjects) into two distinct groups, which are placed on either side of the display.
As the test progresses, instead of each side of the display being designated as one category, it’s designated as two – of which only one can the subject flashing up on the screen be assigned to. For example, is the word ‘yellow’ associated with the category ‘primary colour’/ ‘indoors’ or ‘secondary colour’/ ‘outdoors’? At the end of each round, the placement of each category changes.
If you answer the questions too slowly, the test is unable to calculate your result.
Based on the time it takes you to assign each subject to a category, as well as the error rate, your ‘implicit bias’ can be estimated. Does it take you longer to decide whether ‘pain’ belongs with ‘black person’/’good’ or ‘white person’/ ‘bad’ than it did to decide whether it belongs with ‘black person’/’bad’ or ‘white person’/’good’?
If yes, then that’s Racism – 1, You – nil.
The good news is, though, there are ways we can re-train our brains to become less biased.
By mixing with people from other races, consuming content created by and for groups other than our own and increasing our overall empathy, we can begin to reduce our own unconscious racism.