Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Nature of Implicit Biases: What Are Yours?

How many of us are remotely aware of the role of implicit bias in governing our social and political choices, or even lesser day to day choices?  Of course, most of us are fully aware of our conscious biases or should be. These are biases we may not be proud of but can acknowledge as being in the open. For example, I have a definite bias against the words or actions against Republican lawmakers I deem untrustworthy such as Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch, and Trey Gowdy. Virtually nothing any of these guys do will be judged as honorable or decent by me.

Then there are the implicit biases or those which which we don't know we have.  These can often only be dredged up by taking sophisticated tests such as the one associated with the link below (available at Harvard):


More specifically, implicit biases are those which we more or less unconsciously absorb over a lifetime - often from the culture itself, These biases, lying below our cognitive radar, then work automatically to color our perceptions and influence our choices.

The recognition of the existence of these hidden biases has given rise to Project Implicit, housed jointly by Harvard, The University of Virginia and the University of Washington.  Using the online test in the link above, some 20,000 responses are collected per week and hundreds of researchers are using the data to predict how people will behave based on their unconscious choices.  To this end, the online test seeks to measure the pervasiveness of dozens of implicit social biases, including those based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, weight, age and religion.

Some of the findings -  based responses from six million test participants -  made over a decade,  are listed below:

-  Some 75 percent of whites, Hispanics and Asians show a bias for whites over African -Americans

- Two thirds of respondents feel better towards heterosexuals than gays.

- The same proportion feels better toward thin people than the obese.

- Just as many African -Americans show a preference for whites as for blacks

-  More than 80 percent showed a bias for the young and these included people over 60.

Basically, Project Implicit arrives at its results by presenting test takers with assorted people shown in photographs and then assessing results based on positive or negative words used.  For example, say I might be shown the image below:

 And then asked to pick the word pair which best conforms with my perception, e.g.

A (stable genius, cool winneror  B (unstable moron, lazy loser slob)

Well, I am pretty certain to select word pair (B) because that conveys to me what the image presents
to my perceptions. (And from what we know already of Dotard's habits, e.g. taking cheese burgers to bed with him, this is fairly spot on.)

In the actual test you select different categories of  Implicit Association Test ( IAT), e.g. one will ask you to distinguish the faces of people who are obese or thin. Another will ask you to recognize photos of Dotard Trump and those of previous presidents.  Another IAT requires the ability to distinguish the symbols related to gay and straight people.  Yet another IAT requires the ability to recognize white or black faces and tell images of weapons from harmless objects.

Give it a try!

My own IAT selection was the one for science, liberal arts and gender links. The result given for my test was:

  1. Your data suggest a strong automatic association for Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts.
This general tabulation of aggregate results was included:

One current ancillary project of the main project is to see whether liberals or conservatives are more enthusiastic about the future. Well, I can tell you now that even in the absence of said results most of the liberals I know are in despair over the future if we don't get rid of the Trump cabal in the net election cycle. Why? Well, how about mercury polluted air (from coal-fired plants), poisoned lakes and rivers, E coli and worm-laden food (thanks to pared back regulations) to start with.  Add on Bird flu and West Nile fever epidemics thanks to cuts to the CDC budget, and the hottest consecutive years in a row - thanks to ramped up climate change.

I am sure at the same time the conservos will just believe the future will be peachy dandy even if Trump gets in a 2nd term-- because if those things do erupt they will dismiss then as "fake news'- ot "what God ordained anyway".

Let's hope that two successive Dem waves-  in 2018 and 2020 - ensure the future is birghter.

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