Friday, September 22, 2006

Racist everyman, what have you done?

I found the following test from Malcom Gladwell's Blink. It's a book about the unconsious, split second judgements that guide our descisions.

None of us think they are racist. And in truth, most of us aren't. But what about the unconsious prejudices? Take the following test. Go to, the demonstration, the "Race IAT" and let's be honest about our scores, shall we? Take it twice. I did. After a few of us have taken the test I'll share my results.


Steph said...

Your Result:
Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between European American and African American.

That's a really interesting test. What was your result? Mine is above.

jo said...

mine was little to no automatic preference. I don't know if that would really tell you. I think it is just trying to trick you into associating african american with bad.

gk said...

C'mon people, it'll take 10 minutes and the results should get some nice discussion going.

Here, I'll even make it easier to follow the links:

Adam said...

Geoff - thanks for posting this. I think there is really something to it (certainly not perfect but good nonetheless). Led to a good conversation last night with Brooke and our fellow house-mate.

My result was moderate preference for Eurpoean Americans.

Of course, I don't really like my result (especially with all the cool non-prejudiced people responding) but I think there is something to it - something I need to be aware of. And that's really a main thing to take away from this test - awareness that these underlying prejudices exist. Of course the next step is what to do about it.

I think I will encourage people on my blog to take the test and come over and join this discussion. They may be too chicken though. But I have to admit - I didn't want to reveal my moderate result either...

gk said...

It's annoying that steph and jo took this first. They are in the vast minority of people who show no or little preference. The majority of people - both white and black, interestingly - show a automatic preference for European-Americans.

So you shoulnd't feel too strange about showing a preference. I showed strong preference the first time I took it, convinced myself it was a fluke, took it again, and showed a moderate preference the second time.

Adam said...

Yeah, I think it is very interesting that both white and black seem to show the automatic preference. However, blacks show it in different percentages than whites. Certainly this shows that the test has some validity. If it were merely a matter of trickery, etc, then it would seem that the results would not be so different for whites and blacks. I find this very intriguing and will actually be using it in a class I teach and I have passed it on to numerous people. Thanks again for sharing this.

What do you think we (and others) should take from the results?

By the way, I was really blown away when I took it how my answer time was so much slower when the categories were switched. It really affected me.

gk said...

I took it one more time to be sure and sure enough, I showed a "moderate" automatic preference. It's really frustrating to me that my brain keeps giving me the same results. But then, Gladwell said he got the same results and he's half-Jamacian.

As disturbing, I took the gender IAT and I showed a strong automatic association of male-science and female-arts & humanities. As a teacher - to primarily minority students - these results are kind of frightening to me.

As for why we generally think the way we do, I'm sure it can be placed anywhere, from how African Americans are generally portrayed in the media to the environment in which we were raised.

Furthermore, the research shows that if a person is shown images of Martin Luther King and other prominant African Americans who affected the world positively before taking the Race IAT, they tend to show a stronger preference for blacks.

I should say that I wasn't crazy about the book blink but there were three or four sections that were very interesting.

mary said...

Brooke, Adam and I had a good discussion about this test and its issues last night. So now I've taken the leap and:

I had a "slight" automatic preference for European Americans.

Thanks for posting the link, and spurring discussion!

Amy said...

I got here from Adam's blog.

I honestly can't remember if my preference for European Americans was "slight" or "moderate". But I was also disappointed in my slower response time when the categories were switched.

I know it's not enough to say, "Oh, wow, great test, I'm disappointed in my results", but I don't honestly know how to change the way I think. Being aware of it is certainly the first, and often biggest step, as has been said already. I guess a next step is to be aware of my subconcious prejudices when I'm interacting with others--whatever their race--and do my best to change my mind.

Anonymous said...

Hey Geoff...did you see my comments in the post that ended with something about 'Danny'...? --Liz

I took it twice...both times showed a "strong automatic preference for African American". Which doesn't surprise me, I admit. Even though there's probably not a whiter person on this planet than yours truly (except perhaps my husband), I have always thought dark skin was gorgeous, always been captivated by the street children in Haiti- just certain that one of those cocoa-skinned, inky-eyed blessings is just waiting for me to finish saving the money, complete the adoption process, and go get her.

Even so, I was a little surprised by "strong automatic preference"...I like to bill myself as completely colorblind with no preferences whatsoever based upon appearances or indeed anything about human beings that is completely out of our control. Hmmmm.

gk said...

It's a good question of "I show a preference, now what?" Do we try to be less prejudice? I don't think that's the point. The whole point is that this is unconsious. It goes on behind closed doors. And the sad reality is that it probably won't change much barring a total life change, and even then, well, you saw that even blacks showed an automatic preference to European Americans.

The final chapter of blink presents the idea that in truth, you probably cannot control those instantaneous judgements. That's pretty much the point of the book - the power of "thin-slicing." But what you can control are the circumstances in which these split-second descisions are made.

Gladwell uses the scenario of police brutality to illustrate this point. Most instances of police brutality occur A) after lengthy high-speed car chases, which cause participants have heart rates that would cause them to be deemed legally insane, beyond reason, and B) when the officers get out of their squad bar abruptly and approach the perp, still in this altered state of mind.

However, he presents some task forces have instituted a rule that an officer involved in a chase may not leave his car once it's over, and must wait for backup.

That's the kind of control we have. We cannot control the fact that we become irrational after 45 minutes of driving 150 mph through traffic, chasing an armed suspect. But that which we can control could be the difference between an urban riot and a routine arrest.

I'm not totally satisfied with that answer, but it'll have to do I suppose.

Rishi said...

I showed little to no automatic preference.

Whew! For a second, I thought I might fail like a black person!