03 March 2006

Am I (are you) a racist?

There is some really interesting research being done on people's unconscious associations between various topics. The most famous is the Harvard race study, but there are lots of them out there (some on less controversial topics). If you want to take any tests that indicate your level of implicit association (racial or otherwise), go here.

The race study involves putting images and words into catagories such as "pleasant" and "unpleasant" as quickly as possible. Much to my chagrin, I found it easier to place positive words into the positive catagory when it was "positive or European American" than when it was "positive or African American". Though, this could also be attributed to that being the last test and so I was getting better at the game itself (but probably more to do with sub-conscious filters). The more interesting question is why do I have these associations? Because I am white? Because of my experiences? Because of some cultural imprint?

It should be noted, however, than humans are the only animal known to be able to override these instinctual responses. My conscious mind can choose not to let these associations govern my interactions or be the basis for my decision making.

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