Sunday, May 11, 2008

Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain

Deep within our subconscious, all of us harbor biases that we consciously abhor. And the worst part is: we act on them

The heading and subheading above are from a recent article in that well-known Greenie publication, "Scientific American". I also reproduce the first part of the article concerned below. The article seems to be aimed towards making us less prejudiced towards outgroups. But the article exists in a reality vacuum. It totally ignores realities such as the incredibly high rate of violent crime among blacks and also ignores most of the research on impression-formation and stereotyping. It is largely a rehash of some well-known work by Banerji and Richeson that I have commented on some time ago.

The "amazing" thing that the researchers found was that whites (and some blacks) are more wary of blacks than they are of whites -- no matter how you measure or detect that. Such a finding would, however, surely surprise only a psychologist. If blacks REALLY ARE more dangerous to others, it is merely psychological good function to be more wary of them than of others. And I don't think even Leftists attempt to deny the high rate of black crime. So to call such perfectly proper wariness in people "bigotry" is itself bigoted. Bigotry is judging people according to a fixed and wrong set of preconceptions and it seems to me that that is exactly how psychologists are judging others when they refer to perfectly normal and adaptive behaviour as bigotry.

The one thing that the research literature on stereotyping shows most clearly is that the "stereotypes" people have in their heads are not usually (Except, perhaps in the case of psychologists) rigid or imprisoning but are highly flexible and responsive to the realities that people encounter (See for instance here and here). That fact fully explains all the behaviour that the psychologists described below view as "bigotry". If blacks change, the perceptions and expectations of them will change -- but I am not holding my breath.

Fortunately, the same literature tells us that once we get to know a particular person as an individual, the importance of the stereotype recedes rapidly -- so that the particular person will then in general be treated as we find him/her, regardless of any expectations we have about the group to which he/she belongs. A rather amusing example of that which I once came across was a white neo-Nazi whose best friend was a very dark-skinned Bengali. And there was another guy who could not stand "Chinks" (East Asians) but who was happily married to one. And Wilhelm Marr, the man who in 1879 invented the term "antisemitism" (he thought it was a good thing), was actually married to a Jewish lady! Psychologists have traditionally seen such behaviour as perverse but a good knowledge of the impression-formation research would have told them that it is normal.
"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life," Jesse Jackson once told an audience, "than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery-then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

Jackson's remark illustrates a basic fact of our social existence, one that even a committed black civil-rights leader cannot escape: ideas that we may not endorse-for example, that a black stranger might harm us but a white one probably would not-can nonetheless lodge themselves in our minds and, without our permission or awareness, color our perceptions, expectations and judgments.

Using a variety of sophisticated methods, psychologists have established that people unwittingly hold an astounding assortment of stereotypical beliefs and attitudes about social groups: black and white, female and male, elderly and young, gay and straight, fat and thin. Although these implicit biases inhabit us all, we vary in the particulars, depending on our own group membership, our conscious desire to avoid bias and the contours of our everyday environments. For instance, about two thirds of whites have an implicit preference for whites over blacks, whereas blacks show no average preference for one race over the other.

Such bias is far more prevalent than the more overt, or explicit, prejudice that we associate with, say, the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis. That is emphatically not to say that explicit prejudice and discrimination have evaporated nor that they are of lesser importance than implicit bias. According to a 2005 federal report, almost 200,000 hate crimes-84 percent of them violent-occur in the U.S. every year.

The persistence of explicit bias in contemporary culture has led some critics to maintain that implicit bias is of secondary concern. But hundreds of studies of implicit bias show that its effects can be equally insidious. Most social psychologists believe that certain scenarios can automatically activate implicit stereotypes and attitudes, which then can affect our perceptions, judgments and behavior. "The data on that are incontrovertible," concludes psychologist Russell H. Fazio of Ohio State University.

Now researchers are probing deeper. They want to know: Where exactly do such biases come from? How much do they influence our outward behavior? And if stereotypes and prejudiced attitudes are burned into our psyches, can learning more about them help to tell each of us how to override them?



Tax revolt in Britain: "Gordon Brown must stop his crippling tax rises or face an election hammering, Cabinet ministers have warned him. They told the beleaguered Prime Minister that millions of decent, hard-working families have been stretched to breaking point by Labour's punishing policies. Warning that the country will revolt against any further drain on dwindling family finances, they used an extraordinary Cabinet meeting to tell the Prime Minister that voters have "reached the limit" of their endurance for his relentless hikes in income tax, fuel duty and council tax. Even Chancellor Alistair Darling is understood to be counselling that Middle Britain cannot take any more financial punishment. And in the first signs of a Cabinet revolt, ministers demanded a halt to any new taxes."

Germany: Court says Muslim girl can't skip swimming: "A Muslim girl in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia cannot skip co-ed swimming lessons because of religious prohibitions against wearing formfitting clothing, a German court ruled on Wednesday. The administrative court in Dusseldorf ruled that the state's responsibility to educate the girl outweighed the potential infringement on her religious freedom. The 12-year-old girl's parents sued her school in the northern German city of Remscheid after the school refused to allow the girl to skip swimming class. Citing religious reasons, the parents said they did not want their daughter to participate because her body would not be covered. The ruling means the girl must participate in swimming lessons starting next week, Sabine Ernst of the Alexander von Humboldt School told German news agency DDP. Ernst declined to state what the consequences could be if the girl declines to attend." [Nil!]

FBI targets Internet Archive, loses: "The Internet Archive, a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity, successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public, civil liberties groups announced Wednesday morning. On November 26, 2007, the FBI served a controversial National Security Letter on the Internet Archive's founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library's registered users, asking for the user's name, address and activity on the site. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive's lawyers, fought the NSL, challenging its constitutionality in a December 14 complaint to a federal court in San Francisco. The FBI agreed on April 21 to withdraw the letter and unseal the court case, making some of the documents available to the public."

An old-fashioned Christian family rich in children: "It's a happy Mother's Day for an Arkansas woman - she's pregnant with her 18th child. Michelle Duggar, 41, is due on New Year's Day, and the latest addition will join seven sisters and 10 brothers. There are two sets of twins. The Duggars' oldest child, Josh, is 20, and the youngest, Jennifer, is nine months old. The fast-growing family lives in Tontitown in northwest Arkansas in a 7,000-square-foot home. All the children - whose names start with the letter J - are home-schooled... Duggar said she's six weeks along and the pregnancy is going well. She and her husband, Jim Bob Duggar, said they'll keep having children as long as God wills it. "The success in a family is first off, a love for God, and secondly, treating each other like you want to be treated," Jim Bob Duggar said. "Our goal is for each one of our children to be best friends, and everybody working together to serve each other makes that happen."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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