The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘Implicit Associations’

Racial Attitudes in the Presidential Race

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 29, 2009

From Project Implicit Blog:

An article by Project Implicit researchers published this month in Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy reports evidence that both implicit and explicit race attitudes were related to intended vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. 1,057 registered voters completed a study conducted at Project Implicit’s research website during the week before the presidential election. The participants completed multiple measures of racial attitudes including self-reported feelings of warmth toward Blacks and Whites, a measure of “symbolic” racism, two implicit measures of racial attitudes – a brief version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the Affective Misattribution Procedure (AMP), and reported their intended vote. Analyses suggested that participants who showed strong implicit and self-reported favoring of Whites compared to Blacks were also more likely to intend to vote for John McCain instead of Barack Obama. Collectively, the four race attitude measures accounted for 21% of the variation in intended vote. Further, after including liberalism-conservatism that is a (strong) predictor of vote and related to race attitudes, the race attitude measures still predicted 2% (p-value = 10e-24) of voting intention variance. Also, implicit and self-reported racial attitude measures each contributed unique predictive validity of intended vote. Of course, like any study of these relations, the data are correlational leaving open the possibility of unseen third-variables that are determinants of both racial attitudes and intended vote. However, in the absence of plausible alternative accounts, these results strongly suggest that race attitudes played a role in determining the 2008 Presidential vote.

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For a sample or related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Pollworkers and Voting Booths – Abstract,” The Racial Situation of Voting,” “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” “The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters,” On Being a Mindful Voter,” “Implicit Associations in the 2008 Presidential Election,” “The Situation of Political Animals,” and “Your Brain on Politics.”

To visit the Project Implicit website and find out more about implicit associations, click here. You can take the Policy IAT here.

Posted in Abstracts, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Measuring Implicit Attitudes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 28, 2009

From University of Washington News

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Study supports validity of test that indicates widespread unconscious bias

In the decade since the Implicit Association Test was introduced, its most surprising and controversial finding is its indication that about 70 percent of those who took a version of the test that measures racial attitudes have an unconscious, or implicit, preference for white people compared to blacks. This contrasts with figures generally under 20 percent for self report, or survey, measures of race bias.

A new study (pdf here) validates those findings, showing that the Implicit Association Test, a psychological tool, has validity in predicting behavior and, in particular, that it has significantly greater validity than self-reports in the socially sensitive topics of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age.

The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is an overview and analysis of 122 published and unpublished reports of 184 different research studies. In this analysis, 85 percent of the studies also included self-reporting measures of the type generally used in surveys. This allowed the researchers, headed by University of Washington psychology Professor Anthony Greenwald, to compare the test’s success in predicting social behavior and judgment with the success of self-reports.

“In socially sensitive areas, especially black-white interracial behavior, the test had significantly greater predictive value than self-reports. This finding establishes the Implicit Association Test’s value in research to understand the roots of race and other discrimination,” said Greenwald. “What was especially surprising was how ineffective standard self-report measurers were in the areas in which the test measures have been of greatest interest – predicting interracial behavior.”

Greenwald created the Implicit Association Test in 1998 and he and [Situationist Contributor] Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard psychology professor, and [Situationist Contributor] Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia associate professor of psychology, further developed it. Since then the test has been used in more than 1,000 research studies around the world. More than 10 million versions of the test have been completed at an Internet site where they are available as a self-administer demonstration.

The research looked at studies covering nine different areas – consumer preference, black-white interracial behavior, personality differences, clinical phenomena, alcohol and drug use, non-racial intergroup behavior, gender and sexual orientation, close relationships and political preferences.

Findings also showed that:

  • Across all nine of these areas, measures of the test were useful in predicting social behavior.
  • Both the test, which is implicit, and self-reports, which are explicit, had predictive validity independent of each other. This suggests the desirability of using both types of measure in surveys and applied research studies.
  • In consumer and political preferences both measures effectively predicted behavior, but self-reports had significantly greater predictive validity.

Studies in the research came from a number of countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Poland and the United States. They looked at such topics as attitudes of undecided voters one-month prior to an Italian election; treatment recommendations by physicians for black and white heart attack victims; and reactions to spiders before and after treatment for arachnophobia, or spider phobia.

“The Implicit Association Test is controversial because many people believe that racial bias is largely a thing of the past. The test’s finding of a widespread, automatic form of race preference violates people’s image of tolerance and is hard for them to accept. When you are unaware of attitudes or stereotypes, they can unintentionally affect your behavior. Awareness can help to overcome this unwanted influence,” said Greenwald.

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To visit the Project Implicit website and find out more about implicit associations, click here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see What Are the Legal Implications of Implicit Biases?,” Confronting the Backlash against Implicit Bias,” “Do You Implicitly Prefer Markets or Regulation?,” Legal Academic Backlash – Abstract,” “Naïve Cynicism in Election 2008: Dispositionism v. Situationism?,”  “Implicit Bias and Strawmen.”and “The Situation of Situation in Employment Discrimination Law – Abstract.”  For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Social Neuroscience and the Study of Racial Biases

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 26, 2009

Social Neuroscience

From Eureka Alert:

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Overt expressions of bigotry are relatively infrequent, but current psychological research finds that racial biases often lurk in the unconscious mind, influencing behavior in subtle ways without one’s intent. Under a five-year, $834,000 National Science Foundation CAREER award, New York University Psychology Assistant Professor David Amodio is examining the dynamics of such unconscious, or “implicit,” racial associations, through research that aims to advance our basic understanding of how neural mechanisms of learning and memory function in social behavior. The award is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Amodio and his colleagues are conducting research that links emotional and conceptual (i.e., stereotyping) forms of implicit racial bias to different systems of learning and memory in the brain. By linking implicit bias to neural processes, he can apply knowledge from existing scholarship on how these systems learn and unlearn, and how they interact with mechanisms for cognition, emotion, and behavior, to obtain a novel perspective on the dynamics of racial prejudice.

Amodio’s research simultaneously addresses two critical sets of questions in cognitive neuroscience and social psychology: One, how are implicit associations in memory represented in the brain and expressed in social behavior?; and, two, how do non-conscious forms of prejudice and stereotyping operate in the mind and behavior, and how can their effects in society be reduced? The integration of ideas and methods from social psychology and cognitive neuroscience, exemplified in Amodio’s project, characterizes the emerging field of social neuroscience.

In conjunction with his research on the neural mechanisms of intergroup bias, Amodio’s award will support the development of a new program for training and research in social neuroscience at NYU, which will build on the university’s existing strengths in social psychology and neuroscience. As a young, but fast-growing field, this program will be among the first of its kind.

As part of the broader educational activities associated with the project, Amodio and his team will engage students and young researchers from underrepresented groups in science and discovery through school visits and opportunities for students to become involved in aspects of the research. The proposed work will capitalize on the vast diversity of New York City, which affords the unique opportunity to reach out to K-12 schools, colleges, and community groups in disadvantaged areas. As a whole, this integrated research and educational plan is designed to promote science and education while redressing racial discrimination.

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To visit the Social Neurosciene Lab webiste, click here.  To review other Situationist posts about neuroscience, click here, for those about implicit associations, click here.

Posted in Education, Emotions, Implicit Associations, Neuroscience | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The Interior Situation of Trial Judges – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 14, 2009

blind-justiceJeffrey Rachlinski , Sheri Lynn Johnson, Andrew Wistrich, and Chris Guthrie, recently posted their fascinating article, “Does Unconscious Racial Bias Affect Trial Judges?” (84 Notre Dame Law Review (2009)) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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Race matters in the criminal justice system. Black defendants appear to fare worse than similarly situated white defendants. Why? Implicit bias is one possibility. Researchers, using a well-known measure called the implicit association test, have found that most white Americans harbor implicit bias toward Black Americans. Do judges, who are professionally committed to egalitarian norms, hold these same implicit biases? And if so, do these biases account for racially disparate outcomes in the criminal justice system? We explored these two research questions in a multi-part study involving a large sample of trial judges drawn from around the country. Our results – which are both discouraging and encouraging – raise profound issues for courts and society. We find that judges harbor the same kinds of implicit biases as others; that these biases can influence their judgment; but that given sufficient motivation, judges can compensate for the influence of these biases.

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To download the article for free, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “What Are the Legal Implications of Implicit Biases?,” “Brooks on the Situation of Judging,” and “The Situation of Judicial Activism.”  For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Law | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of College Education: Why Going for the Money Makes Sense for Some Prep Players

Posted by Jason Chung on August 31, 2009

Would you turn down a multi-million dollar contract in order to play for free? How about an education? This athlete did.

Meet 17-year-old Enes Kanter. For any basketball fan, the scouting report on this Swiss-born Turkish basketball player is enticing: a physical specimen at 6’9″-6’10” who possesses superior positioning and is a “clever defender.” A few months ago, at an age when most of his peers are working part-time jobs in the service industry or on a factory floor, Kanter played in the Euroleague (widely touted to be the world’s second-best professional league) against grown men and recorded 5 points, 3 rebounds and a steal in a mere 10 minutes of game time. Expectations are that the precocious Kanter will grow a few inches, improve on his already advanced offensive game, and bulk up nicely over the next few years.

Needless to say, professional scouts on both sides of the Atlantic have been tracking Kanter for some time as sweet-shooting, defensively oriented 7-footers are rare. Indeed, this is a sport where players such as Pavel Podkolzin and Nikoloz Tskitishvili were considered worthy of first-round NBA draft status based on little more than their height and alleged coordination (which, sadly, did not translate into professional production).

Hailing from Europe, Kanter enjoys various professional options to exploit his physical attributes. Since players in the European leagues do not have to enter an entry draft with an age floor and can technically sign with any team, Kanter could opt to play professionally straight away for an impressive salary. Indeed, according to Evan Daniels of Foxsports.com and Scout.com, Kanter has two solid offers right now – Greek superclub Olympiakos is offering $2 million per year for two seasons and an unspecified Turkish club is offering a five-year, $6 million offer.

Enes Kanter has listened to the offers and is doing the almost inconceivable. He is turning them down, and is opting to play for free.  Instead of honing his craft as a highly paid professional in the European leagues, Kanter has chosen to enroll at Findlay Prep and play against American high school players with an eye to entering college in 2010. Why? According to Kanter, he wants a quality education.

Predictably, Kanter’s decision has been hailed by some as a triumph against materialism and as an example of maturity. In Daniels’ story, he quotes Findlay assistant coach Todd Simon who had this to say:

“He’s a pioneer in his decision-making to turn down a lot of money to make a mature decision for a just-turned-17-year old. He put his education ahead of the instant gratification of wealth and even more, fame in his own country.”

In stark contrast lies the case of Brandon Jennings. In 2008, Jennings opted to be the first highly ranked prep school player to spurn an elite-level college scholarship in order to play as a professional abroad. As noted by Adrian Wojnarowski many questioned Jennings and rooted for him to fail.  Most were concerned that Jennings’ decision would shatter the altogether too-cozy relationship between the NCAA and NBA (which Situationist contributor Michael McCann argues is evidenced by the establishment of the NBA age floor) by creating an exodus of talent to Europe. Others, however, adopted a more paternalistic approach by chiding Jennings for setting a bad example by forsaking “a good education.” According to critics such as former NBA star Jalen Rose, it would have been preferable for Jennings to get an education while working on his game.

Though it is true that education is an admirable goal, those who laud Kanter and choose to question Jennings for their educational choices may be making a fundamental error – they neglect to consider the external circumstances driving the decisions of these two young men. That is, they neglect the situation in which these two very different athletes found themselves.

Consider Kanter’s situation. As noted by reporters such as Daniels and Ismael Senol, Kanter comes from what can only be described as a privileged upbringing. Kanter’s father is a well-known professor and doctor and through interaction with his father Kanter appears to have “inherited an analytical mind.” Kanter is apparently a model student, has a stable home life, and can count on his parents for both financial and emotional support when making his move abroad. Given those advantages, Kanter’s decision to go to college seems the right choice for his future.

Kanter’s case is not unique – there are other recent cases which seemingly suggest that affluence plays a large role in pursuing or continuing educational opportunities.  Let us first look at the situation of Joakim Noah.  As noted by Michael McCann in 2006, Noah gave up the virtual certainty of being a top-two pick in a weak 2006 NBA Draft in favour of returning to the University of Florida as a junior.  Noah claimed that he loved university life and wanted a chance to repeat as NCAA champion.

Noah’s decision was a risky one for three key reasons.  First, there was the risk of injury.  As shown multiple times throughout sports history, a sudden injury can either weaken or eliminate a prospect’s draft chances.  For instance, in the most recent NBA Draft, the University of Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair dropped from a possible lottery pick to a second-round selection due to health concerns which resurfaced when he re-aggravated a pre-existing knee injury during his draft year.  The drop cost Blair a guaranteed roster spot and millions of dollars.  Second, the 2007 NBA Draft contained a much deeper pool of prospects – several of which were more highly-touted than the workmanlike Noah.  Any drop in draft status entails severe economic implications for draftees in the NBA.  As highlighted by McCann, a drop of several spots at the top of the draft translates into a loss of millions of dollars over the course of a guaranteed three-year contract.  Finally, a compelling reason for Noah to leave for the NBA rested in the fact that older college stars tend to be less desirable in the NBA Draft.  A phenomenon noted by several draft experts and sports columnists, many NBA teams draft on potential rather than actual production which skews the top of the draft in favour of underclassmen.

Noah, then, had a multitude of excellent reasons to declare for the NBA Draft in 2006 but didn’t.  Why?  Well, simply put Noah was in a situation where he could afford the risks — his father is former French tennis star and multi-millionaire Yannick Noah.  Clearly, the safety net provided by having a rich, celebrity father gave Noah an obvious advantage over his peers — the luxury of being able to snub guaranteed millions and not have it affect the lifestyle to which he was accustomed.

The socioeconomic advantages enjoyed by Noah over the average prep or college player are, to be fair, extreme.  However, another case shows that affluence need not be measured in absolute terms.  Relative familial financial security allows young players to pursue education as well.

Consider Myron Rolle.  A starting safety at the famed Florida State University football program, Rolle was considered a strong first-round possibility in the 2009 NFL Draft by several scouting agencies.  However, Rolle took the 2009-2010 year off in order to something unexpected (and laudable) – become a Rhodes Scholar.

Rolle’s choice for education over an immediate payday is remarkable by any measure but more so when considering that his family is not rich but instead are Bahamian immigrants to the U.S. who hold solidly middle-income employment.  The immediate financial security, then, afforded by almost certainly becoming a multi-million dollar first-round pick in the NFL Draft surely means comparatively more to Rolle than to Noah.  In addition, Rolle certainly faces similar considerations to Noah while delaying his entry into his professional draft – one accident during his stay in England could conceivably end his time as a highly-touted pro football propect.  However, similarly to the case of the upper middle-class Kanter, Rolle’s relatively secure family and financial situation affords him the choice of possibly jeopardizing one dream, that of an NFL payday, in order to fulfill his educational ambition.

Now, one may (rightfully) argue that the prestige conferred by a Rhodes scholarship may also lead to financial stability for Rolle should he choose continue along his desired academic path.  This observation is true enough – a Rhodes scholarship has traditionally been a gateway to further socioeconomic and academic success.  However, this consideration should not overshadow one central and incontrovertible fact – Myron Rolle had the liberty of taking time and risking guaranteed money to pursue an academic endeavour.

Given the above examples, it would seem that the absolute stability afforded by Noah’s privileged upbringing as well as the relative stability afforded by Kanter and Rolle’s socioeconomic situation allowed these young men to make the decision to continue their status as students and student-athletes.  But what if one’s situation isn’t so fortunate?

Take the case of Brandon Jennings – a young man from a different reality. Born and raised in Compton, California (a locale so notorious that it was the titular place name in the song “Straight Outta Compton” – one of anthems of the anti-police gangsta rap era), Jennings’ father committed suicide when he was 8 years old. From that point on, “It was hard for the Jennings family to stay in one place and they ended up going from home to home throughout Los Angeles, sometimes even all 3 of them staying in a one-bedroom apartment.” Consequently when Jennings reached college age, he was faced with a choice between being a one-and-done freshman student-athlete (provided that he was even academically eligible) or playing for money in Europe – Jennings’ circumstances simply made any risk of injury while playing for a prolonged period as a student-athlete too great.

Advised by basketball legend Sonny Vaccaro, Jennings chose the road less traveled and for his troubles he earned a seven-figure salary ($1.2 million), sponsorship money from Under Armour, learned how to conduct himself as a professional athlete and gained an appreciation for those living abroad amongst different cultures (“It’s tough man… It can break you.”). Best of all for Jennings, his gambit seemed to pay off and he was drafted No. 10 overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2009 NBA Draft. In short, Jennings helped his family secure their finances by forsaking his college eligibility. It is hard to argue, given Jennings’ circumstances, that he didn’t make the more difficult and arguably more mature decision for himself and his family.

Given that all these young athletes made seemingly informed, mature personal decisions, why is that Jennings has been ostracized by some quarters while the others have largely escaped such scrutiny? The answer may lie in the fact that our moral reasoning does not rest in an evidentiary basis. As Jonathan Haidt notes, “Most people gave no real evidence for their positions, and most made no effort to look for evidence opposing their initial positions.” As long as their point of view “makes sense” there is little reason to question their knee-jerk reaction.

Jennings’ position – that of rejecting a college athletic scholarship – unquestionably evokes a stronger negative reaction in the American psyche. In America, those with higher education are often better employed, possess higher earning power, and are considered a better fit for the modern economy than those without such an advantage. It is drilled into the minds of most Americans that higher education is the way to go in order to attain professional and personal success. In addition, for student-athletes, playing in the NCAA is viewed as the traditional way in which to interest NBA teams and to raise your draft profile. Jennings bucked conventional wisdom and the resulting immediate reaction on the part of some of the public and NBA analysts like Rose was to question the motivations, financial and otherwise, behind this decision.

This initial reaction is simply not supported by facts. As compellingly argued by Michael McCann, players who entered the league with no college experience between 1995 and 2003 enjoyed, on average, more professional success and greater financial security than those who attended college (prior to the institution of the age floor, these would primarily be prep-to-pro players). In addition, McCann found that modern student-athletes spend a disproportionate amount of time on team-related matters rather than concentrating on their studies and most NBA draftees leave college before they graduate. In short, the current NCAA system is primarily designed not to produce scholar student-athletes but to produce athletes – unpaid athletes at that. In light of these findings, a reasoned look at the particular details surrounding Jennings’ decision presents a more sympathetic picture.  As McCann discusses in a new essay, these facts may give rise to a legal challenge against the NBA’s age limit.  He and famed sports attorney Alan Milstein, who was lead counsel for Maurice Clarett in Clarett v. NFL, hinted at a prospective litigation while speaking at a law symposium earlier this year.

The reaction against Jennings’ decision may also be the result of implicit bias. As Situationist contributor John Jost et al. argue in their recent paper, “The Existence of Implicit Bias is Beyond Reasonable Doubt:  A Refutation of Ideological and Methodological Objections and Executive Summary of Ten Studies that No Manager Should Ignore,” unstated and subconscious biases held by people along racial lines can influence the immediate reactions, stereotypes and attitudes that one has towards out-groups.

Sports Business Management Professor Richard Lapchick of the University of Central Florida seemingly agrees with this assertion.  In 2006, Lapchick noted that there is often an assumption on the part of some fans and coaches that elite black student-athletes will invariably leave school as early as possible in order to go for the money.  A sizeable segment of the population believes, then, that black student-athletes value education less than their white counterparts.  Hence, when a young black basketball player chooses to ‘go for the money’ a commonly held stereotype is reinforced and perpetuated.

This type of assumption would most likely not stand up to scrutiny if people simply took the time to examine the situations of young black student-athletes like Jennings who choose to forgo college or leave college early.  As argued by Lapchick, there are numerous situational reasons why black student-athletes leave school at a higher clip than their white counterparts.

Like Jennings, many of these athletes come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds – certainly more in proportional terms than their white counterparts.  Given their socioeconomic handicapped situations, some leave early because they find the support and social structure at predominantly white educational institutions to be alien to them.  Others flunk out due to the fact that their educational background made them ill-prepared to study at the university level and many universities show little interest in helping their student-athletes catch up.  Yet others, like Jennings, are faced with the real consideration of immediate and extended families to support and feed.  These situations, then, serve to limit the educational choices of many black student-athletes.

Kanter Jennings

Extricate black student-athletes from these situations, as in the cases of black athletes like Noah and Rolle, and the educational outcomes may very well be different.  Unfortunately, many passively accept an unfair generalization regarding blacks and education because, as noted by Haidt, the stereotype satisfies the “makes sense” postulate and acceptance, simply put, is the path of least resistance.

The considerations raised by the above article is not to suggest that Kanter won’t be a stellar college student. Indeed, given the reports about Kanter’s maturity and dedication to his studies, there is little reason to doubt that his transition from European athlete to American college student-athlete will go anything short of swimmingly. Instead, the purpose of this article is to draw attention to the circumstances and situation which Kanter enjoys when making a seemingly high-minded decision to forsake dollars for school.

As I’ve argued here, those quick to contrast Kanter and Jennings either favorably or unfavorably should be careful to examine the diverse challenges encountered by these dissimilar athletes.  To suggest that the decision taken by one of these two young men is intrinsically morally superior would be needlessly broad and unfair.

Maybe the best perspective on the Kanter-Jennings debate has been voiced by Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, “[European play] was the perfect set-up for Jennings. But not for Kanter. He’s a different dude with different goals.”

And a different situation as well.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Situationist Sports, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

A Rose by any other Name Might Become a Judge

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 18, 2009

PortiaBentley Coffey and Patrick McLaughlin have recently published their intriguing article, titled “Do Masculine Names Help Female Lawyers Become Judges? Evidence from South Carolina,” in American Law and Economics Review (Spring 2009). Here are some excerpts from the paper’s introduction (citations omitted).

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In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, a woman named Portia masquerades as a man in order to argue before the court as an attorney. Indeed, for centuries the only way a woman could have practiced law was incognito because the courtroom was a domain reserved exclusively for men. A notable exception on record is Miss Margaret Brent, circa 1640, who was permitted by Lord Baltimore to practice law as a woman; nonetheless, she was still addressed as “Gentleman Margaret Brent” during her several dozen appearances in the Maryland colonial court.

Most jurisdictions in the western world refused to admit women to the bar before World War I. By the end of the nineteenth century, any woman attempting to practice law was labeled Portia, as was the first school established exclusively for the legal education of women. The first Portia to be admitted to the South Carolina bar was Miss James (Jim) Margrave Perry in 1918. Although women no longer needed a male disguise to practice law, a male persona or male moniker still might have helped.

Despite the fact that women made up half of the students graduating from law school in the past 15 years, the legal profession remains a male-dominated world. Consequentially, one would suspect that having a male persona or male moniker might still be advantageous to a career in law. We dub this the Portia hypothesis: females with masculine names are more successful in legal careers than females with feminine names. The purpose of this paper is to conduct the first empirical test of the Portia hypothesis, using data from South Carolina.

We have good reason to expect to find the Portia hypothesis holding in our data. The first female lawyer in South Carolina had a masculine name and today many female lawyers privately express their belief that their nominal masculinity matters. Anecdotally, the legal profession remains one of the last bastions of the “good old boy network”, particularly in South Carolina. Even in Massachusetts – a state that is often viewed as less traditional than South Carolina – females comprise a small minority of all partners in law firms. Just as precedent-bound law changes slowly, the legal profession is notoriously slow to embrace change. On the other hand, females are a protected class under the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, and no one should understand (and, arguably, respect) that better than lawyers and judges. Yet judicial positions turn over rarely, some even being held for life, so that the equal status for women may not yet have propagated into the upper echelons of the legal profession.

Several different mechanisms could be at work to make the Portia hypothesis hold in the data. A lawyer’s gender could explicitly matter for advancement to some decision makers; for example, some judicial positions are determined by popular election, and the electorate (or sufficiently large subset of it) could categorically prefer men to women. If nothing else were known about an individual besides that individual’s name, the name itself could contain information on the gender of the individual, just as a name contains information on the race of an individual. Just as with the racial discrimination on call-backs for resumes submitted in job applications, individuals may be more likely to get into the pool of candidates receiving serious consideration for the sorts of positions that lead to potential judgeships, i.e. getting their “foot in the door”, when they have a male moniker.

Alternatively, nominal masculinity might matter when opinions are formed about a lawyer’s work, not face-to-face, but through the written word, such as through briefs or publications in law journals. If there is some gender bias in the citation process – that is, if authors are generally more likely to cite a writer with a masculine name than with a feminine name – then we might observe female lawyers with masculine names receiving more citations than female lawyers with feminine names, ceteris paribus, and having relatively fewer citations could affect career outcomes. The mechanism could be even subtler yet. There could be a subconscious preference for male names, even when the gender is known; jurists, clients, superiors, professors, legislators, etc., might just feel more comfortable with a woman called “George” than one called “Barbara”; in the context of the good old boy network, a woman with a male moniker might just feel more like “one of the boys”. Finally, it could just be that the parents who successfully nurture a girl’s ability are the same people who believe that bestowing a child with a masculine name would be advantageous in her future career path.

In this paper, we use the frequency of names and genders of all registered voters in South Carolina to construct a measure of nominal masculinity and assign this measure to each member of the South Carolina bar. Examining the correlation between a lawyer’s advancement to a judgeship and his/her name’s masculinity, we find that nominally masculine names appear to be favored over nominally feminine names. This could be due to the Portia Hypothesis. Alternatively, the correlation between attaining judgeship and masculine names could also arise from the fact that most judges are males, who tend to have more masculine names (by definition).  Because we do not observe the gender of South Carolina bar members, we are unable to control for male domination of the judiciary with that data source.

To separate these two possible causes of correlation between nominal masculinity and judgeship, we combine data on the names and genders of the entire population of registered voters in South Carolina with the publicly available names and genders of judges.  Controlling for gender, we find a significant correlation between nominal masculinity and judgeship, supporting the Portia Hypothesis.  A series of robustness checks confirm the Portia Hypothesis.

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You can download a pre-publication pdf draft of their paper here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Gendered Situation of Chess,” The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situational Bind,” The Situation of Gender and Science,Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The Situation of Birthers’ Belief

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 11, 2009

Obama Uniquely AmericanScientific American has an interesting, “60-Second Podcast” by Steve Mirsky about research by Situationist Contributor  Mahzarin Banaji and San Diego State’s Thierry Devos finding that white Americans inherently regard white Europeans as somehow more “American” than Asian- or African-Americans.  Here are some excerpts from the podcast, which you can link to here.

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The so-called birthers can’t accept that President Obama is really a natural-born American citizen. Part of what’s behind this seemingly irrational belief may lie in what’s called implicit social cognition—the deep-rooted assumptions we all carry around, and may act on without realizing it.

Harvard’s Mahzarin Banaji studies such implicit cognition. Last fall she talked to journalists at the annual conference of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing about research into bias against Asian-Americans. “So we thought, what if we picked Asians who are very well known to be American. What about Connie Chung? Are they going to be seen as less American than, let’s say, Hugh Grant? And so we thought this was a bizarre study to do but we did it anyway.”

Amazingly, white Americans did see a white European like Hugh Grant as being somehow more American than the Asian-American Connie Chung. And similar research in 2008 found that whites thought of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair as somehow more American than Obama. So the mental framework to believe that Obama is foreign probably was, to use a health care term, a preexisting condition.

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To read a closely related Situationist post, see “The Situation of Being ‘(un)American’.”

For some posts examining the the role of implicit associations in elections, see “Patricia Devine on Resisting Implicit Associations,” The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters,” On Being a Mindful Voter,”Lopez-Torres, Justice Scalia, and the Situation of Elections,” “Your Brain on Politics,” “Implicit Associations in the 2008 Presidential Election,”The Situation of Political Animals,” “Political Psychology in 2008,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,The Psychology of Barack Obama as the Antichrist,” and “The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters.”

To review all of the previous Situationist posts discussing implicit associations click on the “Implicit Associations” category in the right margin, or, for a list of such posts, click here. For other Situationist posts on the 2008 Presidential Election, click here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

MSNBC Report on Implicit Associations

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 4, 2009

Here’s a ten-minute MSNBC segment on IAT test, in which Tony Greenwald attempts to shed light on the test results of two commentators on MSNBC’s Morning Meeting.

To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see Mispredicting Our Reactions to Racism,” Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV,” Mahzarin Banaji’s Situation,” The Situation of  Situationist – Mahzarin Banaji.”

To review the full collextion of previous Situationist posts discussing implicit associations click on the “Implicit Associations” category in the right margin or, for a list of such posts, click here. Go to Project Implicit to take the IAT discussed in this report here.  Take the Policy IAT here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Black and White

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 29, 2009

Black WhiteOver on We’re Only Human, Wray Herbert has another of his characteristically superb posts, this one about the automatic associations with black and white. Here’s a sample.

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The colors white and black have carried layers of moral meaning since long before American’ infatuation with cowboys and automobiles, and some scientists believe that those associations may be automatic and universal and ancient. Indeed, blackness and whiteness may be wired into our neurons, and tightly tangled up with notions of sin and virtue and cleanliness and dirt.

Two University of Virginia psychologists recently decided to explore this provocative idea in the laboratory. Gary Sherman and Gerald Clore wanted to know if common metaphors may be more than mere rhetorical devices, if in fact they might be deep embodiments of moral thinking. They decided to test the link between white and virtue (and black and sin) as part of this larger question.

To do this, the psychologists adapted a reaction-time test from the 1930s, called the Stroop Test. Readers may know this from the Internet, where it circulates as a kind of parlor game. It’s the one in which the names of colors are printed in different colors—say the word blue in yellow ink—and you must very rapidly indicate the ink color rather than the meaning. It’s hard, because our mind wants to read the word—and slow reaction time is taken as a sign of cognitive disconnect or conflict.

In Sherman and Clore’s version of the Stroop, volunteers read not the names of colors but words with strong moral overtones: greed and honesty, for example. Some of the words were printed in black and some in white, and they flashed rapidly on a screen. As with the original Stroop, a fast reaction time was taken as evidence that a connection was mentally automatic and natural; hesitation was taken as a sign that a connection didn’t ring true. The researchers wanted to see if the volunteers automatically linked immorality with blackness, as in black ink, and virtue with whiteness.

And they did, so quickly that the connections couldn’t possibly be deliberate. Just as we unthinkingly—almost unconsciously—“know” a lemon is yellow, we instantly know that sin and crime are black; grace and virtue, white.

Why would this be? Well, one possibility is that the metaphor is more complex, embodying not just right and wrong but purity and contagion, too. Think of the metaphor “new fallen snow”: It’s not only white, it’s virginal and unadulterated, like a wedding dress. And blackness not only discolors it; it stains it, taints its purity. With this in mind, the psychologists ran another experiment, adding this idea of contagion, feeling morally dirty. They deliberately primed some volunteers’ immoral thoughts by having them read a story about a self-serving, immoral lawyer, and compared them to volunteers primed for ethical thinking.

The idea was that people who were feeling morally dirty would be quicker to make the connection between immorality and blackness on the moral Stroop test, which is exactly what they found. And what’s more, they found this with much looser definitions of morality and immorality—including words like dieting, gossip, duty, partying, helping, and so forth. In other words, those primed for misbehavior linked blackness not only with crime and cheating but with being irresponsible, unreliable, self-centered slackers.

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To read the entire post (which is well worth the click), click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Metaphor,” “The Primitive Appeal of The Color Red,” Coloring Situation,” The Color of Sex Appeal,” The Situation of Hair Color,”The Unconscious Situation of our Consciousness – Part IV,” “The Situation of Body Temperature,” and “Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice.

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Morality, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

What Are the Legal Implications of Implicit Biases?

Posted by Jon Hanson on July 15, 2009

Blind JusticeA federal judge and regular reader of The Situationist recently sent me a thoughtful e-mail containing the following paragraph.  The judge is asking for input regarding the practical legal consequences of IAT research for employment law.

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A thought about the IAT and employment law from a practicing judge–even if the law as it now stands does not effectively address some instances of bias, where do we go with that insight? I see no practical, effective way to utilize the IAT in actual employment cases.  Moreover, by far the biggest problem in employment law that any one studying our actual cases would discern is the surfeit of meritless cases.  The ease with which many weak cases get by summary judgment and the likelihood of substantial litigation expense lead to settlement of  hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of  cases throughout the country each year brought by plaintiffs you or almost any one else reasonably objective (if I can still use that word) would have fired, not promoted, chosen for layoff, etc.  A statutory approach designed to help people get a foot in the door–when that door had
for so long been unfairly closed–is now almost exclusively used by plaintiffs who got the job, got the opportunity. The sense that employment litigation has become something of a settlement racket has led to cynicism in the work place, among the bar, and to some extent even on the bench. I think this is tragic, and a disgrace to the legacy of those who suffered to advance the cause of equality under law.  I am conscious of my own general frustration, and I really do try to be open-minded and fair in dealing with each individual case-  and there are still  meritorious ones that come my way. While I am not a spokesman for the judiciary in even the slightest way, I do think most judges see the area of law as I do, and most, despite concern or frustration, also try very hard to remain open-minded in approaching each individual case. I wonder, do scholars writing about implicit bias and employment law generally have any sense of what the actual cases are like?  Any thoughts?

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Situationist friend and legal scholar Tamara Piety responds as follows:

The judge’s comments raise important issues. But I think these issues have more to do with the problems of the structure of litigation, the cost of litigation and how the presence of financial incentives create a particular sort of (predictable) distortion in outcomes insofar as they depart from what an observer might conclude is the “truth” about the facts. Litigation is binary.

With some qualifications about the way in which the amount of damages can be used as a sort of Solomonic device to split the difference and not clearly find for either party, litigation is binary and you either win or you lose. Moreover, it costs something. So in every civil case that involves a business entity (the purpose of which is to make money not to reform social policy), the persons making decisions on behalf of the entity weight the relative costs of pursuing or defending an action against the financial benefits likely to accrue rather than on the “principle” at issue.

This is true of personal injury lawsuits, intellectual property disputes, contract disputes, in short, disputes of all kinds. So if it is the case that such a racket exists, it is arguably as much due to the financial incentives for defendants to settle as it is the evidence or legal standards, or at least they are inextricably intertwined. Should we blame defendants for “frivolously” settling and thus contributing to the situation of which the judge complains? Probably not, as it would seem awfully burdensome to say that defendants must continue to defend cases where the defense is meritorious, no matter the cost to themselves not to mention economically unsound. The same may not be true of fired, dismissed or non-promoted defendants whose livelihoods are at stake and who *may* (in some circumstances) have few options beyond suing. For these individuals (and for unions) bringing the lawsuit may not be solely about the financial benefit but about dignity, setting and example for others, self-defense, etc.Blind Justice

I am also struck by many aspects of the judge’s comments that draw a picture that contains many implicit assumptions. It is not self-evident to me that the existing employment laws that grant such broad and virtually unreviewable discretion to employers to discharge employees at will is a good thing that any reasonably objective person would agree strikes the appropriate balance of power between employee and employers so that anyone would agree that a particular person should not have been retained or promoted.

Maybe it does, but I am not sure about that. And what if a part of the explanation for the poor performance is a hostile environment that exacerbated the employee’s deficiencies? Moreover, the comment seems to assume that damages are a sufficient incentive to bring such a suit, even though the fact of having filed a lawsuit against a previous employer may make an employee virtually unemployable in their chosen profession. Given the seriousness of the consequences for at least some plaintiffs, I wouldn’t be as apt to conclude that cases without merit were brought frequently (although clearly the judge is in a far better position to judge the current situation in the courts than I).

And, just as it is possible to behave in a discriminatory manner while not intending to do so, that is with a pure heart, I think it might be possible to file a law suit as a plaintiff in the sincere belief that you have been discriminated against even if you have not been.

I also don’t think it is entirely accurate to say that the laws against discrimination were intended “solely” to allow people to get a “foot in the door.” It is of little merit to give someone an opportunity if that opportunity is not a real one because you will be applying standards that the employee cannot meet. I think we have perhaps entered the stage in the country’s development where some of the biggest problems of racial, gender and other bias are not in problems of overt and intentional discrimination, but in trying to ferret out the ways in which we may not be applying standards or rules as even-handedly as we imagine we are, or indeed as we want to do in order to ensure equality of opportunity for all.

The IAT information speaks to that issue. As someone who teaches Evidence I would respond that the place for the IAT evidence is as one piece of evidence that may be offered by a plaintiff – not determinative or conclusive evidence, perhaps not sufficient evidence, but evidence nonetheless. The judge seems frustrated that these cases don’t reach the truth of discrimination and create bad will and hostility to the goals of equality through the promotion of frivolous lawsuits.

I understand that frustration since I experienced that frustration when I practiced law. But it seems to me to be an observation that could be made about litigation generally – contract disputes, shareholder suits, trademark disputes, property disputes, etc. and is not the special province of discrimination suits and certainly no reason to exclude important, relevant evidence from consideration.

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Please post your responses or thoughts as comments.   To read some recent, related Situationist posts, see “Confronting the Backlash against Implicit Bias,” and “The Situation of Situation in Employment Discrimination Law – Abstract.”  For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Law, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 8, 2009

Situationist PodcastA BBC podcast of an interview with Situationist Contributor Brian Nosek about Project Implicit’s recent gender-science stereotypes article is available at the BBC World Service’s Science in Action series.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts about gender and science, see The Situation of Gender and Science,The Behavioral Consequences of Unconscious Bias,” “Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Education, Implicit Associations, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Displinary Welfare Programs – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 30, 2009

Welfare SignSanford Schram, Joe Soss, Richard Fording, and Linda Houser recently posted their fascinating article, “Deciding to Discipline: Race, Choice, and Punishment on the Frontlines of Welfare Reform” (74 American Sociological Review 398-422 (June 2009) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

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Welfare sanctions are financial penalties applied to individuals who fail to comply with welfare program rules. Their widespread use reflects a turn toward disciplinary approaches to poverty management. In this article, we investigate how implicit racial biases and discrediting social markers interact to shape officials’ decisions to impose sanctions. We present experimental evidence based on hypothetical vignettes that case managers are more likely to recommend sanctions for Latina and black clients – but not white clients – when discrediting markers are present. We triangulate these findings with analyses of state administrative data. Our results for Latinas are mixed, but we find consistent evidence that the probability of a sanction rises significantly when a discrediting marker (i.e., a prior sanction for noncompliance) is attached to a black rather than a white welfare client. Overall, our study clarifies how racial minorities, especially African Americans, are more likely to be punished for deviant behavior in the new world of disciplinary welfare provision.

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To download the paper for free, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Robin Hood Motives” and “Monkey Fairness.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Distribution, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Public Policy | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Gender and Science

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 28, 2009

Men and ScienceRachana Dixit wrote a worthwhile article in Daily Progress summarizing recent research illustrating the implicit links between gender and science.  Here are some excerpts.

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A new study has found that both men and women hold unspoken stereotypes that males are more easily linked with science than females.

The work’s authors say the stereotypes may contribute to continuing underachievement and under-participation among girls and women in science, furthering the idea that science is a male career.

“I think this is pervasive in our culture, but it is changing,” said [Situationist Contributor] Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia psychology professor who led the study. . . .

The findings suggest that 70 percent of respondents harbored implicit stereotypes associating science with males more than with females. About 500,000 people from 34 countries — with roughly half from the United States — took part in the experiment.

The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It is a part of Project Implicit, a publicly accessible research project headed by Nosek, Harvard University professor and [Situationist Contributor] Mahzarin Banaji and University of Washington professor Tony Greenwald.

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The study attempted to measure gender bias in science without explicitly asking about the subject. For this study, respondents were asked to sort out four categories — male and female names and science and humanities words. During the first test, participants grouped male names with science words and female names with humanities words; the second time, they did the opposite.

Nosek said the study found that the test-takers could link male names and science words faster than female names and science words. The time difference was generally used to gauge the bias, he said. The gender stereotype could determine how women engage in science disciplines, and gaps in achievement could also reinforce the biases that exist, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, he added.

“It can go both ways,” Nosek said.

In comparing science and math test scores from the separate Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the implicit bias data showed that boys performed better in math and science in countries whose residents stereotyped the most. The implicit thinking measured in the study may also indicate a country’s health in promoting science to both genders, Nosek said.

//www.astr.ua.edu/4000WS/Photo.html

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Nosek said the investigators are trying to figure out when the stereotypes start pervading people’s psyches. Early data suggest that it could be as early as elementary school.

Getting rid of the stereotypes, Nosek said, will be a tricky thing.

“Even becoming aware of them doesn’t make them disappear,” he said. “Changing them is not so simple.”

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To read the entire article, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts about gender and science, see “The Behavioral Consequences of Unconscious Bias,” “Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Behavioral Consequences of Unconscious Bias

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 22, 2009

NYTimes Tierney Implicit Bias.jpgFrom EurekaAlert and the new Blog, Project Implicit:

In the decade since the Implicit Association Test was introduced, its most surprising and controversial finding is its indication that about 70 percent of those who took a version of the test that measures racial attitudes have an unconscious, or implicit, preference for white people compared to blacks. This contrasts with figures generally under 20 percent for self report, or survey, measures of race bias.

A new study published this week validates those findings, showing that the Implicit Association Test, a psychological tool, has validity in predicting behavior and, in particular, that it has significantly greater validity than self-reports in the socially sensitive topics of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age.

The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is an overview and analysis of 122 published and unpublished reports of 184 different research studies. In this analysis, 85 percent of the studies also included self-reporting measures of the type generally used in surveys. This allowed the researchers, headed by University of Washington psychology Professor Anthony Greenwald, to compare the test’s success in predicting social behavior and judgment with the success of self-reports.

“In socially sensitive areas, especially black-white interracial behavior, the test had significantly greater predictive value than self-reports. This finding establishes the Implicit Association Test’s value in research to understand the roots of race and other discrimination,” said Greenwald. “What was especially surprising was how ineffective standard self-report measurers were in the areas in which the test measures have been of greatest interest – predicting interracial behavior.”

Greenwald created the Implicit Association Test in 1998 and he and Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard psychology professor, and Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia associate professor of psychology, further developed it. Since then the test has been used in more than 1,000 research studies around the world. More than 10 million versions of the test have been completed at an Internet site where they are available as a self-administer demonstration.

The research looked at studies covering nine different areas – consumer preference, black-white interracial behavior, personality differences, clinical phenomena, alcohol and drug use, non-racial intergroup behavior, gender and sexual orientation, close relationships and political preferences.

Findings also showed that:

  • Across all nine of these areas, measures of the test were useful in predicting social behavior.
  • Both the test, which is implicit, and self-reports, which are explicit, had predictive validity independent of each other. This suggests the desirability of using both types of measure in surveys and applied research studies.
  • In consumer and political preferences both measures effectively predicted behavior, but self-reports had significantly greater predictive validity.

Studies in the research came from a number of countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Poland and the United States. They looked at such topics as attitudes of undecided voters one-month prior to an Italian election; treatment recommendations by physicians for black and white heart attack victims; and reactions to spiders before and after treatment for arachnophobia, or spider phobia.

“The Implicit Association Test is controversial because many people believe that racial bias is largely a thing of the past. The test’s finding of a widespread, automatic form of race preference violates people’s image of tolerance and is hard for them to accept. When you are unaware of attitudes or stereotypes, they can unintentionally affect your behavior. Awareness can help to overcome this unwanted influence,” said Greenwald.

Co-authors of the new study are [Situationist Contributor] Mahzarin Banaji, T. Andrew Poehlman of Southern Methodist University and Eric Uhlmann of Northwestern University.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Confronting the Backlash against Implicit Bias,” Legal Academic Backlash – Abstract,” “Naïve Cynicism in Election 2008: Dispositionism v. Situationism?,” and “Implicit Bias and Strawmen.”

Image source is here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Confronting the Backlash against Implicit Bias

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 22, 2009

GroupsBelow you will find some excerpts from an important paper by Situationist Contributor John T. Jost and six distinguished co-authors (Laurie A. Rudman, Irene V. Blair, Dana R. Carney, Nilanjana Dasgupta, Jack Glaser, Curtis D. Hardin).  The paper is titled “The Existence of Implicit Bias is Beyond Reasonable Doubt:  A Refutation of Ideological and Methodological Objections and Executive Summary of Ten Studies that No Manager Should Ignore.” The paper will be published in Research in Organizational Behavior.  Many thanks to Julian Darwal for putting this post together.

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In this chapter, we respond to recent critiques of research on implicit bias, especially studies using the Implicit Association Test (IAT).

Philip Tetlock and Gregory Mitchell argue that measures of implicit bias including the IAT fail to predict organizationally relevant behavioral outcomes.   They claim “there is no evidence that the IAT reliably predicts class-wide discrimination on tangible outcomes in any setting,” accuse their colleagues of violating “the injunction to separate factual from value judgments,” adhering blindly to a “statist-interventionist” ideology, and of conducting a witch-hunt against implicit racists, sexists, and others.  These and other charges are specious.  Far from making “extraordinary claims” that “require extraordinary evidence,” researchers have identified the existence and consequences of implicit bias through well-established methods based upon principles of cognitive psychology that have been developed in nearly a century’s worth of work.  We challenge the blanket skepticism and organizational complacency advocated by Tetlock and Mitchell and summarize ten recent studies that no manager (or managerial researcher) should ignore.  These studies reveal that students, nurses, doctors, police officers, employment recruiters, and many others exhibit implicit biases with respect to race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, social status, and other distinctions.  Furthermore—and contrary to the emphatic assertions of the critics—participants’ implicit associations do predict socially and organizationally significant behaviors, including employment, medical, and voting decisions on the part of working adults.

THIRTY YEARS (OR MORE) OF RESEARCH ON IMPLICIT BIAS: A PRIMER

The IAT is is merely one methodological innovation in a long stretch of empirical contributions documenting the existence of implicit bias.  Implicit prejudice results followed naturally from a century’s worth of research on perception, memory, and learning.  The evidence fits the contemporary consensus that an enormous amount of cognition occurs automatically, effortlessly, and outside of conscious awareness.

Cognitive Accessibility as a Method of Demonstrating Implicit Bias

In Devine’s experiment, participants evaluated “Donald” as more hostile after they had been subliminally exposed to a relatively large (vs. small) proportion of words related to common stereotypes of African Americans in a previous, ostensibly unrelated task.  Not only were participants’ social judgments affected by stereotypes without their awareness once these had been rendered accessible through subliminal exposure, but this effect on social judgment occurred regardless of how participants had voluntarily reported their personal racial attitudes.

Semantic Priming as a Method of Demonstrating Implicit Bias

According to this paradigm, prejudice and stereotypes are empirically captured by the degree to which they are linked through speed and efficiency to semantically related concepts.  Exposure to a word related to women (e.g., lady, nurse) hastens the speed with which people identify female pronouns that appear subsequently; similarly, exposure to a word linked to men (e.g., gentleman, doctor) facilitates the identification of male pronouns.

Evaluative Priming as a Method of Demonstrating (and Measuring) Implicit Bias

Fazio et al. (1995)’s evaluative priming tasks exposed participants to photographs of either white or black faces and asked them to categorize subsequent words as either positive or negative, as quickly as possible.  The presentation speed of the faces and words was short enough in duration to ensure that their influence on responses would be the result of automatic rather than controlled processes.  When white participants classified positively valenced words, their responses were faster when they had been exposed to white (vs. black) faces, but when they classified negatively valenced words, their responses were faster when they had been exposed to black (vs. white) faces.

Individual Differences in the Motivation to Control Prejudice

Fazio also identified an important moderator of the relationship between implicit and explicit biases, namely the “motivation to control prejudice.”  Specifically, they developed a questionnaire measure that included items such as, “It’s never acceptable to express one’s prejudices.”  Not surprisingly, participants who were higher in motivation to control prejudice scored lower on an explicit measure of prejudice (the Modern Racism Scale).  By contrast, the motivation to control prejudice did not predict implicit bias.

Recent Brain Imaging Work

In 2000, researchers provided physiological evidence for the construct validity of implicit attitudes in general and the predictive validity of the IAT in particular when they demonstrated that IAT scores were correlated with the magnitude of amygdala activation when white participants were exposed to photographs of unfamiliar black (vs. white) faces.  The amygdala is involved in emotional responses to threat, such as fear.  Self-reported racial attitudes failed to predict amygdala activation under the same circumstances.

Literally hundreds of studies in cognitive accessibility, semantic priming, evaluative priming, and other areas in social cognition provide conclusive evidence that mental processes can and do operate nonconsciously and can be measured implicitly.  To take Tetlock and Mitchell’s critique seriously, one would need to set aside so much of social and cognitive psychology that both disciplines would be rendered unrecognizable to contemporary students and scholars.

TEN STUDIES NO MANAGER SHOULD IGNORE

The case for implicit bias in no way depends upon any single methodological innovation (such as the IAT), nor is it restricted to associations about race or ethnicity or gender.  Rather than duplicate a number of metanalytical studies have found that measures of implicit bias predict relevant behavioral outcomes, the authors focus on a small subset of recent studies with a diversity of methodological strengths that no manager should ignore.

(1) Employment recruiters who favored native Swedes over Arabs on an implicit stereotyping task were significantly less likely to offer (equally qualified) Arab (vs. Swedish) applicants job interview opportunities.  Overall, Swedes were 3 times more likely to receive callback interviews.Blue Yellow Groupism

(2) Despite the fact that participants regarded female (vs. male) managerial applicants who presented themselves as confident, competitive, and ambitious as highly qualified, they also disliked them and were therefore less likely to recommend hiring them.  Participants’ implicit gender stereotyping predicted the extent of disliking.

(3) White student participants who scored higher on measures of implicit bias against various racial/ethnic outgroups were significantly more likely to report engaging in verbal slurs, social exclusion, and physical harm against members of minority groups.  They also were more likely to recommend budget cuts disproportionately against Jewish, Asian, and black student associations.

(4) In the context of a video simulation program, police officers were significantly more likely to “shoot” an unarmed suspect when he was black (vs. white) on early trials, but they were able to overcome this bias with practice.

(5) Physicians’ degree of implicit (but not explicit) bias predicted racial disparities in simulated treatment recommendations.  Specifically, greater bias was associated with (a) decreased likelihood of recommending thrombolysis for black patients suffering from coronary heard disease, and (b) increased likelihood of recommending it for comparable white patients.

(6) Nurses working in a drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation facility who scored higher in implicit bias against intravenous drug users experienced more occupational stress, less job satisfaction, and were more likely to express intentions to leave their jobs.

(7) Undecided voters’ implicit candidate preferences, obtained one month prior to the election, significantly predicted their eventual voting decisions.

(8) Hazardous drinkers’ implicit attitudes toward alcohol predicted heightened appetitive responses in the presence of alcohol and self-reported binge drinking.

(9) Convicted male pedophiles were found to exhibit an implicit association between children and sex, whereas no such effect was observed for other sex offenders (who were not pedophiles).

(10) Adolescents’ self-injury implicit associations were correlated with whether or not they had attempted suicide as well as suicidal ideation up to 6 months after their initial assessment, even after adjusting for demographic and psychological risk factors.

THE PAPER ALSO EXPLAINS . . .

- Why, contrary to what Tetlock and Mitchell claim, IAT research does provide reason to suspect Jesse Jackson and Jesse Helms would perform differently on an IAT test.

- Why IAT test results cannot just to be attributed to the “benign causes” of familiarity (people tend to prefer familiar over unfamiliar stimuli); cultural awareness (implicit bias measures may tap “shared cultural stereotypes rather than personal animus”); sympathy for the disadvantaged (the IAT could be driven by sympathy, rather than antipathy, toward outgroup members); fear of being labeled a bigot (rather than actual bigotry); or differences in IAT participants’ cognitive dexterity.

- Why Tetlock’s “organizational accountability” solution to workplace prejudice is inadequate.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Legal Academic Backlash – Abstract,” “Naïve Cynicism in Election 2008: Dispositionism v. Situationism?,” and “Implicit Bias and Strawmen.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Situation in Employment Discrimination Law – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 18, 2009

Red Stapler - Codefin (flickr)Melissa Hart and Paul Secunda have posted their excellent paper, “A Matter of Context: Social Framework Evidence in Employment Discrimination Class Actions” (forthcoming 78 Fordham Law Review (2009)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

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In litigation disputes over the certification of employment discrimination class actions, social scientists have come to play a central, yet controversial, role. Organizational behavioralists and social psychologists regularly testify for the plaintiffs, offering what is commonly referred to as social framework testimony. These experts explain the general social science research on the operation of stereotyping and bias in decisionmaking and examine the policies and practices operating in a challenged workplace to identify those that research has shown will tend to increase and those that will tend to limit the likely impact of these factors. Defendants fight hard against the admission of social framework experts, and some courts have agreed that the testimony should not be allowed. Because of the importance of this testimony to ferreting out large-scale discrimination in the workplace, the stakes in the debate over its admissibility are considerable.

The debate has moved recently from the courtroom to the pages of law reviews. In an essay published last fall, three academics argued that social framework testimony as it is commonly accepted by district courts should be categorically disallowed. The arguments for the exclusion of social framework testimony as it is currently presented in employment discrimination class action litigation are fundamentally flawed. A blanket exclusion of this evidence is inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Evidence and Supreme Court precedent on the district courts’ responsibility for assessing the admissibility of expert testimony more generally.

This article puts the debate over social framework expert testimony in context, explaining what the testimony is and the role it has played in employment discrimination litigation, with a particular focus on the way the testimony has been offered in class action suits like Dukes v. Wal-Mart. It explains how the normal rules of evidence law should apply to social framework expert testimony, and under the flexible and permissive standards of the Federal Rules of Evidence, framework testimony offered by a qualified expert should be admissible in many employment class actions. The argument that this kind of evidence should always be excluded is driven as much by a particular view of employment discrimination law as by the governing evidentiary rules. Ultimately, the arguments for blanket exclusion of social framework testimony in these cases can best be understood as part of a political debate and a litigation strategy.

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You can download the paper for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Litigating Unconscious Discrimination – Abstract” and “Implicit Bias and Strawmen.”

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Naive Cynicism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situational Effect of Groups

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 17, 2009

Silent Crowd (tochis)In his Guardian article, “Hands up if you’re an individual,” Stuart Jeffries offers a brief summary of some social psychology classics.  Below, we have included excerpts.  After reviewing Milgram’s famous experiments on obedience, Jeffries writes:

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This was one of the classic experiments of group psychology, though not all have involved duping volunteers into believing they had electrocuted victims. Group psychology has often involved experiments to explain how individuals’ behaviours, thoughts and feelings are changed by group pressures.

It is generally thought to have originated in 1898 when Indiana University psychologist Norman Triplett asked children to spin a fishing reel as fast as they could. He found that when the children were doing the task together they did so much faster than when alone. Triplett found a similar result when studying cyclists – they tended to record faster times when riding in groups rather than alone, a fact that he explained because the “bodily presence of another contestant participating simultaneously in the race serves to liberate latent energy not ordinarily available”.

More than a century later, social psychology explores how other people make us what we are; how unconscious, sometimes ugly, impulses make us compliant and irrational. Why, for example, do I smoke even though I know it could be fatal? How can there be such a gap between my self-image and my behaviour (this is known as cognitive dissonance)?

Why do high-level committees of supposed experts make disastrous decisions (for example, when a Nasa committee dismissed technical staff warnings that the space shuttle Challenger should not be launched, arguing that technical staff were just the kind of people to make such warnings – this is seen as a classic case of so-called “groupthink”)?

Why do we unconsciously obey others even when this undermines our self-images (this is known as social influence)? What makes us into apathetic bystanders when we see someone attacked in the street – and what makes us have-a-go-heroes? What makes peaceful crowds turn into rioting mobs?

Group psychological studies can have disturbing ramifications. Recently, Harvard psychologist [and Situationist contributor] Mahzarin Banaji used the so-called implicit association test to demonstrate how unconscious beliefs inform our behaviour. [Sh]e concluded from [her] research that the vast majority of white, and many black respondents recognised negative words such as “angry”, “criminal” or “poor” more quickly after briefly seeing a black face than a white one. . . .

* * *

The nature of conformism has obsessed social psychologists for decades. In 1951, psychologist Solomon Asch did an experiment in which volunteers were asked to judge the correct length of a line by comparing it with three sample lines. The experiment was set up so that there was an obviously correct answer. But Asch had riddled a group with a majority of stooges who deliberately chose the wrong answer. The pressure of the majority told on Asch’s volunteers. He found that 74% conformed with the wrong answer at least once, and 32% did so all the time.

What impulses were behind such conformism? Social psychologists have long considered that we construct our identities on the basis of others’ attitudes towards us. Erving Goffman, in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), analysed social encounters as if each person was engaged in a dramatic performance, and suggested that each such actor was a creation of its audience.

Through such performances of self we internalise role expectations and gain positive self-esteem. We cast other individuals and groups in certain roles. Such behaviour may make some of us unconscious racists, but it also lubricates the wheels of social life.

French psychologist Serge Moscovici developed what is called social representation theory, arguing that shared beliefs and explanations held by a group of society help people to communicate effectively with one another. He explored the notion of anchoring, whereby new ideas or events in social life are given comforting redescriptions (or social representations). For example, a group of protesters against a motorway might be described demeaningly by the road lobby as a “rent-a-mob,” while the protesters themselves might anchor themselves more falteringly as “eco-warriors”.

* * *

Social psychologists have also been long-obsessed by the psychology of crowds. In 1895, French social psychologist Gustave le Bon described crowds as mobs in which individuals lost their personal consciences. His book, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, influenced Hitler and led many later psychologists to take a dim view of crowds.

After the war, German critical theorist Theodor Adorno wrote of the destructive nature of “group psychology.” Even as late as 1969, Stanford psychologist [and Situationist contributor] Philip Zimbardo argued that a process of deindividuation makes participants in crowds less rational.

Most recent crowd psychology has not been content to brand crowds necessarily irrational. Instead, it has divided into contagion theory (whereby crowds cause people to act in a certain way), convergence theory (where crowds amount to a convergence of already like-minded individuals) and emergent norm theory (where crowd behaviour reflects the desires of participants, but it is also guided by norms that emerge as the situation unfolds). . . .

In the age of MySpace, Facebook and online dating, group psychologists are now trying to find out what goes on when we present ourselves to the world online, how we are judged for doing so and how groups are formed online. Other social psychology touches on such voguish areas of research as social physics (which contends that physical laws might explain group behaviour) and neuroeconomics (which looks at the role of the brain when we evaluate decisions and interact with each other), but the age-old concerns remain part of our zeitgeist.

* * *

You can read the entire article here.   For a sample of Situationist posts examining the interaction of individuals and groups, see “The Situational Benefits of Outsiders,” Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism,” Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism,” “‘Us’ and ‘Them,’” “The Maverickiness Paradox,” “Four Failures of Deliberating Groups – Abstract,” “Team-Interested Decision Making,” “History of Groupthink,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” and “March Madness,” To read some of the previous Situationist posts describing or discussing classic experiments from soical psychology and related fields, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Classic Experiments, Conflict, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2009

Racial Bias TeamFrom Eureaka Alert:

White people don’t show hints of unconscious bias against blacks who belong to the same group as them, a new study suggests.

But this lack of bias only applied to black people in their group, according to the findings. Most white people in the study still showed evidence of some unconscious bias towards blacks who were in an opposing group, or who were unaffiliated with either group.

What impressed the researchers, however, was just how quickly these group bonds could form. The lack of bias toward fellow black group members was uncovered just minutes after whites joined the mixed-race group, and without participants even meeting their fellow members personally.

“The results suggest that when we share some kind of identity with a group of people, we automatically and immediately feel positively toward them, regardless of race,” said Jay Van Bavel, co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow in psychology at Ohio State University.

“You can think in terms of people who go to the playground and play a game of pickup basketball. All it takes is a flip of a coin to make someone your teammate, and at least for that game, you’re going to feel positively toward your teammates, white and black.”

Van Bavel conducted the study with William Cunningham, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State. Their study appears in the March issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The study involved two separate but related experiments with college students, one done in Canada and one in the United States.

The students took a computer test commonly used by psychologists to reveal unconscious, or automatic racial bias. The test examines people’s first reactions to seeing a black face, before their conscious mind can edit and override biases.

Even though most people disavow any racial bias, this test consistently shows that about three-quarters of white North Americans have some level of unconscious racial bias, Van Bavel said. These unconscious thoughts can lead people to make biased decisions without realizing they are being biased.

For example, a manager may pass over a resume of a person whose name suggests she is an African American, without even recognizing why he is doing it, according to Van Bavel.

The computer test flashes pictures of black and white faces quickly on the screen followed nearly instantaneously by positive words (such as love) or negative words (such as hatred). Participants have to very quickly – within about one-half of a second — categorize the words as positive or negative.

In general, white people find it more difficult to correctly classify positive words when they were first shown a photo of a black person.

“Seeing a black face automatically activates this association with negative things for many white people and if they don’t have time to correct this negative image – which they don’t in this study – they associate negative words with black faces,” Cunningham said.

In the first experiment, 109 students at the University of Toronto were randomly assigned to one of two groups made up for the study – one named the Lions and the other called the Tigers. A control group learned about the two groups, but was not assigned to either one of them.

Members of the Lions and Tigers were shown photos of the members of both groups, and told it was important to learn who belonged to their team, and who belonged to other team.

Later, they were given the computer bias test. Results showed that students in the control group, who were not a member of either mixed-race group, showed a preference for white faces over black faces, as was expected.

But white members of the two teams showed no bias against black members of their own teams. They did, however, show bias towards black members of the opposing team.

“Team members were evaluating people based on whether they were on the same team – not evaluating them based on their race,” Cunningham said.

The second experiment involved 126 students at Ohio State. The setup was essentially the same, except that participants also evaluated white and black faces that were not members of either of the two groups. Results showed that white students showed no bias against blacks who belonged to their team. They showed nearly equivalent levels of bias towards black members of the opposing team, and black members who were not associated with either team.

This suggests that whites were showing increased positive feelings toward black members of their own team, but not increased negative feelings toward blacks who belonged to the opposing team.

“White students felt the same toward blacks on the opposing team and people who didn’t belong to any team,” Van Bavel said. “That means liking people from your team doesn’t mean you have to hate members of the other team.”

Van Bavel said the unconscious biases studied in this research have real-life consequences.

“What’s dangerous about these attitudes is that they can come into play even when we’re not aware of them, and even when we think we are being egalitarian,” he said.

But this study suggests there may be ways to battle this unconscious, automatic racism.

“We want to change how people see someone at the very earliest stages. If you see someone as a member of your own team or group, race may not even come to mind. You are thinking about that person in terms of some kind of shared relationship,” Van Bavel said.

In the real world, this means creating contexts to show how people are connected whenever possible. This may mean emphasizing our shared identities as residents of a city, fans of a sports team or members of a church.

“It’s part of human nature to feel positively about members of our own group,” Cunningham said. “The challenge is to find ways to call attention to our shared identities.”

* * *

For some related Situationist posts, see “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,”Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas,”‘Us’ and ‘Them,’March Madness,” Race Attributions and Georgetown University Basketball,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” “The Origins of Sports Team Fandom,” “Attributing Blame — from the Baseball Diamond to the War on Terror,” and “Situationist Theories of Hate – Part II.”

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The Stereotype Tax

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 17, 2009

The last issue of The Economist includes an interesting article, titled “The Price of Prejudice,” summarizing IAT research and two other studies employing conjoint analysis to measure the difference between what we would do as compared to what we would say we would do.  Here’s an excerpt.

* * *

Nobody likes to admit an uncomfortable truth about himself, especially when charged issues such as race, sex, age and even supersized waistlines come into play. That makes the task of the behavioural scientist a difficult one. Not only may participants in a study be lying to those running a test, but they may also, fundamentally, be lying to themselves.

Prising the lid off human assumptions and hidden biases thus requires clever tools. One of the most widely deployed, known as the implicit-association test, measures how quickly people associate words describing facial characteristics with different types of faces that display those characteristics. When such characteristics are favourable—“laughter” or “joy”, for example—it often takes someone longer to match them with faces that they may, unconsciously, view unfavourably (old, if the participant is young, or non-white if he is white). This procedure thus picks up biases that the participants say they are not aware of having.

Whether these small differences in what are essentially artificial tasks really reflect day-to-day actions and choices was, until recently, untested. But that has changed. In a paper to be published next month in Social Cognition, a group of researchers led by Eugene Caruso of the University of Chicago report their use of a technique called conjoint analysis, which they have adopted from the field of market research and adapted to study implicit biases in more realistic situations.

Conjoint analysis, they think, lets them quantify what has been dubbed the “stereotype tax”—the price that the person doing the stereotyping pays for his preconceived notions. In two studies, they turn their new tool loose on questions of the perception of weight and sex.

* * *

Conjoint analysis asks participants to evaluate a series of products that vary in several important attributes, such as televisions of various screen sizes, brands and prices. By varying these attributes in a systematic way market researchers can measure with reasonable precision how much each trait is worth. They can then calculate how big a premium people are willing to pay in one attribute (price) to get what they want in another (a larger screen).

In their first study, Dr Caruso and his team recruited 101 students and asked them to imagine they were taking part in a team trivia game with a cash prize. Each student was presented with profiles of potential team-mates and asked to rate them on their desirability.

The putative team-mates varied in several ways. Three of these were meant to correlate with success at trivia: educational level, IQ and previous experience with the game. In addition, each profile had a photo which showed whether the team-mate was slim or fat. After rating the profiles, the participants were asked to say how important they thought each attribute was in their decisions.

Not surprisingly, they reported that weight was the least important factor in their choice. However, their actual decisions revealed that no other attribute counted more heavily. In fact, they were willing to sacrifice quite a bit to have a thin team-mate. They would trade 11 IQ points—about 50% of the range of IQs available—for a colleague who was suitably slender.

In a second study the team asked another group, this time of students who were about to graduate, to consider hypothetical job opportunities at consulting firms. The positions varied in starting salary, location, holiday time and the sex of the potential boss.

When it came to salary, location and holiday, the students’ decisions matched their stated preferences. However, the boss’s sex turned out to be far more important than they said it was (this was true whether a student was male or female). In effect, they were willing to pay a 22% tax on their starting salary to have a male boss.

* * *

To read the entire article, including discussion of another fascinating experiment involving race, click here.

To read a related Situationist posts, see “Mispredicting Our Reactions to Racism,” “The Situation of Body Image,” Prejudice Against the Obese and Some of its Situational Sources,” Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice,” Fitting in and Sizing up,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.”

Posted in Food and Drug Law, Implicit Associations | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Implicit Associations – Podcast

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 22, 2009

Undecided Voter

From the Science Podcast: Robert Frederick interviews Bertram Gawronski on how automatic mental associations predict future choices.

“Bertram Gawronski and colleagues report that they could predict the decision of 70% of those who indicated they were undecided about a controversial political issue. The prediction was based on testing people’s automatic mental associations, or how quickly people responded to and correctly categorized images and words. The results indicate that decision makers often already have made up their mind at an unconscious level, even when they consciously report they are still undecided.”

Open the file here or link to Science Podcast page here.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Implicit Associations, Podcasts, Politics, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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