The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘prejudice’

Pride and Prejudice

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 14, 2012

From University of British Columbia Press office:

A new University of British Columbia study finds that the way individuals experience the universal emotion of pride directly impacts how racist and homophobic their attitudes toward other people are.

The study, published in the April issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, offers new inroads in the fight against harmful prejudices such as racism and homophobia, and sheds important new light on human psychology.

“These studies show that how we feel about ourselves directly influences how we feel about people who are different from us,” says Claire Ashton-James, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher in UBC’s Dept. of Psychology. “It suggests that harmful prejudices may be more flexible than previously thought, and that hubristic pride can exacerbate prejudice, while a more self-confident, authentic pride may help to reduce racism and homophobia.”

The findings build on research by UBC Psychology Prof. Jessica Tracy, a co-author of the study, who has previously shown that pride falls into two categories: “authentic pride,” which arises from hard work and achievement, and the more arrogant “hubristic pride,” which results through status attained by less authentic means such as power, domination, money or nepotism.

In this new study, Tracy and Ashton-James, a new professor at VU University Amsterdam, found that “authentic pride” creates a self-confidence that boosts empathy for others, which in turn reduces prejudices towards stigmatized groups. In contrast, the feelings of arrogance and superiority that result from “hubristic pride” reduce empathy, thereby exacerbating people’s prejudices against stigmatized groups.

The researchers found a direct link between pride and prejudice in both participants induced into “authentic” or “hubristic” pride states, and those with predispositions towards particular forms of pride. For example, those prone to “hubristic pride” exhibited greater levels of racism, while those prone to “authentic pride” harbored less racism.

With pride as a central emotion for people with power or high social status, the findings may offer important insights into the attitudes of political and economic leaders. “The kind of pride a leader tends to feel may partly determine whether he or she supports minority-group members or disregards them,” says Tracy, a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Scholar.

The study involved 1,400 participants in Canada and the United States.

To view the full study, Pride and Prejudice: Feelings about the self influence feelings about others, here.

A sample of related Situationist posts:

Image from Flickr.

Posted in Abstracts, Emotions, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

Justice for Trayvon

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 26, 2012


For The Situationist, Sabreena El-Amin (Harvard Law School student and President of the Student Association for Law and Mind Sciences (SALMS)), has authored the following legal analysis of the Trayvon Martin shooting and situationist analysis of the “stand your ground” doctrine.  We are pleased to publish it and look forward to more contributions from Sabreena and other members of SALMS.

The Trayvon Martin incident is of particular importance to me: not only as a Black person, not only as a law student, not only as a mother, but as a big sister. My younger brother is currently attending school at Barry University in Miami, Florida. He, like myself, loves Arizona Ice Tea. We are also both big fans of Skittles, though we have a particular preference for the sour kind. Most importantly, we both wear hoodies. I am now more nervous than ever for my brother: a 19-year-old black man walking the streets of Miami with a camera. With laws like the “Stand your Ground” statute, vigilantes like Zimmerman are free to roam the streets in Florida, singling out young black men and killing them seemingly without repercussions.

My argument will focus on two main points: 1) Zimmerman should have been arrested as the prosecution will likely be able to meet their burden of proof that his action was not in accordance with the statute; and 2) the Stand Your Ground statute should be repealed because a) it encourages armed individuals to respond to situations violently and b) it sanctions the attack of Blacks.  I will begin the article by outlining the facts as I know them. I understand that there are several different fact patterns floating around and the story is being developed daily. My arguments will be based solely on the facts mapped out below. I will continue by discussing why the facts would support the prosecution’s case, if one were to be brought, focusing mainly on a piece by Governor Granholm of Michigan. I will then go on to discuss the “Stand Your Ground” statute based on two psychological studies that show the statute endorses more violence than is reasonably necessary.

Facts*

Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black male, was walking to his father’s home in a gated community in Sanford, FL after returning from a 7-Eleven convenience store. En route, 28-year-old self-appointed Neighborhood Watchman, George Zimmerman, spotted Trayvon and telephoned police that there was a suspicious young black man walking around. Zimmerman informed the police that the young man looked like he was on drugs and appeared to be reaching for something in his waistband. Initially Zimmerman claimed that the young man was coming right at him, and then that Trayvon was getting away. Zimmerman complained that “they” always get away. Dispatcher informed Zimmerman that they did not need him to follow Trayvon and Zimmerman said okay. Several residents of the area called in shortly after Zimmerman’s call to report that they heard screaming. In some cases, callers reported a black male lying on the ground. Each caller also heard gun shots and heard the screaming stop. One caller reported that there was a man in a white shirt on top of someone lying on the ground.

Police collected Trayvon’s body, tested him for drugs, ran a background check, labeled him John Doe and placed him in the morgue where he would lie for over 24 hours before he was identified. Trayvon was unarmed and in fact only had a can of Arizona Ice Tea and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman was questioned after the shooting, but never arrested. Zimmerman weighed 250 pounds and had a history of vigilantism.

Zimmerman claims that he shot Trayvon in self defense. Florida has a statute (Fla. Stat. § 776.013, also called the “Stand Your Ground” statute) which states (in relevant part):

(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and

(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.

(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:

(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or

(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or

(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or

(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Zimmerman’s claims he was justified in his use of force based on this statute. It is not clear which clause Zimmerman’s defense is connected to.

Zimmerman has, since the incident, secured legal counsel. Zimmerman’s lawyer asserts that Zimmerman is not a racist and that he in fact mentors Blacks. His lawyer also stated that Zimmerman is currently in hiding, but has not fled the country. According to Zimmerman’s father, Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic.

Currently, Florida Governor Jed Bush does not believe Zimmerman’s actions are covered by the statute. There is a Department of Justice investigation in regards to the failure of the Sanford Police Department to arrest Zimmerman, President Obama has called for justice for Trayvon, and Sanford’s chief of police has stepped down. People across the country are expressing their distaste for the response to Trayvon’s murder and are, via protest, Facebook, articles, etc., calling for “Justice for Trayvon”.

Justice for Trayvon: Bringing Charges against Zimmerman

The “Stand Your Ground” statute essentially creates a presumption of self-defense in certain situations. Zimmerman has yet to be arrested because authorities do not believe there is enough evidence to rebut this presumption. I would like to focus this aspect of my piece on the following arguments: a) the facts of the case do not support a claim of self defense alleged pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 776.013(3) as Zimmerman appears to have been the attacker and not the victim, and b) the facts of the case do not support a claim of self defense pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 776.013(1) as Trayvon was unarmed and Zimmerman was likely acting unlawfully in his pursuit of Trayvon by misleading officials. Admittedly, only Zimmerman knows exactly what transpired during his altercation with Martin, and thus this argument may be moot after Zimmerman’s account becomes public.

Section 3 of the “Stand Your Ground” statute allows someone who is being attacked to respond with force and does not require them to first attempt to flee. Under a possible account of the facts, Zimmerman’s actions were self defense because he was attacked by Trayvon. Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm wrote a piece on March 21, 2012 outlining several reasons why this account is unsupported by the facts as publicly known. In her piece Governor Granholm discusses five key pieces of evidence which refute Zimmerman’s claim:

  • 1.The call from Zimmerman to law enforcement, and the officers telling Martin not to pursue. Zimmerman whispers what many have described as a racial slur under his breath.
  • 2.There is a 911 call where you can hear a voice yelling for help and a firearm shot.
  • 3.Trayvon’s father identified his voice on that 911 call on Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation program on MSNBC.
  • 4.The account of the girlfriend, who says Trayvon told her by cellphone that he was being followed.
  • 5.Trayvon was not armed and weighed between 75-100 pounds less than Zimmerman.

The evidence that we know of — the public evidence — establishes that Zimmerman was the pursuer, and not the victim.

In addition to this evidence, a 9-11 caller reported a man in a white shirt on top of a man lying on the ground. Another caller reported a man lying on the ground screaming “Help” and hearing gun shots go off before he got the chance to go to the man for help. Trayvon’s parents have identified this voice as their sons on the tape. Zimmerman, however, claims that this is his voice, but in connection with the other evidence (e.g., that he was the heavier of the two and that Trayvon was unarmed), this will likely be refuted. Based on the facts as alleged, the situation seems to have been initiated by Zimmerman. Even if Trayvon fought back after being pursued, his actions were justified based on the same statute that Zimmerman is currently hiding under.

Section 1 of the “Stand Your Ground” statute creates a presumption of self defense if a person is doing something unlawful and the person using force knows or reasonably believes that an unlawful act is occurring or about to occur. There has been some discussion at my law school that if Zimmerman asserts that he witnessed Trayvon about to break into someone’s home then Zimmerman may likely have a claim. I think this is unlikely for two reasons. First, Trayvon was unarmed and, based on all available evidence, innocently walking home from the convenience store. In order for the presumption in section 1 to be triggered, the attacked must have been in the process of committing certain crimes. There has been no evidence advanced indicating that Trayvon was participating in any crime. In fact the evidence points to Trayvon being engaged in innocent activity. Second, section (2)(c) asserts that this presumption is unavailable if the attacker is engaged in an unlawful activity at the time of the attack. As the 911 tape shows, Zimmerman was told not to follow Trayvon and said “okay.” This act can be seen as misleading police officers, who were likely told by dispatch that Zimmerman would be waiting for them to arrive before doing anything further. This act is likely in violation of Fla. Stat. § 843.06, which makes the “neglect or refusal to aid peace officers” “in the preservation of the peace” unlawful. Zimmerman’s false compliance with the order may have delayed the response time of the dispatched officers and been the reason why the police were unable to respond to Zimmerman’s call in time to save Trayvon’s life. Arguably, Zimmerman’s actions show  neglect to assist a peace officer and thus could qualify as unlawful acts that will exclude Zimmerman from the protection of Fla. Stat. § 776.013(1).

Justice for Blacks in Florida: Repeal the Stand Your Ground Statute

I would like to start this section by clarifying two points. First, Florida is not the only state to have a version of the “Stand Your Ground” statute. According to the above-mentioned piece by Gov. Granholm, who describes the statute as “part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s cluster of pro-NRA bills that shot through legislatures in the past few years”, Florida is only one of 17 states to have a statute of this kind. Secondly, studies suggest that it is very possible for Zimmerman to be a rational, tolerant, even intelligent, person and still to have reacted in the manner that he did. Many people have labeled Zimmerman a racist and even called him sadistic for his response to an innocent young boy. Sadly, while this may be true for Zimmerman, it does not have to be. Due to the freedom that this law opens up for people to act upon their fears, which may be based on their predisposition to certain opinions, I believe this law should be repealed immediately. Every minute that this law and laws like it remain on the books another Black person’s life is in jeopardy.

Guns Breed Violence

In a piece entitled “Holding a Gun Influences You to Think Others are Armed,” David DiSalvo discusses psychological research that suggests Zimmerman may have reasonably believed that Trayvon was armed. As the title of the piece indicates, James Brockholm’s study, which will be published in the upcoming edition of Journal of Experimental Psychology, supports the idea that the possession of a gun will influence your opinion of whether those around you are armed. Brockholm’s conclusion is that a person’s ability to act upon certain impulses can “bias their recognition of objects… in dramatic ways.” In the study, individuals holding toy guns were more likely to believe a person had a gun than those who were holding a ball and who simply had guns in the room, but not in their hand. The article describes this as the “blending of perception and action representations” which cause those holding guns to believe others are too.

The statute and others like it (e.g. Wisconson’s Castle Doctrine under which a homeowner recently shot and killed 20-year-old, unarmed Bo Morrison, without being charged) is meant to provide a means for people to protect themselves when actually threatened. Based on Brockholm’s research, the statute is actually allowing people to act upon perceived threat that is automatically enhanced by their ability to act against the threat. This research supports the idea that individuals with guns are likely to act frequently because they can act, and not because there is an actually threat. In Bo’s case, his hands were both in the air. In Trayvon’s case, he was walking with a cell phone, an Arizona Ice Tea, and Skittles. Neither youth was armed. Neither was attempting to harm anyone. But two lives are lost, and importantly, two men have taken a life because they were able to, not because they had to. These statutes encourage violence by giving gun holders the right and encouraging them to “meet force with force” when the force they perceive will always be equal to the force they are capable of exerting themselves. These types of laws should be repealed immediately in order to prevent more innocent people from losing their lives and others from taking lives.

People Focus on Blacks when on the Look-out for Criminal Activity

Recently, I took a photograph with some of my Black classmates at Harvard Law School. We wore hoodies and held signs asking “Do we look suspicious?” Unfortunately, research completed by Jennifer Eberhardt, Valerie Purdie, Phillip Goff, and Paul Daves in 2005 concludes that for many people the answer to that question is yes. “Seeing Black: Race, Crime, and Visual Processing” asserts that stereotypes are bidirectional. The article states:

the mere presence of a Black man…can trigger thoughts that he is violent and criminal. Simply thinking about a Black person renders these concepts more accessible and can lead to misremember the Black person as the one holding the razor. Merely thinking about Blacks can lead people to evaluate ambiguous behavior as aggressive, to mis-categorize harmless objects as weapons, or to shoot quickly . . . .

The studies show that not only does thinking about Blacks make people think of crime, but thinking about crime makes people think of Blacks. These studies were intentionally done with both civilians and police officers. The officers were as susceptible to this association. Importantly, the study showed that when one is told to look out for crime, their visual attention focuses on Black faces. They may thus unconsciously avoid criminal activity of non-Black actors. For instance, when experimenters asked police officers “Who looks criminal?,” the officers choose Black faces more often than White faces. The study makes it clear that racial animus is not required. The association is automatic and is even sparked in Blacks and others minorities.

Based on this research, Zimmerman may have associated Trayvon with criminality without having any negative opinions of Blacks. As a neighborhood watchman put on guard to look out for crime, he was likely looking for Blacks. Zimmerman was attempting to crack down on several robberies that had occurred in his neighborhood, and the possibility of criminal activity was salient in his mind, when Trayvon walked innocently by. Zimmerman may have reasonably believed that Trayvon was about to engage in unlawful behavior, but this belief was based on stereotypes and not supported by what was actually occurring. Section 1 of the statute protects people who seek out criminals and prevent their crimes from being completed. As people often unconsciously associate African Americans with crime, they may seek out African Americans engaging in ambiguous behavior percieve it as criminal. Acting upon this perception, they may attack (as Zimmerman did), under the protective shield of the Stand Your Ground Statute, leading to the harm of either themselves or innocent individuals. Based on this research it is clear that the first section of the statute puts a target on Blacks.

Implications

The implications of the research that I have outlined in this section are that people who carry guns and seek out criminal activity will be searching for Blacks and will automatically associate ambiguous behavior with criminal activity. Laws like the “Stand Your Ground” statute give these individuals the right to act upon their perception and harm these Black people regardless of what they are doing. This means that Blacks in such situations will likely have no control over being shot or attacked. Even worse it means that individuals will be searching for Blacks and may unconsciously overlook true criminal activity in an attempt to find images that support their perception. We should not provide support for individuals to act upon irrational conclusions that are not supported by the circumstances. This does not mean that there should be no protection of individuals who respond reasonably to imminent danger, but we should require their perception to be supported by fact and not stereotype and thus require them to be able to connect their fear to something more than the person’s race. We should deem this on a case by case and remove the blanket approval of such behavior. People should be instructed to call police when observing unlawful behavior or to attempt to retreat when in fear of being attacked. Thus the statute should be repealed and self-defense should return to being a defense of murder, and not a presumption of innocence that must be rebutted.

Conclusion

What happened to Trayvon Martin is an all too familiar story to many Blacks. We are profiled regularly based on stereotypes that we have no control over. As many of us mourn Trayvon’s death and remember many of our other brothers and sisters who have fallen victim to racial stereotyping, there is a concurrent legal movement attempting to shed some hope on the issue by bringing charges against Zimmerman. This movement should also focus on repealing the Florida statute. Once these actions are taken, we will be one step closer to Justice for Trayvon.

*I would like to thank Anisha Queen, David Korn, James Smith, and Professor Jon Hanson for their assistance and inspiration with this piece.

** The facts have been compiled from the following articles:

Related Situationist posts:

Image from Flickr.

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

Atheism-ism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 12, 2011

From USA Today:

A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.

Psychologists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon say that their study demonstrates that anti-atheist prejudice stems from moral distrust, not dislike, of nonbelievers.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” said Azim Shariff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the study, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?

The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.

The study is part of an attempt to understand what needs religion fulfills in people. Among the conclusions is a sense of trust in others.

“People find atheists very suspect,” Shariff said. “They don’t fear God so we should distrust them; they do not have the same moral obligations of others. This is a common refrain against atheists. People fear them as a group.”

Shariff, who studies atheism and religion, said the findings provide a clue to combating anti-atheism prejudice.

“If you manage to offer credible counteroffers of these stereotypes, this can do a lot to undermine people’s existing prejudice,” he said. “If you realize there are all these atheists you’ve been interacting with all your life and they haven’t raped your children that is going to do a lot do dispel these stereotypes.”

Image from Flickr.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Conflict, Ideology, Social Psychology, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Breastfeeding Prejudice

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 20, 2011

From Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

A study conducted at Montana State University finds that even though breastfeeding is healthy, cheap and beneficial to mother and child, there is a strong bias against nursing mothers among both men and women.

Jessi L. Smith, psychology professor at MSU, found that participants in three studies thought nursing mothers were not as mentally competent as other groups of women and said they’d be less likely to hire breastfeeding mothers for a job.

The results of Smith’s study were published this summer in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Smith and her co-authors questioned MSU students in three double-blind studies about how they perceived breastfeeding moms’ competence and hire-ability compared to non-breastfeeding people.

In all three studies, the students rated breastfeeding women as significantly less competent in general and particularly less competent in math.

Smith, who became a mother in 2007 after the study was under way, chose to breastfeed her child and said it’s not surprising that new mothers considering breastfeeding are often daunted just thinking about the task.

“It’s the 21st century,” she said. “We have come a long way today in educating ourselves about the health and economic benefits of nursing to both mother and child, but we have done nothing to talk about the fact that breast milk actually comes from the breast and not bottles.”

Promoting breastfeeding to increase the number of nursing mothers would help stem the bias by letting people see that it isn’t a rare thing, Smith said.

“Right now, it’s not surprising that nursing mothers feel isolated,” she said.

Employers could also do their part to encourage breastfeeding by providing a private place for mothers to nurse their children since many mothers are required to return to work just six weeks after the birth of their babies.

“You can’t establish a good breastfeeding bond in six weeks and make a good assessment if breastfeeding will work for you and your child,” she said.

She pointed out that health organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health, stress the economic and health benefits of nursing and advise that breastfeeding protects babies, benefits mothers’ health and society.

Smith has taken her research a step further with an INBRE-funded grant to study actual social psychological barriers to breastfeeding mothers. She has collected data from new mothers in Billings, Bozeman, Kalispell, Miles City and Missoula. She is now analyzing the data and plans to publish the results early next year.

More.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Conflict, Life, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Shared Human Experiences

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 3, 2011


Matt Motyl and his co-authors recently posted their excellent article, titled “Subtle Priming of Shared Human Experiences Eliminates Threat-Induced Negativity Toward Arabs, Immigrants, and Peace-Making” on SSRN (forthcoming  (April 20, 2011). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

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Many studies demonstrate that mortality salience can increase negativity toward out-groups but few have examined variables that mitigate this effect. The present research examined whether subtly priming people to think of human experiences shared by people from diverse cultures increases perceived similarity of members of different groups, which then reduces MS-induced negativity toward out-groups. In Study 1, exposure to pictures of people from diverse cultures engaged in common human activities non-significantly reversed the effect of MS on implicit anti-Arab prejudice. In Study 2, thinking about similarities between one’s own favorite childhood memories and those of people from other countries eliminated MS-induced explicit negative attitudes toward immigrants. In Study 3, thinking about similarities between one’s own painful childhood memories and those of people from other countries eliminated the MS-induced reduction in support for peace-making. Mediation analyzes suggest the effects were driven by perceived similarity of people across cultures. These findings suggest that priming widely shared human experiences can attenuate MS-induced inter-group conflict.

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Download the article for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Conflict, Implicit Associations, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Susan Fiske Discusses her Work on Different Types of Prejudices

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 4, 2010

Situationist Contributor Susan Fiske discusses her research on stereotypes and prejudice and the systematic principles that influence how groups are treated in society.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Objectification,” Women’s Situational Bind,” Hey Dove! Talk to YOUR parent!,” and “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes.”

Posted in Conflict, Distribution, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Neuroscience, Situationist Contributors, Video | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Racial bias clouds ability to feel others’ pain

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 2, 2010

From EurekAlert!:

When people witness or imagine the pain of another person, their nervous system responds in essentially the same way it would if they were feeling that pain themselves. Now, researchers reporting online on May 27th in Current Biology, . . . have new evidence to show that that kind of empathy is diminished when people (black or white) who hold racial biases see that pain is being inflicted on those of another race.

The good news is that people continue to respond with empathy when pain is inflicted on people who don’t fit into any preconceived racial category—in this case, those who appear to have violet-colored skin.

“This is quite important because it suggests that humans tend to empathize by default unless prejudice is at play,” said Salvatore Maria Aglioti of Sapienza Università di Roma.

In the study, conducted in Italy with people of Italian and African descent, participants were asked to watch and pay attention to short films depicting needles penetrating a person’s hand or a Q-tip gently touching the same spot while their empathetic response was monitored. (The researchers specifically measured a feature known as sensorimotor contagion, as indicated by changes in the corticospinal reactivity assessed by transcranial magnetic stimulation.) The results showed that people watching the painful episode responded in a way that was specific to the particular muscle they saw being stimulated when the film character was of the same race. But those of a different race didn’t evoke that same sensorimotor response.

In further studies, the researchers tested individuals’ responses to pain inflicted on models with violet hands. Under those circumstances, participants’ empathetic responses were restored.

“This default reactivity of human beings implies empathy with the pain of strangers (i.e., a violet model) if no stereotype can be applied to them,” said Alessio Avenanti of the Università di Bologna. “However, racial bias may suppress this empathic reactivity, leading to a dehumanized perception of others’ experience.”

The new findings expand on previous studies that have primarily looked at the neural underpinnings of racial bias based on facial expressions, thus emphasizing people’s emotional reaction to the pain of others, the researchers said.

“To the best of our knowledge, our study is the only one that has tested the reactivity to hands and thus hints at the existence of general processes for separating the self from the others that may be largely independent from specific emotions,” the researchers explained.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that methods designed to restore empathy for people of other races might also help in dealing with racial prejudice.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “It’s Hard to Step into Someone Else’s Shoes,” “New Study Looks at the Roots of Empathy,” “Afraid of Knowing Ourselves,” 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,” and “Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas.”

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

Krieger on the Situation of Discrimination in France

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 12, 2010

Situationist Contributor Linda Hamilton Krieger is the French-American Foundation’s scholar-in-residence at Sciences Po.  She recently appeared on a France24 debate to discuss French and American strategies for fighting discrimination in hiring and education.  You can watch the roughly six-minute video of the interview below.

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To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see see “Implicit Associations on Oprah,” Afraid of Knowing Ourselves,” Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” “Geoffrey Cohen on “Identity, Belief, and Bias”,” Colorblinded Wages – Abstract,” “The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,”Measuring Implicit Attitudes,” Firefighters and the Situation of “Merit”,” The Situation of Situation in Employment Discrimination Law – Abstract.”

Posted in Implicit Associations, Politics, Situationist Contributors, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Patricia Devine on Resisting Implicit Associations

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 4, 2008

Nicole Fritz has a nice article summarizing research of Patricia Devine, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor. Here’s a sample.

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It is a question on many Americans’ minds: Is the United States ready for a black president, or will deep-rooted and even unconscious prejudices show at the polls?

For Patricia Devine, . . . who researches prejudice, the answer isn’t black and white.

“Your conscious mind might tell you to vote for [Obama], but in the privacy of the election booth your unconscious biases may vote differently,” Devine says.

However, Devine holds out when she reflects on the outcome of the election. “It remains to be seen but, cautiously, I think America is ready.”

It is Devine’s rare and constant optimism in people that during the past two decades has changed the field of prejudice psychology.

“Extensive amounts of research have demonstrated the prevalence of stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, but where others saw mere statistics, Trish saw an opportunity. The premise upon which much of her research is based is that people desire to be good,” says Laura Sheets, one of Devine’s students and lab assistants. “In her personality, lectures and research, Trish consistently conveys this message of optimism.”

In the 1980s, when equal rights were beginning to become a cultural norm, many pessimistic researchers thought people who responded that they were non-prejudiced but then acted with bias were simply liars. Devine trusted the people’s responses and embarked on journey to find out why people want to free themselves of prejudice but unconsciously act with bias.

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Devine started her research as a graduate student at Ohio State University, moving to UW-Madison in 1985 to become an associate professor. She has spent almost 25 years working to put together what she calls her “prejudice puzzle.”

The first puzzle piece was the difference between controlled or conscious and automatic or unconscious responses. In the ’80s, when prejudice was the domain of social psychology, Devine used cognitive psychology research on intentional versus unintentional responses to explain why people will respond with controlled non-prejudiced answers when they have time to process questions, but will have automatic biased actions without processing time.

First, individuals took surveys to show their conscious level of prejudice. Then they took an Implicit Association Test (IAT), a picture/word association test that asks participants to respond as quickly as possible to whether a face or image or phrase is good or bad.

* * *

Devine explains that these biased automatic responses in IATs come from a socialization process that encourages prejudice.

“[Prejudice] is the legacy of our socialization experiences. We all learn these stereotypes and have these biases at the ready whether we condone them or not, whether we think they are good or not, and as a result the immediate reaction is a biased one,” Devine explains. “If you are going to respond in nonbiased ways, you have to gain control or override the automatically activated stereotypic response and instead respond in these thoughtful deliberate ways that might represent your personal values.

* * *

Devine explains that eliminating prejudice is like breaking a habit — in the same way that she had to consciously stop biting her nails as a child, people who want to break the prejudice habit every day have to be aware of their own internal prejudice.

“[Eliminating prejudice] is a process. Making that decision is the first step, but then what you have to do is put some effort into it,” Devine says. “Just making the decision doesn’t mean you wake up one day, stretch and say ‘I’m not prejudiced,’ because you have got this whole socialization experience that you grew up with.”

To support her view that people with conflicting responses are not liars, Devine broke up participants into two groups: high prejudice and low prejudice. The key difference between the two groups is that high-prejudice people will respond with prejudice and not have internal conflict, but low-prejudice people who respond with prejudice feel guilty afterward.

This guilt, what Devine calls prejudice with compunction, is the key to eliminating prejudice.

“When people’s values conflicted, what I predicted is that if they were sincere in their non-prejudicial beliefs, they would feel guilty and self-critical and they would hold themselves accountable,” Devine says. “When given a chance, [low-prejudice] people tried to learn from mistakes, tried to absorb material and at the next opportunity when prejudice was possible, they responded in a fair and unbiased way.”

* * *

Devine . . . began to research student motivation for non-prejudiced behavior and how students could be better reached. [For more, click here.]

In addition to IAT, Devine used startle-eye blink tests, which places sensors on participants’ eyes and then measures their automatic startled-blink response to different faces. Once again the tests proved discrepancies between the reported and automatic response. But what Devine was interested in was the motivations behind the controlled responses.

Devine found that people have both internal motivations (personal values and standards) and external motivations (pressure from society) to act without bias. Through her research, Devine has learned people can be internally motivated, externally motivated or both internally and externally motivated with no correlation between the motivations.

Her research has also shown that it is only the internal motivations that allow people to act without bias in both controlled and automatic responses. People who are externally motivated or internally and externally motivated respond without prejudice on explicit self-report measures but respond in biased ways on implicit measures that do not allow for control over responses.

By knowing the different motivations of individuals, professionals can try to eliminate prejudice via different methods.

“High internal/high external individuals are not good at responding without bias so what they need is help learning to respond without bias. They already have the motivation; we need to give them the skills,” Devine says. “For the high external individuals, we need to create internal motivation. That is what will rid them of prejudice over time.”

Devine’s latest research shows external motivation pushes can cause negative backlash in society, especially on college campuses.

“The low internal/high external individuals, on a campus like this, receive a lot of pressure, and not in a gentle way. People say ‘The way you think is wrong and people who like you are stupid.’ You start to get irritated and you push the message away,” Devine says. “That is one of the things I worry about: backlash. The harder non-prejudiced norms are pushed on them, the more they cement their walls of resistance. For such individuals, reducing prejudice requires finding ways to crack those walls of resistance.”

* * *

As for Devine, although the possibility of a black president shows a growth in prejudice reduction, she sees 25 more years of puzzle-fitting in her future.

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.”

For some posts examining the the role of implicit associations in elections, see “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.

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

The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 25, 2008

Ann Conkle has an article, titled “Investigating Interracial Interactions,” (in the current APS Observer) summarizing Jennifer Richeson‘s presentation at the APS 20th Annual Convention at which Richeson described her remarkable research on interracial interactions.

* * *

[Richeson] . . . presented her recent findings in the During an encounter between people of different races, if one or both parties are worried about the possibility of expressing or being thought to express prejudice, they may experience some level of anxiety or self-consciousness and may even induce physiological responses to stress, like an increased heart rate and constriction of blood vessels. These reactions can also be cognitively costly. After being primed with a racial situation, like discussing racial profiling with someone of a different race, study participants perform worse on the classic Stroop task. And those with higher bias perform even more poorly. Richeson believes that because they are aware of possible bias and dealing with physiological arousal, individuals must actively self-regulate during interracial interactions. This self-regulation uses cognitive resources and leads to depletion in other areas.

Richeson conducted two further studies to investigate these interactions. [More here.] . . .

In order to investigate what occurs in actual interactions, Richeson and collaborator Nicole Shelton, Princeton University, recruited black and white participants to take a race IAT and then engage in a 10-minute conversation about racial issues. White participants engaged in a conversation with another white participant or with a black participant. In same-race interactions, those with higher bias IAT scores were rated lower by their counterparts on likability. But, ironically, in interracial interactions, black participants liked higher-biased white participants more than lower-biased white participants and found them to be more engaged in the interaction. It seems that higher-biased individuals are aware that they could seem biased and so they self-regulate and in a sense turn on the charm to ensure that the interaction goes smoothly.

So, as Richeson said, the “intra-personal costs may come with inter-personal benefits.” Although it may seem like a positive thing that interracial interactions appear to go well, even when bias is involved, it should not overshadow the fact that interracial interaction is cognitively and physiologically draining. This could cause individuals, especially in those who are most biased, to avoid interracial interactions when possible, a situation which leads to less interracial interaction and undermines the interracial ideals to which our society aspires.

* * *

The whole article is here. For some related Situationist posts, see “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.” 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.

Posted in Choice Myth, Emotions, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The “Turban Effect”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 2, 2008

Christian Unkelbach, has authored a fascinating study which suggests the “turban effect” as a source of Islamophobia. The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The following excerpts about this study are taken from a recent article in The Vancouver Sun.

* * *

A Muslim-style turban is perceived as a threat, according to a new study, even by people who don’t realize they hold the prejudice, dubbed “the turban effect” by researchers.

Research volunteers played a computer game that showed apartment balconies on which different figures appeared, some wearing Muslim-style turbans or hijabs and others bare-headed. They were told to shoot at the targets carrying guns and spare those who were unarmed, with points awarded accordingly.

People were much more likely to shoot Muslim-looking characters – men or women – even if they were carrying an innocent item instead of a weapon, the researchers found.

* * *

When the true intention of the experiment was revealed, Unkelbach says participants insisted they were not prejudiced and must have reacted differently from everyone else.

“The most common response was, ‘I’m sure I didn’t show that effect,'” he says. “They’re uncomfortable and I believe them – people are not doing this willingly. If they could, they would control that. Here, people are almost the victims of what they are fed by their environment.”

* * *

The entire article is here. To read other Situationist posts discussing the causes and consequences of implicit associations, click here. Image by Arriving at the horizon.

Posted in Conflict, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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