Everyone has biases and prejudices. Most of them are pretty basic. You prefer a red car to a blue car. You like dogs better than cats. But you also have biases that color how you think and feel about more substantial issues, such as race, or sexual identity. Some people struggle to overcome those biases, some seem to revel in them, and many are apparently completely unaware of them.
The good folks at Harvard University have a website called Project Implicit, that allows you to explore your biases. By doing a series of surveys, you can find out how biased you are in a number of different areas, including race, religion, and sexuality. If you are like many who have taken the surveys, be prepared to be shocked at your results. Particularly surprising are the results of the racial bias test.
When you take one of the Implicit Association Tests at Project Implicit, you are asked to look at a series of pictures and words, and categorize them as either “good” or “bad,” as rapidly as possible. In the racial attitude test, for example, you are shown a series of words such as “wonderful,” “happy,” “angry,” and “agony.” You tap one key to categorize a word as “good,” and another to label it “bad.” There’s no ambiguity. The site tells you, before you begin, which words are good, and which are bad. Next, you are shown a series of faces, and you are required to categorize them as “European American,” or “African American.” Then it gets tricky.
The next step finds the terms “European American” and “African American” paired with either “good,” or “bad.” You see a mix of words and pictures. You may be asked to press a certain key for both “African American” pictures, and “good” words. For “European American” pictures, and “bad” words, you press a different key. The list is run through several times, and each time “good” and “bad” are paired with different races. When you are finished, you are given a score, which tells you whether you prefer white or black faces, and to what degree.
Take the Implicit Association Test at your own risk, and prepare to be surprised.
The results are shocking. Chris Moody, in the Washington Post, observes that whites are biased and they don’t even know it. The results of the IAT seem to confirm that. Moody cautions,
The people who have taken the IAT at the Project Implicit website are not a random sample of Americans, either nationally or on a state-by-state basis. Rather, they’re people who, for some reason, chose to take an online test measuring their implicit biases.
Moody goes on to say that the people who are taking the test may actually be less biased than average, because, “at least they wanted to know how biased they are.”
The data displayed in the following map comes from the racial bias test, and from white participants only. While it may be no surprise to many that whites in the south show a deep bias against African Americans, it may be amazing to learn that New Yorkers are more biased than Oklahomans. Or that the degree of racial bias in Delaware and New Jersey is greater than that in Tennessee, and Arkansas.
As noted, the racial implicit association test is only one of more than a dozen tests you can take to determine your implicit attitudes about social issues. This link will take you directly to the page where you can select the test(s) you want to take. Good luck, and prepare to be surprised at what you might learn about yourself.
For those who want to know more about Project Implicit, you can find a book that tells you all about it at Amazon. The book is called “Blind Spot: Hidden Biases Of Good People,” by Mahzarin R. Banaji, and Anthony G. Greenwald.
Image via We Got So Far To Go