College Papers

Implicit Bias

This was written for a class discussion on implicit biases during my undergraduate years, so it takes on an informal tone. It was for a psychology class and I imagine the professor was hoping for some sort of self-discovery to take place, but I know myself pretty well

An implicit association test is meant to measure ‘thoughts and feelings that people may be unwilling or unable to report’ (Project Implicit) by tracking the ‘automatic associations people make between concepts and attributes’ (Project Implicit). Recently I took three IATs that focused on several different topics: religion, Arab-Muslims, and disability. Each test is designed to pick up on the innate biases I may have, and perhaps make me more aware of them.

The first test I took on religion focused on Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. This test also included a self-report that asked me how I felt about these religions on a warm/cold scale. As someone who has studied all of the mentioned religions but identifies with none of them, I felt pretty safe in claiming neutrality. As I expected, the results of the IAT reflected that with all four of the religions falling into the neutral zone of their scale.

The second IAT I took was the Arab-Muslim IAT which compared Arab names to non-Arab names and positive words to negative words. While I am familiar with Arab culture through readings and keeping up with current events, I have never really been personally exposed to it in the real world and have only closely known one Arab woman in my life, so I figured I would show a preference for the non-Arab names due to my lack of familiarity. I was correct, and my results came up as suggesting ‘a slight automatic preference for Other People compared to Arab Muslims’. I’m not really sure I liked the wording of those results as I don’t believe a preference for names I’m familiar with compared to those I am not shows a preference for actual people.

The third and final IAT that I took was one meant to reveal innate preferences for abled persons as opposed to disabled persons. I grew up with disabled parents and was often designated to assist with disabled students in elementary school, so I have some experience interacting with disabled individuals. Disabilities vary widely and I think the nature of disability would affect how I act, but overall I did believe I would have a preference for abled persons over disabled persons. Right or wrong, disability makes me slightly nervous for reasons I’m not entirely aware of. Perhaps it’s the fear caused by the idea of being disabled myself, or maybe it’s from the few bad experiences I’ve had interacting with disabled persons. I have seen such hardship in my family, and it seems like there are never any right answers. My discomfort was reflected in the IAT which showed a ‘moderate automatic preference for abled person compared to disabled persons’.

While the IATs do seem to reveal some biases, I wonder if what they reveal might be considered a problem for the test taker or if it might tend to simply reveal a preference for what one is more familiar with. I suppose it’s important to be aware of these biases, because they might affect a person’s treatment of another without them realizing it. Awareness could curb that. As we read in The Noticer (Andrews, 2011), our connections to people provide us with opportunities and it would be in our best interest to not let biases hinder the formation of those connections.

I think the most important thing I have taken from these tests is that I need to work on my own discomfort. I know that when I am uncomfortable others can pick up on it, and that can throw a negative light on an interaction.

 

References

Andrews, A. (2011, April 12). The Noticer: Sometimes, all a person needs is a little perspective. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press.

Project Implicit. Retrieved from https://www.projectimplicit.net/index.html

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