Racism is the Norm, It is Everywhere

In an article by Adams et al, entitled “Beyond Prejudice: Toward a Sociocultural Psychology of Racism” Adams discusses many misconceptions people have about racism in today’s American society.  One point made stated that racism is a product of abnormal personalities.  Most people would swear up and down that they do not have a racist bone in their body, because being called racist is a fear of many.  The term “abnormal” infers that racist is not only strange and pathological, but also infrequent.  Racism is all around us, and I wanted to address this because racism is really all around us … Read more

Implicit and Explicit Prejudices

It’s difficult to discuss prejudice without clarifying what it is. The fourth edition of the American Heritage College Dictionary provides four meanings for the term—from “an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts” to “irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race or religion.” Both definitions apply to the experiences of ethnic minorities in Western society. Of course, the second definition sounds much more menacing than the first, but prejudice in either capacity has the potential to cause a great deal of damage.

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If He Wasn’t Wearing a Hoodie…

In light of the delayed Trayvon Martin coverage this week, Fox News caster Geraldo Rivera excused the actions of Zimmerman because of the hoodie Martin was wearing. Not only was Rivera blaming the victim, but he used a cultural frame to dismiss this grave injustice. It wasn’t just Rivera that has expressed this sentiment; this week when I was expressing my frustration and anger about the case, a friend of mine said, “I understand that it is wrong, but I can understand why he looked suspicious.” I looked at her and explained that it was problematic to assume that a young boy, who was wearing a hoodie—which plenty of white boys wear—could be looked at as suspicious because he was standing, while being Black. I explained to her how the fact that we look at Black males and immediately think of violence is problematic in of itself.

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Can Implicit Attitudes Change?

After completing the IAT last week, I began to really think about the meaning of the test itself and whether the test is a reliable measure of someone’s unconscious thoughts. This thought became even more prevalent after reading the article by Blair (2002) and also the article by Karpinski and Hilton (2001). The articles seem to support the fact that implicit attitudes may be influenced and/or changed by environmental factors and outside forces. I have always perceived the IAT as a direct measure of the implicit biases that live in our unconscious thoughts and feelings. While I have never been convinced that implicit attitudes shape behavior, I always believed that the test itself measures the thoughts that someone has beneath the surface of explicit and conscious understanding. Blair’s article, however, shows that there are many factors that may influence the attitudes of someone and that the context of a situation is a determinant in implicit attitudes. Reading the article by Blair (2002) allowed for a new understanding of how are implicit behaviors are shaped.

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Contact Theory, Controlled Thought, and the Fundamental Attribution Error

In our class focused on aversive racism, we examined an article by Patricia G. Devine. Devine’s article consisted of three related studies which focused on the mental processes of both high-prejudice and low-prejudice individuals. Devine’s first study found that high and low prejudice individuals are aware of the same stereotypes. Devine’s second study looked below the surface of consciousness, and found that when people, whether they are high or low prejudice are not aware that they are being primed with stereotypes, they will behave in a way that is dictated by the stereotypes. The third, and (in my opinion) most important study affirmed that there are two distinct routes that people encounter when engaging in stereotypical thought (clarify: thoughts about stereotypes). The first route is the automatic route, that is, when a stereotype comes to mind, the mind automatically processes it, and people automatically use the stereotypes. The second route is the controlled route, which occurs when people get the opportunity to control their thoughts before using or not using stereotypes. It is through the controlled route that we see the distinction between high and low prejudice individuals. High prejudice individuals, when given opportunity to control their thoughts, still use stereotypes to direct their thinking. Low prejudice individuals, on the other hand, take the opportunity to control their thoughts and actively avoid the use of stereotypes in their thinking.

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Stereotypes as a Cognitive Tool

I found the findings of the article “Stereotypes as Energy-Saving Devices: A Peek Inside the Cognitive Toolbox” by Macrae, et. al incredibly depressing. The researchers’ studies on both implicitly and explicitly presented stereotype cues revealed that stereotypes, like any kind of schema, save cognitive energy. Rather than analyzing the different traits of a new person, we subconsciously label them as part of a group. That way, we can instead use cognition to process what they are saying, or something else that is going on in the environment. Physical traits such as ace, gender, and disability status obviously stand out as markers about what group somebody belongs, and we make judgments based on our preconceived notions of these groups. Our brains do this automatically; without meaning to.

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