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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The Importance of Talking About Racism

After reading Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech and discussing it in class, there are two ideas presented in this speech that have been on my mind. First, Dr. King expressed that it is the social scientist’s responsibility to spread information to the misinformed whites of America. The second idea was a particular quote that Dr. King recited in his speech that really stood out to me. He quoted Victor Hugo saying, “If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.” Martin Luther King used this quote symbolizing whites in society as the cause of the “darkness” (prejudice attitudes/ behaviors and discrimination-both on a personal and institutional level).

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Colorblind Ideology in Children

On Thursday, we talked about the use of colorblind ideology in general, but what I found most interesting was the way in which it was taught to children. In the study by Apfelbaum et al. (2010), children were put into two conditions: one in which colorblind ideology was taught and one in which talking about racial differences was promoted, or the value-diversity condition. The thing that interested me the most was the way in which they explained their reasoning behind either colorblind ideology or talking about racial differences. The color-blind condition focused on similarities. The message that was told to the children was, “…we need to focus on how we are similar to our neighbors rather than how we are different. We want to show everyone that race is not important and that we’re all the same”. The value- diversity version focused on recognizing differences and celebrating them. The statement taught to these students was, “…we need to recognize how we are different from our neighbors and appreciate those differences. We want to show everyone that race is important because our racial differences make each of us special”.

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How Much Do I Expect of You?

In class on Tuesday, we talked about the consequences of stereotype threats on certain individuals. In our society, we have many stereotypes that we use every second to help us better understand our surroundings. We use these in every setting, including school. We believe that Asians are smart, men are better at math than Women, and Black students will fall behind. Are these true? Maybe in some cases. Definitely not in all cases. But just knowing that this is a stereotype that people are aware of causes great anxiety. A Black student may sit down for a test and think “People expect me to do poorly because I am Black.” As a result of “stereotype threat,” studies have shown that they will do poorly. In class we talked about whether or not it is best for a professor or teacher to talk to this student about stereotype threat.

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Telling People I’m a Racist

We are talking about racism in another class I am taking this semester as well as this one. The other day the professor asked us if anyone in the class considered themselves to be racist. I raised my hand because of the Tatum article we all read at the beginning of this class. As soon as I raised my hand I wished I hadn’t. No one else in the class had put their hands in the air (not that I expected them to) but I felt so embarrassed for admitting to them that I was a racist. I tried to explain why and I spoke about the Tatum article so I do not think anyone in the class considered me to be extremely prejudiced but I felt like I allowed twenty-five (0r so) people to see a part of me that I would rather keep hidden.

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IAT

I found the Implicit Associations Test to be extremely frustrating. It was aggravating knowing which letter I was supposed to press and actually getting my fingers to press the correct letter. I found myself yelling at the computer and at myself when I would press the wrong letter. I also had a hard time remembering what categories corresponded with “e” or “i” and there were times I didn’t mean to press a button but my fingers did it for me. It made me feel somewhat helpless. I couldn’t control how I answered the questions even though I really do not dislike black people.

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