An examination of how beliefs are shaped by hidden bias.
Banaji (Psychology/Harvard Univ.) and Greenwald (Psychology/Univ. of Washington) argue that the 4 percent divergence between Barack Obama's actual white American votes in 2008 and pre-election polls is an indication of the racial factors involved. In their opinion, had Obama “been obliged to rely only on the white American electorate, he would have lost in a landslide.” The authors have collaborated since 1980 and have developed survey methods designed to reveal what they call “unconscious” or implicit cognition. The Implicit Association Test (developed by Greenwald in 1994) is one of these methods, which they and others have used to help understand the role that unconscious bias or prejudice plays in shaping attitudes. (On the Oprah Winfrey show, Malcolm Gladwell described how he took one of the tests and was shocked at the results: “I was biased—slightly biased—against Black people, toward White people, which horrified me because my mom's Jamaican.”) Subjects taking the test are required to make rapid associations to reveal unconscious associations with race, gender and age. The authors discuss how, paradoxically, these associative mechanisms also confer cognitive benefits: “Stereotyping achieves the desirable effect of allowing us to rapidly perceive total strangers as distinctive individuals.” Their tests have produced a “large body of data” on the relationship between automatic associations and the reflective mind.
A stimulating treatment that should help readers deal with irrational biases that they would otherwise consciously reject.