A possie in Aussie

February 28, 2009

Pride or prejudice

Filed under: race relations — Nayano @ 7:51 am
Tags: ,

I often refer to the Harvard Implicit Project online test to detect unconscious preferences/isms/prejudice in these pages. Clearly, I am impressed by it. (Also see Not a racist? You are a fool or a liar.

Pete Jones, however, has recently sent comments that I thought I should post on the front page here, since I doubt if many of you go through the archives much!

Here is the conversation so far:

Pete Jones
Harvard should be more careful in pointing out that their ‘scores’ mean absolutely nothing the in the real world ( See Blanton and Jaccard 2005, 2006). A ‘strong’ or ‘moderate’ preference is just that, a preference, and there is no evidence that even strong scores make you ‘racist’;. People make this assumption despite the warnings on the site.

Thanks for your comment, Pete – and it’s a good point.
I am about to have a look at Blanton and Jaccard 2005, 2006!
I still think the test is worthwhile as a wakeup call’.

Pete Jones
Hart Blanton has the papers on his web site; http://blanton.socialpsychology.org/

I think that in the desire/rush to get data for their test Harvard have allowed it to become a ‘fairground attraction’. If you look at an article in the European Review of Social Psychology (2008, 19, 285-338) you will see that there are over 20 potential contaminants just in the way different people approach the test which this large scale testing cannot control for. So, when you get a result it should be taken with a large pinch of salt and remember that they are not saying you are racist. In fact research suggests that only a few % of people are strongly racist and about 20% have a more controlled racism which generally they manage and don’t consciously let impinge on others. And that is the rub (as Shakespeare said?), as almost half of people leave the Harvard site believing they are ‘racist’ when in fact that is a gross over estimation IMHO.

Thanks for all the information, Pete.
I haven’t had time to read it all yet – is that true that almost half the users leave the site ‘believing they are racist’?
People I have spoken to who have done the test are often shocked by their results, but don’t say that therefore they are racist. Instead they have something profound to think about. But of course all that is just anecdotal.
As I think that I have already said, (sorry if I am repeating myself): I think that all sorts of ‘ism’s are endemic, and most happen ‘under the radar’, and so I welcomed a means to at least become more self-aware.

Pete Jones
That is exactly right Nayano, but I monitor the web chat on the test and most people start the post with some expression that they have discovered they are racist.

The bottom line is the test raises awareness and then people can think about what they might want to do about it? My concern is that the measurement isn’t probably isn’t suitable to be used with 14 million people (as it has been since 1998) if numbers are leaving thinking it says they are racists/sexist etc.

PLEASE – leave your comments on the test


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