Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Test Your Biases

After reading an article and blog post by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times about biases ingrained in us, I took a few of the on-line tests Kristof mentions. First, I played the Police Officer's Dilemma, in which pictures of whites and blacks holding guns and harmless objects appear and I have to quickly decide whether to shoot or holster my gun.

It took me an average of o.644 seconds to shoot armed blacks, 0.702 seconds to shoot armed whites, 0.708 seconds to holster my gun when faced with unarmed whites and 0.893 seconds to determine unarmed blacks are not a threat. By the way, I also shot 3 or 4 innocent black people and one or two innocent white people and holstered my gun at a few armed folks, both white and black, which resulted in me being virtually shot. I would not make a good police officer.

Then I took a few "implicit attitude tests" (IATs) at Harvard's Project Implicit. One of them was confirmed the findings of the previous test - I strongly associate guns with African Americans.

I took the presidential candidates IAT three times. The first time, it showed me that my favorite candidate is John McCain, though even he started in the middle of the graph, which means I'm not that crazy about him either. Right below him was Barack Obama, after that an empty space and then Hillary Clinton. What?!? Hillary is my favorite candidate in reality, and here she shows up far behind Barack Obama, who I really dislike? I expected Hillary to be on top, McCain in the middle and Obama right at the bottom. I took the test a second time, and the order was the same, except this time Clinton was directly below Obama without any space. Still unhappy with the results, I repeated the test again and it showed that I like all candidates equally, probably the result of being too familiar with the test than anything else.

Other results:

Sexuality IAT: I moderately prefer heterosexuals to homosexuals (sounds right - as a liberal I'd like to be able to say I'm free of any biases against gay people, but I am well aware that I'm not).

Presidents IAT: I moderately prefer Bill Clinton to George W. Bush (I'd expect it to be a strong preference).

Age IAT: I have no preference one way or the other (sounds exactly right - I truly feel comfortable with people of all ages).

Religion IAT: I have a moderate preference for Judaism over other religions (since I'm a non-religious Jew that makes sense. Interestingly, most respondents have a more positive reaction to Jewish symbols than to symbols of other religions).

Asian IAT: I strongly associate European Americans with American and Asian Americans with foreign (I guess that I subconsciously do that).

Arab Muslim IAT: The biggest surprise of all - I have a slight preference for Muslim Arabs compared to other people. Huh? This doesn't make any sense. I feel that I am very biased against Arabs and Muslims, even though I would rather not be. Since the test is based on names and not pictures, maybe it shows I'm just more used to hearing Arab names than European and Asian names? Or maybe I am the open-minded liberal I'd like to be. I was so surprised by this result that I retook the test and the second time it even showed that I have a moderate preference for Arab Muslims, more than the slight preference I had the first time around.

Gender-Science IAT: Little or no association between Female and Male with Science and Liberal Arts. I guess that as a male in the social sciences I really don't associate different academic fields with a certain gender.

On the other hand, on the Gender-Career IAT I displayed a moderate association between male and career and female and family.

Weight IAT: I took it twice. The first time it said I have a slight automatic preference for fat people over thin people. As a skinny dude, that surprised me. I retook the test and the second time around it said I have a moderate preference for thin people. The truth is probably in the middle - that I don't really have a preference, as long as it isn't for romantic purposes.

Skin-color IAT: Little to no preference between dark and light skin.

And one last IAT (there are a few more I have not tried), the Native American IAT shows a slight association of Native Am. with Foreign and White Am. with American compared to White Am. with Foreign and Native Am. with American.

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