Washington: Everyone’s a little bit racist, but it may not be your fault – what we can blame instead is TV, the internet and even the books that we read, according to new research.
Paul Verhaeghen of the Georgia Institute of Technology and colleagues gave participants a questionnaire designed to rate the amount of prejudice (both negative and positive) they exhibited.
They also timed their subject’s response times to different types of word pairs.
The first types were word pairs typically associated with stereotypes, like black-lazy, female-weak or old-lonely.
They contrasted this with pairs of words that contain the same first word, but are not stereotypical pairings, like black-goofy, female-uptight, or old-playful.
A third type were words that are highly related, but do not reflect stereotypes, like night-cool, or summer-sunny.
Social psychologists believe that these very fast response times that people tend to exhibit for stereotypical pairs are a reflection of an unconscious, gut-level type of prejudice.
In looking at their results from the tests, researchers found that participants responded faster to the pairs that were more often found together in the literature, whether they were stereotypical or not; for example, words like black tended to be more associated with negative and positive stereotypes like lazy or musical than with words like goofy not associated with stereotypes.
Other pairs that had strong correlations were white with greedy and successful; male with loud and strong; female with weak and warm; old with lonely and wise; and young with healthy and reckless, the study said.
The study was recently published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.