Are We Unconsciously Prejudice?

I have recently taken an implicit test that was designed to perceive your unconscious thoughts about European people and African Americans. The test was meant to uncover your implicit belief of certain stereotypes. This test evaluated your association with good words such as love and peace to bad words such as failure and clumsy. Upon evaluating the words as good or bad it then made an association with Europeans and African American faces. The test evaluates how long it takes you to respond to each stimuli and the faster the test is done the less likely you thought about your answers that you keyed in.

I honestly believe that this test is more than just testing our implicit thoughts. I believe this test also test our perception of things unconsciously. Let’s begin with the bottom-up processing begins with our sensory perception, a way to get information to the brain. These sensory perceptions are hearing, seeing, touching, and smelling that emit energy (Elbich, 2016). An example was given in Goldstein’s textbook with a tree. When we perceive the visionaries of a tree neurons are fired off, giving you what corresponds to certain features of a tree (Goldstein, 2011). I believe that the same happens with hearing. When we hear certain things about certain groups we begin to assimilate these to be true, like what we hear on the news and on the radio. This is when top-processing comes into play. This information that is received is processed by present knowledge, expectation, and also the experiences that we are given in the world (Elbich, 2016). The reason this is important to a test like an implicit test is because stereotypes are taught from our expectations from a certain group of people. We also begin to believe those expectations through media, our own interpretation, and our own experiences.

Someone who has not been exposed to many types of people and live more in a suburban area is more likely to follow such stereotypes. My results ended up being that I slightly prefer African Americans over Europeans. I can conclude that these results are so because of my experiences, my environment around me, and the society I have grown up with. I wanted to take this blog outside of the book and relate it to something I believe to be important. If you’d like you are more than welcome to take the test there are many to take including gay vs straight religious vs non religious and so on. I would love to see peoples results.

Elbich, D. (2016). Lesson 3. Retrieved from Canvas/Angel :

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology. Belmont, Canada: Cengage Learning .

3 thoughts on “Are We Unconsciously Prejudice?

  1. Mahra Alshamsi

    I believe that this topic is definitely an important aspect of social psychology.We are living in different societies that affect our way of thinking and creates different perspectives regarding different cultures.Elizabeth,as you said that it relates to our “unconscious thoughts” so we have no power or control over it. Recently,I have conducted a stereotype experiment at my university here in Dubai in which I had two images and asked the students about their thoughts.On one of the questions I asked them “Which one is more attractive?” and I had a picture of a very beautiful sad blonde girl and a very happy African girl and they all chose the girl who is beautiful from the outside which is the blonde girl regarding her emotions.This in fact suggests how we also have a stereotype for beauty in our world and we see how it could be misleading in many different situations.
    Furthermore,our book explains stereotype as an “oversimplifies generalization about a group or class of people that often focuses on the negative”(Goldstein, 2011). However, we wonder is stereotyping and prejudice inevitable?Are we incapable of controlling it? Thinking that “Men are strong and do all the work”,”Guys are messy and unclean”, “Girls are not good at sports”,”All Muslims are terrorist”, “All Asians are good at math” and much more.Is this the right way to live and raise our children in?

    Goldstein, E. Bruce. “Perception.” Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Third ed. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. 371. Print.

  2. Lauren Michelle Echols

    I think that you bring up a very interesting and also relevant point here, Elizabeth. Although, I think that we could take this idea even further. Chapter 3 of Cognitive Psychology discussed the way in which we perceive things through top-down and bottom-up processing. According to the textbook, bottom-up processing occurs when environmental energy stimulates the receptors in the brain that correspond to the sense being used. And top-down processing occurs usually as a result of the storage of things that were previously perceived and stored in the brain’s long-term memory. This process involves knowledge that we have previously accumulated as well as expectations created by that knowledge (Goldstein, 2011). In the case of prejudice, I think that it is very important to study the media’s role in creating expectations that often sway how we perceive things later through bottom-up processing.

    This post reminded me of several articles that I have read recently about Brock Turner, the man who was convicted of raping a young woman outside of a frat house and was sentenced to just 6 short months in prison. After learning about his conviction, many people expressed their anger over this case. Many articles were written about the unfairness of this trial, stating that his race and social status had lessened the conviction that he really deserved. And in doing a bit of research I have also come to the conclusion that his race and assumed social status may in fact have had an impact on his sentencing. When comparing articles about individuals of varying races who committed similar crimes, minorities were more commonly associated with words with a negative connotations than were white individuals (King, 2016). This could mean that preconceived prejudices towards those of minority decent learned through many experiences with bottom-up processing (ie. constantly viewing images of minorities associated with more negative words) could be causing a change in people’s perceptions (ie. giving those with a perceived higher social status, a shorter sentence) that is shown through top-down processing. Unfortunately, as people read the many articles that were written about Turner after his conviction (articles that seem to stay away from words with strong negative connotations, opting for words like “sexual assault” as opposed to “rape”), such articles may continue to promote stereotypes that will later affect how people continue to perceive different races.

    Goldstein, E. Bruce. “Perception.” Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience. Third ed. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. 51-57. Print.

    King, Shaun. “KING: Brock Turner, Cory Batey Show How Race Affects Sentencing.” NY Daily News. New York Daily News, 7 June 2016. Web. 9 July 2016.

    O’Neil, Lauren. “Status and Race in the Stanford Rape Case: Why Brock Turner’s Mug Shot Matters.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 11 June 2016. Web. 9 July 2016.

  3. Trenaye Javonne Youngblood

    I must admit that when I first came across your blog’s title I let out a small sigh. Due to the recent highly publicized murders committed by American police officers I thought your post would be arguing against the idea of police brutality. I think that your question “are we unconsciously prejudice?” is something that many Americans ask themselves privately, especially during times of civil unrest or division. My sophomore year I took evolutionary psychology as well as social psychology. In both courses the idea of a “natural, unconscious” prejudice was discussed. Unfortunately, I don’t have the textbooks to cite but I’ll never forget what I learned because it changed my understanding of prejudice between humans. According to the evolutionary psychology course: humans became prejudice in order to protect and distinguish themselves from other groups (tribes), my social psychology course professor practically said the same thing: humans developed prejudices to as an in-group vs. out-group (us versus them) safety measure. You said that you believe that when we hear certain things that promote stereotypical ideas about other groups of people neurons fire off and cause you to unconsciously lump the negative behaviors or ideas with the group responsible for it. I agree with you, if this does happen it explains why people can develop an “us versus them” mentality and think nothing of it.
    I also completed two of the Harvard implicit tests. The first one was Barack Obama versus Nixon. I’m not sure why I took that one because I knew that it would say I prefer Obama over Nixon. The second one I took was if I preferred gay people over straight people. The test said I had a strong preference for straight people over gay people which is completely untrue and inaccurate. I found the colors and pictures used in the test to be confusing and I know that it negatively impacted my test. I think that I may take a third one later.

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