Do People Have an Unconscious Racial Bias?

Racial discrimination has been around for as long as history can remember. Typically, whites are viewed to have superiority over other races which stems from the concept of supremacism. Even though we live in a time where we have the first black President of the United States and same sex marriage is legal, racial bias is a concept that has yet to go away. This can be demonstrated in movements such as black lives matter where police brutality is becoming a trending occurrence throughout the country. This leads me to the following question: Is racial bias unconscious?

___________________________________________________________________________________________________Study One

In three experimental studies conducted by the Journal Attitudes and Social Cognition, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, participants were shown images of men holding guns. The goal of this task was to avoid shooting images of men without a gun and instead to shoot men who were holding the guns. As a result, participants always shot an armed black man faster than they shot an armed white man. During this experiment, the bias was considered as equal for both of the races that participated.

Although these combined experiments produced conclusive results, I would have implemented several changes in order to make this experiment. In terms of these combined experiments, I would have made several changes in order to make this a more effective study. To begin with, I would have opted to make this a cohort study. That way, participants can be followed over time to see if having an unconscious racial bias is something that can change over time. Another aspect of the combined studies that I would alter is to make the study have a more in depth analysis by providing a survey that allows participants to answer personal questions about themselves and their background.




This image portrays unconscious racial bias in regards to stops and arrests in the area of Ferguson, Missouri.


Study Two

The purpose of this study was to test if there was an unconscious racial bias among physicians in healthcare. To be more specific, this study entailed the questioning of any form of implicit bias present in physicians. The ultimate goal of this study was to see how the physicians would predict the diagnosis for thrombolysis among white and black patients. There were a total of 287 people who completed the study and met the necessary criteria. From there, they were randomly assigned to either a white or black patient. Physicians were then tested based off of completing a questionnaire. While they reported not having any racial bias, the test results revealed differently. The test results displayed that whites were favored to be treated in comparison to blacks.

This randomized controlled trial backs up the theory that people have strong negative connotations towards the association of people of color. In terms of how effective the study was I would say it was very effective. The study had a clear and defined purpose and goal. In addition, the study included empirical research as well as displayed the causality between the two factors.



This image portrays unconscious racial bias in the workplace in regards to resumes.


Take Home Message

I believe that racial bias can be unconscious. I do not believe this is always the case, but I do think society has engrained supremacist ideology into the minds of many without people realizing it. There is also a factor of implicit bias; according to the National Center for State Courts, implicit bias can be defined as a form of behavior that comes from subtle cognitive processes. This would make sense considering society has a tendency of dictating social norms.

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