Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bang bang! You're a racist!

I've done a few of the tests at Project Implicit, and each time the results have been inconclusive or I seem to show no preference. I've been skeptical of their tests [but haven't taken the time to deconstruct them], seeing as how I'm pretty much ambidextrous, but most of the population, being pretty much right-handed, also seem to get measured as having implicit biases. So, what I'd like to see is their results broken down by handedness of the participants.

However, like I say, until recently I didn't care enough to do something about it. Then I saw this:

To my horror, I turn out to be a racist.

Now, I don't know Nicholas Kristof from Eve's house cat, but I would have bet he's one of the least racist persons on the face of the planet. So I decided to take a closer look at this 'test.'

It's another one where I thought handedness might figure into the result, so after going through the test the first time as instructed --- right hand shoots, left hand holsters the gun --- I went through it a couple more times: shooting all 100 the next time through, and not-shooting all 100 the third time through. Both of those two trials, instead of reacting as quickly as possible, I did two things: looked only at the hands [no faces], and waited until I was sure what the object was before hitting the key.

All 3 times I had roughly the same results as Kristof, but after studying the images a little more closely, I'm convinced that the designers of that test need to re-evaluate their images. It looks to me like [and I saw a similar comment in that huge thread on Kristof's blog]

the images of blacks holding guns are readily apparent as such and the images of whites holding not-guns are just as readily apparent, but the images of blacks holding not-guns and whites holding guns are more difficult to decipher.

I'd like to see somebody do a rigorous test of that possible confounding variable before labeling another huge chunk of us as implicitly racist.


Anonymous said...

This is a "shoot/don't shoot" and the process is pass/fail. If you shoot anyone without a weapon, you fail.

It is automatically a bias producer, in that when you make it dependent on speed, you drop down to the "lizard brain" which interprets anything different as "bad". This is a built in survival response, not social. You can get the pattern with clothing that you see with skin color, which is a major reason for uniforms.

Without genetic engineering you aren't going to change it, because it's hard coded, not a societal response.

This response has nothing to do with the problem of racism, which is a learned bias and subject to alteration.

hipparchia said...

so... is your lizard brain racist?

i get your point about our lizard brains automatically classifying different = bad, but kristof tells us that many blacks have the sam response, which suggests that different may not be the operative principle, at least not for everybody.

more here [i'm the adorable one].