On-campus Lecture: Diversity and Inclusion

April 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I attended an on-campus lecture that discussed diversity and inclusion as it related to different types of oppression, one of which was stereotyping. Dr. Monteith, a social psychologist, walked the audience through stereotyping and prejudice. She focused on the idea of implicit stereotyping and prejudice, stating that these two concepts are driven by unconscious processes and don’t require attention or intention to activate.

Monteith began by sharing some research that she has done on the topic of measuring an implicit bias by having research participants undergo reaction-time tasks. The aim of the tasks was to measure associations with target groups and to measure reaction times given different pairings. For example, associations between bread and butter or doctor and nurse present fast reaction times. Dr. Monteith decided to do this with associations like black and criminal as well as black and bad. In this implicit association task, Monteith tested the associations white—pleasant, black—unpleasant, and vice versa.

What she found was that white participants are better at matching white with pleasant and black with unpleasant, which supports her idea that stereotyping and prejudices are unconscious processes and require little attention to do. Monteith also discussed the consequences of this implicit bias. She presented evidence that stated that whites, as well as black, do this. Using the example in which people are asked to choose partners for an intellectually challenging task, studies show that whites AND blacks will more often choose a white partner. She also used studies on friendliness of behavior to confirm this idea; white and blacks were more often likely to consider whites more friendly then blacks.

To close her discussion, Monteith offered some ideas about changing this problem. She proposed that there are two types of prejudices: and old-fashioned prejudice and a contemporary prejudice. The old-fashioned prejudice was described as being overt, antipathetic, and hostile, while contemporary prejudice was described as pervasive, insidious, dangerous, and harder to change. Monteith advised that in order to transform the problem of implicit stereotyping and prejudice that lots of conditioning and awareness would be necessary in the form of self-linking, counterstereotyping, and self-regulation of prejudice responses. Dr. Monteith also warned that implicit biases can be reduced but the magnitude remains substantial due to the fact that these stereotypes are many times done without us even realizing it. She also suggested that our society is not likely to be rid of intergroup biases anytime soon, but that our biases can be controlled at the level of behavioral control.

This lecture gave plenty of incite on the topic of stereotyping and was particularly interesting considering stereotyping and prejudices are discussed a substantial amount in this class, very much so in the last few weeks. We talk about how stereotypes and prejudices need to be eliminated, but after hearing this I’m wondering if that is even possible. In order to completely eliminate it, every single person would have to alter the way they think. And while this seems ideal, it is not very realistic. I found it interesting and very true that stereotypes are very much ingrained in our heads and many times we make judgments about others without even realizing it because it is such a huge part of our culture. It makes me wonder whether these problems will ever truly disappear.

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