We’ve all seen casual racism go viral - Barbeque Becky, Golfcart Gayle, policemen escorting brown bodies out of coffee shops. The strange pattern that emerges is that in most cases, the alleged racists keep saying that race has nothing to do with it. Hypothetically, assuming these acts were racially motivated, why not deny it? Why not accomplish a racist goal without the social cost?
But, I mean, at least some of these people are definitely racist. On a societal level, we see it in our behaviors. Hiring practices and wages remain unequal despite few hiring managers admitting to a male or white or hetero preference. And so, if we want to probe racial attitudes, as enlightened individuals, we tend not to rely on self-report. Instead, we recognize that actions speak louder than words.
In science, we’ve begun formalizing these “attitude tests”, and we’re now pretty scientifically sure, people score differently on implicit and explicit tests of racism. But the findings haven’t always been so black and white. A group of researchers were curious, when it comes to the scientific evaluation of our attitudes, just why is it that implicit and explicit tests diverge? ~
On the surface, it’s pretty clear; one task is asking whether you want to explicitly acknowledge that you’re a racist, the other is asking whether your actions are consistent with racism. They’re just different things. But at the same time, both our actions and words have something to do with our attitudes. And according to one piece of research, there may be a subtler explanation for why the two aren’t aligning.
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