It’s Black and White

10 Apr

I’m challenging my deepest, most cherished, most firmly held conviction, that chocolate is its own food group Justice Is Conflict, to quote the title of one of my favorite books, and reading Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (check out the author here). Mind you, I have no background in psychology. I’ll review Haidt’s book in the future, but for now, there’s a link to a website included in a chapter on the formation of moral rationalizations, Project Implicit, administered by three scientists. At the site there are a number of research projects readers can participate in. The one I tried took about 15 minutes and involved two series of photographs of men and women, Hispanic, African-American, white, and Asian, followed by batteries of questions, after the respondent registers for free. The upshot: I tend to consider white people as good, and black people as bad. I warn you, your results could anger you.

According to the backgrounder:

Psychologists understand that people may not say what’s on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so. For example, if asked “How much do you smoke?” a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may purposely report smoking only 2 packs a day because they are embarrassed to admit the correct number. Or, the smoker may simply not answer the question, regarding it as a private matter. (These are examples of being unwilling to report a known answer.) But it is also possible that a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may report smoking only 2 packs because they honestly believe they only smoke about 2 packs a day. (Unknowingly giving an incorrect answer is sometimes called self-deception; this illustrates being unable to give the desired answer).

The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between purposely hiding something from others and unconsciously hiding something from yourself. The Implicit Association Test makes it possible to penetrate both of these types of hiding. The IAT measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.

I guess I could joke, that I wanted to beat the test, but the second section involved two series of photos and the “I” and “E” keys measuring how quickly I could associate “good/white” and “bad/black”, followed by “good/black” and “bad/white”, with a photo or word, like “positive” or “awful”. I made mistakes with more frequency, probably because the television was playing in the room. Another section asks the respondent to judge a person based on a photo and another photo of another person identified as a friend. I’ll admit there were many faces, and mostly white, of men and women I did not like.

I’m open to the realization, that I have some strongly held opinions, and I’m looking forward more than before to Haidt’s argument.


One Response to “It’s Black and White”


  1. Lessons Learned Online These Years « Infidelworld - 24 January 2013

    […] and that it has helped me deal with the ugliness and Moff’s Law – motivated reasoning. I should write a review of Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and […]

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