The Huffington Post:
Who is good? And who is better?
We make these value judgments all the time, and for good reason, about individuals. But most of us have been taught not to make such judgments about groups of people. Equality is a core principle of American society, and it’s unjust — or at least politically incorrect — to subscribe to social hierarchies.
But such explicit hierarchies have played a powerful role in American history, and many believe that they still do — in a more subterranean fashion. Indeed, some psychological scientists suspect that rules of superiority and inferiority are still alive and well in the American psyche, shaping our judgments of race and religion and even age in subtle ways.
University of Virginia scientists Jordan Axt, Charles Ebersole and Brian Nosek wondered not only if social hierarchies persist in the American social memory, but if the same unacknowledged hierarchies are widely endorsed by members of different social groups. One would expect group members to favor their own — old-fashioned favoritism — but how about beyond that? Do people — regardless of their own race and religion and age — have favored (and disfavored) groups that they do not publicly — or consciously — proclaim?
The scientists used the Implicit Association Test to investigate how positively or negatively people feel — without knowing it — about certain racial groups, religions and age groups, including their own. In three separate studies, they asked very large numbers of respondents about their own demographics and about their explicit feelings regarding race, religion and age. Then the respondents completed a version of the IAT that tapped into their unconscious feelings toward the same groups. The idea was to see how in-group favoritism, conscious ideals of fairness, and enduring biases all interact to shape group dynamics today.
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