The resurgence of openly racist attitudes in the Trump era has led many observers to question whether the apparent reduction in prejudice in recent years was an illusion. New research provides a reassuring answer.
Researchers find that both conscious and unconscious bias regarding race and sexual orientation declined significantly between 2007 and 2016. For racial attitudes, this change was largely generational, whereas the more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality were found in the population as a whole.
That said, Americans are hardly ready to give up all our prejudices. Negative attitudes toward people with disabilities remained steady over that period, and there is evidence that obesity is becoming increasingly stigmatized.
Tessa Charlesworth and Mahzarin Banaji of the psychology department at Harvard University drew these conclusions after analyzing more than four million tests of implicit and explicit attitudes taken on the Project Implicit website. Visitors to the site report their attitude toward a specific group of people, and also take a test designed to uncover unconscious bias for or against that same population.
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