Repressing prejudices

Repressing prejudices

A hypothetical example: a white professor describes himself as having a liberal, tolerant worldview. He confirms that it is nonsense and scientifically insupportable to assume that people with different ethnic background have different levels of intelligence. However, the convictions he professes are ostensibly contradicted by his behaviour: he acts, for example, surprised, when a person of colour asks an intelligent question in his seminar. Moreover, his intuitive impression is that his white students look smarter.

Researchers refer to cases when the professed convictions deviate from intuitive behaviour as implicit bias. This kind of bias can be identified using certain psychological tests.

Unconscious or not?

“There’s a fierce debate going on in the fields of social psychology and philosophy on whether the prejudices measured with such tests are unconscious or not,” says the researcher. The fact that people voice liberal and tolerant convictions in spite of their implicit bias points to “unconscious”. However, empirical studies in the past had shown that test participants have the ability to notice their implicit bias under specific conditions. “Interestingly enough, the participants are generally surprised or even shocked once they realise their own implicit bias,” says Krickel.

In order to explain these data, the researcher used psychoanalysis. More specifically: she argues that a philosophically informed notion of Freudian repression constitutes a feasible explanation of the apparently contradictory data.

Source: How humans repress prejudices


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