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Our Biases

carterian's picture

Here is the site that the tests are based on, you should take a few of them. It tests your lapse, so make sure you get the answers right because if there are too many wrongs it will give a bad answer....just go to the site:

Our Biases

Corey Arterian

When I asked people to participate in taking the “Hidden Biases” test their reaction was of deep interest, but also some reserve. Many people asked whether or not I would still talk to them based on their biases. I explained that these are thoughts that everyone has, and a lot of the time, they aren’t what we want them to be. On these counts, it wouldn’t be right for me to judge someone based on something they can’t control. This basic idea fits into the test itself. The tests uncover the judgments that we carry every day. In today’s society, we mostly focus on biases towards African-Americans and Homosexuals. The girls who showed preferences towards the minority felt a small triumph. These tests, however, made me examine that social perversion of triumph over a bias towards a minority. I realized that this is no better than showing a bias towards the majority. Many girls had biases against people we don’t really think about and openly have biases against. Three groups stood out distinctly: the elderly, overweight, and, disabled.

All of the tests looked at physical features; distinct physical features that people would be biased towards. We dwell on our physical make up; we use it for hate, love, and pride. It’s the basis for stereotypes and judgments. The test is entitled “Hidden Biases,” but, in reality, a lot of our biases are not hidden. Only biases against well-known minorities are hidden (my data shows that biases against less “popular” minorities are also not hidden). We use biases, whether unconscious or not, as a way to join a group mentality. It’s a lot less work for us to just follow a stereotype rather than form our own identity, or take the time to learn about individuals rather than groups. Biases protect us from the unknown and give us ways in which to live.

The test itself was about 45 minutes long. I was only able to get about 10 people willing to put in that time. I had the students take 10 of the tests (Race, Religion, Sexuality, Gender and Science, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Arab-Muslims, Elderly, Disabled, and Weight) and they did not see the results until they had taken all the tests. We then discussed where these biases came from. I didn’t lead the conversation in any direction. I allowed them to explain the biases they wanted to explain. This helped me see which biases were overlooked. One of the problems with the test was that only females took it. Also, almost everyone I tested grew up in a suburban environment. And there was little variation in the ethnicity of those I tested. If I had more time and the people around me also had more time, I may have been able to get a larger variety of test subjects. The last issue with the test was that some people clearly were not showing their hidden biases, but instead were getting too caught up in the motions of the test rather than the unconscious thought behind it. My roommate ended up having a bias towards every minority, which surprised both of us. But from the results I gathered, I was forced to think about the biases we all have.

In the test of Old versus Young nearly everyone showed at least a slight automatic preference for young people, most had a strong automatic preference. I got various explanations. Some people said that they were never close to older people, someone referred to them as a “separate category.” Another explanation was a fear of getting old. We like to think that grandchildren and grandparents get along so well and love each other. From everyone I talked to this isn’t really the case. The age gap turns out to not so much be a gap, but a communication barrier. What’s going on in the minds of the youth does not go on within the minds of the elderly. I never grew up with grandparents, so I never had that experience. I have openly admitted, without shame, that I do not like “old people.” This is certainly not a hidden bias. There is a wall between the younger generations and the older and it has not been addressed. Age is a part of all colors, gender, and sexuality, yet it does not get the same attention. This is a situation in which the minority is candidly ostracized. The test results I got show that they should be getting more recognition.

The Fat versus Thin test harbored similar results to the Old versus Young test. Most people associated this issue purely with media. One girl, from an Asian background, associated her strong preference for thin people with her culture. She told me that her family considers her to be the fattest of the family, looking at her she cannot be above a size four. Another student said that when taking the test, she was expecting the pictures of the thin people to be attractive. I think that this topic is difficult because as oppose to race and age, weight can sometimes be controlled. This still does not justify the shunning of those overweight. It is also difficult because in many cases it is a form of self-hate. Many people give themselves the label “fat.” This seems to be a case of a bias facilitated by the media. I make this inference by comparing historical conceptions of beauty, and today’s conception. Way back in the day, being overweight was considered attractive. The cultural change and the images fed to people today have helped generate this bias. This issue does get attention in our country. There are a lot of groups advocating for healthier images. However, I am not sure if this really rings within the ears of the people. I believe it starts within the media. Women in magazines who are size six should not be considered “curvy,” for starters. Since the issue was created by the media, it should be up to them to at least start making a change.

No one offered any explanation for their bias against disabled people. This was a test with the least variety with respect to biases being against a group. This is a group of people that are often looked over. We have been trained not to “stare” and, consequently, to ignore. The greatest barrier between disabled and abled people is misunderstanding. The only way to break that barrier is to gain knowledge. However, knowledge on this subject is not given out, it is not taught. I worked at a Disability law office for a summer and there was so much that I was completely ignorant of. There is little being done in our society for disabled people. Not just physically disabled, but mentally disabled as well. There are multitudes of public buildings not equipped for the physically disabled, despite laws being passed years ago. Education for mentally disabled is not available everywhere, and many of the places where it is offered can hardly suffice for the kind of special attention that these people need. The fact of the matter is, is that this is an issue that can not be ignored. The reason that we can’t break down the barrier between abled and disabled is because people have yet to recognize it.

Only one person had a preference for straight people over gay people. Everyone else was unbiased. This isn’t to say that there are not people out there who do not like gays. But, based on my data, there are plenty of people who have no preference over the matter. I, as a gay rights activist, do not say that I like gays. Because I am sure that there are some gay people out there that I would not like. Almost all the girls I tested were straight, and they got these results. So, we keep the constant barrier up between the two groups in order to immerse ourselves in that group mentality. Without permeation through the barrier biases will be formed again by the separate group mentalities. So, I propose that homosexuals not have “gay pride” and heterosexuals not have “straight pride.” Allow us to not only permeate through the barrier, but to tear it down altogether and see each other as individuals, not “gays” and “straights.”

The race test had a little bit more variety. It was not unanimous by any means. The major difference between homosexuals and African-Americans is appearance, which may have played a major part in the test’s results. Since most of the girls grew up in a white suburban town, they had little or no contact with African-Americans. This allowed their subconscious to soak up the images offered by media and culture: a negative image. One of my subjects grew up all over the world, in Singapore, Australia, and England, and she never had to interact with Blacks. This showed on her results. She was so appalled by them, but in our discussion we recognized that the only interaction she had had was through the media. I was talking to one of the girls in my hall about these tests and she pointed out that if African-Americans took this test they would probably be very happy to see that they had a bias towards Whites. Yet, my friend was upset by the results showing her hidden bias towards African-Americans. This is an example of an unhidden bias. People are made to feel bad for being part of a majority. And those of us, who showed biases towards the minority, rejoiced in that result, as if that made us better people. I ask that we don’t allow ourselves to be sucked into such a system: good v. evil. There are far too many gray areas for that.

The tests never asked if people preferred right handed or left handed people. It never asked if blonds are better than brunettes, or how about blue or green eyes. Yet, these are all part of our physical make up. Being white or black is a purely physical thing if we allow it to be. I want to be in a place where I can look at someone without pre-conceived notions based on what they look like. I know that I am not the only one who wants it. I know that everyone preaches for equality. We need to recognize the mental walls separating us and herding us into specific groups. But, it takes efforts from both sides. One group is not better than the other, nor are they all good or all bad. I charge the human race to start looking at people not as Asian, Black, Disabled, Old, or Gay, but to look at them as a person: an individual. I also urge the world to become their own individuals, and to step away from the group mentality, do not let stereotypes define you. These tests showed hidden biases, but more importantly they showed unhidden biases. Let’s walk away from these results and learn to become one human race, not a series of them.