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Buried Prejudice: The Bigot in Your Brain

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posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 06:05 PM
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Over the last few weeks I have observed what seems to me to be an increased number of prejudiced and hate filled posts. These usually revolve around the issue of race, religion, sexual orientation, and/or presidential politics. The mods are amazing at removing the truly offensive ones, but a lot of them are masked within a thinly veiled attempt of pretense to a valid opinion. This of course has nothing to do with ATS, it is but a microcosm of society at large.
I have often wondered what makes people so extreme in their fears and hates. It is too easy to dismiss them with a passing insult. In many ways this dismissal would be symptomatic of the same attitude we are attributing to them.
I did a little research on this topic and found the enclosed long yet comprehensive article.
It is by no means the final word on this complicated topic.
But I thought it might shed at least partial light on this fundamental societal issue.




Key Concepts:

Subliminal Stereotyping

All of us hold unconscious clichéd beliefs about social groups: black and white, female and male, elderly and young, gay and straight, fat and thin.

Such implicit bias is far more prevalent than the more overt, or explicit, prejudice that we associate with, for instance, the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis.

Certain social scenarios can automatically activate implicit stereotypes and attitudes, which then can affect our perceptions, judgments and behavior, including the choice of whom to befriend, whom to hire and, in the case of doctors, what treatment to deliver.

Recent research suggests we can reshape our implicit attitudes and beliefs—or at least curb their effects on our behavior.


The full article can be found here.

There are also good links on the article page for further exploration.




posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 06:30 PM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


I want to keep your thread, going....schodinger, because it has merit.

I will say, though....how the heck do you know how to bring a *link*....sorry, food was delivered, I got distracted.....



posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 07:50 PM
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A very interesting subject.
So many of us don't believe we are prejudiced, but deep down many of our everyday thoughts and actions are influenced by these preconceived ideas, I know I've caught myself doing it and I try to keep it in mind.

If more people were aware of the sneaky goings on in our heads we could question our motives, before making prejudiced decisions and actions that effect others in a negative way.

It can only be a positive thing.......well I hope so.



posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 08:08 PM
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Excellent thread. I've not been here long enough to really weigh in, but have seen similar antics on other forums for years. I think that some folks with deep currents of anger towards various groups carry that agenda with them, and both intentially and unintentionally play that out in their internet interactions. I am reminded of the Mulsims who were detained in the U.S. when they were observed apparently praying on an airplane. I freely admit that within context of that time, I would've been fearful as well. I freely admit I might still be a tweak fearful to observe a similar situation, and that admission comes with the realization that I'm making several layers of judgement...... applying my own sterotypes toward a person's clothing, manner, physical appearance, etc. God forbid I walk up and ask somewhat, respectfully, if they normally engage in prayer prior to an airplane takeoff. So, I think we can discover things about ourselves if we are observant.

Hypothetical situation: A dark-skinned person here in the Caribbean commits a crime, and they are observed. The report might well be: he/she looked like a Jamaican, since so many Jamaican nationals are here in the Cayman Islands. There are many other dark-skinned people here, including CAYMANIANS. I noticed much the same when I lived in California. For many people, anyone with an apparent Spanish accent, is a Mexican. Now that may serve the probability, but shouldn't be automatically assumed.

To the credit of my people here, the N-word is rarely used. People are characterized as (say they want to describe what a person looks like) a white person, a brown person, a black person. A brown person here might well be a black person in the U.S. I myself think of my skin tone as an icy beige.


Now I've left myself open for all manner of dissection. I don't mind. Maybe there's things I have yet to discover about my perceptions.

Short answer: (finally!!!) People fear that which is perceived as being different, until they discover that more similarities exist than differences.



posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 08:10 PM
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It's an interesting area of research


Project Implicit: What's your social bias?



posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 09:00 PM
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There is another terrific article on this subject from scientific american:

How Harvard students perceive rednecks: The neural basis for prejudice From Mind Matters
by Mind Matters
14 Comments
How Harvard students perceive rednecks: The neural basis for prejudice
Feb 5, 2008



Stephen L. Macknik

Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology
Barrow Neurological Institute
Phoenix, Arizona


The source of many of the world's woes might be tracked to a specific brain area responsible for identifying people that are not of our ilk. If so, a study on the neural bases of prejudice and its modulation (read abstract or download the pdf), by Jason Mitchell and Mahzarin R. Banaji, of Harvard University, and C Neil Macrae, at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, published in Neuron in May 2006, could be as important to the burgeoning field of social cognitive neuroscience as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech was to the American civil rights movement.

Like-minded

How does the brain differentiate those who are similar to us from those who are different? Does it analyze differences in skin color, language, religion, height, eye color, foot size? Does it discriminate cat versus dog lovers, Pepsi versus Coke drinkers, Shiite versus Sunni, Crips versus Bloods?

In a way, the brain does all this and more by simply distinguishing those who don't meet various definitions of who we are. Specifically, a forebrain area called the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) appears to predict the behavior of members of outgroups by employing prejudices about their presumed background -- assumptions we make, in other words, based on what groups their various traits and contexts seem to put them in or out of. In this sense, outsiders, or those in outgroups, include humans of dissimilar cultural or ethnic identities or any other perceived stereotyped dissimilarity from your own self-identified groups, as well as non-human agents such as cartoons and animals and even inanimate moving objects. We distinguish otherness by all sorts of indicators, from the seemingly obviously, like sex or race, to the more obviously cultural, such as whether a person is wearing, say, a Yankees cap, a Dodgers cap, or a tee-shirt that says Baseball Sucks.

The focus of the paper under review here focuses less on the cues than on the brain areas that respond to them. The authors detailed the function of a particularly important brain area while studying the neural correlates of "mentalizing." Mentalizing is the ability to predict how other people will behave in a given situation. It combines the powers of theory of mind (our ideas about what other people know and do not know) with the presumptions that we hold about people with dissimilar backgrounds. Some researchers believe that mentalizing is a function of the brain's mirror neuron system, allowing us to predict the behavior of others by simulating how other people may feel in a given situation.

You might be a redneck if… you activate a Harvard student's dorsal mPFC

The experimenters used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of Harvard and other Boston-area students while showing them pictures of other college-age people whom the researchers randomly described as either liberal northeastern students or conservative Midwest fundamentalist Christian students. The categories were a ruse. The pictures were actually downloaded from an online dating website and randomly assigned to the two groups (which were an invention of the researchers), with each group holding similar racial and gender mixes. The experimental participants, however, thought each person pictured really was from one group or the other because the experimenters contrived demographic information about each photo; this information was randomly reassigned to different pictures with each new experimental subject. The participants, then, were confronted with pictures of people who had randomly generated but coherent cultural and political identities already attached to them.

The participants themselves, meanwhile, had answered a questionnaire about their social and political attitudes, which the scientists used to classify them as liberal or conservative. How would these self-described liberals or conservatives react to the pictures of the (supposedly) liberal and conservative strangers?

Prior research had suggested that the medial prefrontal cortex, or mPFC, an area stretching up and forward from roughly beneath the temple, was known to be involved in mentalizing. The researchers hoped to distinguish whether two important parts of the medial PFC, the ventral mPFC (toward the front of the mPFC) and the dorsal mPFC (further toward the top of the head), might be reacting differently. The brain imaging results indeed indeed showed a dissociation between these two regions. Heightened activity in the ventral mPFC was associated with mentalization of self-similar people, whereas dorsal mPFC activity was associated with mentalization of self-dissimilar people. But when the participant pondered the subject in situations where an outsider was believed to behave in the same way as the participant would, activity in dorsal and ventral mPFC was equivalent. For instance, virtually all college students enjoy going home for Thanksgiving, irrespective of background, so a conservative student would recognize that even a liberal probably loves Thanksgiving, and his brain would set aside their differences when it came to that situation.

Mentalizing as Moralizing

The study adds valuable perspective to our understanding brain dynamics associated with stereotyping and prejudice. It shows, for instance, that the recognition of a common interest or trait in an "outsider" has the potential, at a brain-based level, to make that outsider seem less foreign and threatening. Prejudice may in part arise (and be easily aggravated) when people assume that members of an outgroup do not have corresponding mental states, due to their different backgrounds. Without a self-referential basis to mentalize individuals from an outgroup in a specific circumstance -- without the opportunity, in other words, to recognize the things they have in common -- perceivers may rely heavily on stereotypes to predict the mental states of outgroup members.

The experimenters certainly saw it that way. They concluded that "that a critical strategy for reducing prejudice may be to breach arbitrary boundaries based on social group membership by focusing instead on the shared similarity between oneself and outgroup members." This is not new advice. Yet it is heartening to see that it is firmly grounded in distinct patterns of neural activity. There may be a brain basis for reacting with prejudices for those that seem different. But there's also a brain basis for overriding those differences and seeing outsiders as more like us.

Stephen L. Macknik is director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, where he studies how vision and and other basic mechanisms of awareness affect consciousness and behavior. Along with fellow Mind Matters and Scientific American Mind contributor Susana Martinez-Conde (with home he co-authored a recent Scientific American cover story on eye movements -- pdf download), he also has a strong interest in the neuroscience of magic and illusions.



posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 09:21 PM
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This will be seen as rather odd, but I have to stop myself from being prejudiced against people that look like me! Strange I know, but I have tattoos and a few piercings and I have to give myself a good talking to when I find myself going "uh oh, he/she looks a bit dodgy".

It probably has something to do with me hating myself or something, and I certainly know what it's like to be on the receiving end of an inaccurate prejudgement!




Originally posted by argentus


Short answer: (finally!!!) People fear that which is perceived as being different, until they discover that more similarities exist than differences.



I have to agree there, the sooner people start to see that we really are the same under our skin the better it will be. I think this is going to be the only way that the human race survives.

I don't think we will ever be able to clear these deeply ingrained fears from our minds though, if we can remove the fear I think we may still have a 'memory' of it, however we can learn to not listen to this destructive 'voice'. In my opinion that is.



posted on Jun, 26 2008 @ 10:14 PM
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reply to post by A curious cat
 


Ya know, curious....I have to pinch myself, even if it's just internal, all of the time.

I am VERY judgemental. AND, I am continually humilated by my judgement being WRONG, most of the time.

Maybe it stems from being Gay, and watching/hearing the judgemental attitudes of those around me, while I stayed in the 'closet'.

I was also raised by fairly racist parents....I do not blame them, of course, they just parroted what they were taught. My Dad is gone, now. Mom re-married when I was about 8 (this in 1965). She is widowed now.

We all die. It's what we do in life that matters.....



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 02:20 AM
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Excellent thread topic. Congratulations, Schrodinger's Dog.

I agree that we are all prejudiced in some way. I know that I am.

My prejudices are not racial, but cultural.

There's no such thing as 'race', really, and I don't believe 'racial' traits run in the blood, but I am full of cultural bias. I have travelled widely and lived for extended periods in many different Asian and European countries; I have found people to be roughly the same everywhere I go... except for the very real differences imposed on them by their native cultures.

Here's a nonjudgemental example: I have noticed that, when explaining something, Germans often go into far more detail than is strictly necessary.

Other cultural differences are not necessarily so benign.

And yes, I'm sure this kind of prejudice is, likewise, acculturated, as the article you quoted in the OP points out. However, the mechanism that creates it in the first place is clearly innate -- and, as one of the people interviewed for the article you quoted points out -- rather valuable in survival terms.

As for the hardcore haters on ATS and elsewhere, I think they display a somewhat different syndrome. These are people in which the innate associative mechanism behind quotidian prejudice has gone horribly wrong, turning them into... what they have turned into.



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 02:25 AM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


Thanks Astyanax,

I posted this on an earlier thread:
Now the answer to all this is simple: Resent everyone equally!
No prejudice, just a general and ongoing contempt for all that is human.
The thing to remember is:
Expectations are the building blocks of disappointment!


PS did u get my U2U



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 11:17 AM
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Originally posted by weedwhacker
reply to post by A curious cat
 


Ya know, curious....I have to pinch myself, even if it's just internal, all of the time.

I am VERY judgemental. AND, I am continually humilated by my judgement being WRONG, most of the time.

Maybe it stems from being Gay, and watching/hearing the judgemental attitudes of those around me, while I stayed in the 'closet'.

I was also raised by fairly racist parents....I do not blame them, of course, they just parroted what they were taught. My Dad is gone, now. Mom re-married when I was about 8 (this in 1965). She is widowed now.

We all die. It's what we do in life that matters.....



WEEDWHACKER It appears we are the same age, so I understand exactly what you mean.

Very different times, racism was something never even questioned. I grew up with an extremely bigoted grandmother, she hated people for the slightest of reasons, especially religion, (she was the most unchristian godfearing woman you could ever meet.)

I was a born rebel, my best friend at school untill I was 10 was a black boy, he and his brother were the only 2 black people in the whole town, (poor little orphans) I was also friends with a couple of catholics!
Consequently I was and still am the black sheep of the family, I was forever asking 'why' is it wrong to talk to gypsies? Why is it wrong to play with a mentaly retarded kid? Why can't I share my sweets with the refugees from the volcano island that came to live up the road? I never got any answers, no surprises there really.

Despite all that I am still judgemental when it comes to peoples behaviour, or expected behavior, and I expect people to judge me, same thing. I've improved a lot over the years but It's still there.

SCHRODINGERS DOG

"Expectations are the building blocks of disappointment!"

Couldn't agree with you more, I have been trying to live by 'expect nothing and you won't be disappointed' for the last 20 or so years. I have to keep it in mind constantly with relationships as well as prejudices, but it really does work. If I forget I soon get reminded, and it can hurt!



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 11:40 AM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


Bloody well-written Astyanax!! Big ole' star!!

It is very, difficult, isn't it, to erase the programming that one was raised with?? It can happen, does happen....not to chest-thump, but I realized early on the idiocy of religion. Not sprituality, mind you....though the two are often confused. It's the pomp and circumstance surrounding certain religious rites and ceremonies. It is the completely illogical fallacy of believing in some mystical farce. Mindless obedience, make sure to give money!!! Because, we're tax-exempt, but we sure need your money!!!



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 11:42 AM
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reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


I find it amazing that the article can avoid drawing the obvious conclusion (even as a straw-man hypothesis to fake-fairly consider and then knock down) that racial hatred must be adaptive/correct/have-survival-value-in-the-selfish-gene-sense or else it wouldn't be so firmly hardwired in to nice universal brain structures. Hello?
It reminds me of...oh this is getting off topic but still...of how people speak against violence, without fear of contradiction...violence is a sacred part of our human inheritance like language and agriculture...
But people like to talk as if that were not true, uh-kay.



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 11:55 AM
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reply to post by nine-eyed-eel
 


nine-eyed...you have a good point. From our tribal heritage, we travelled in clans, and competed for resources (sound familiar?)

ANY outsider was deemed an enemy, and eyed with suspicion, at first.

As I think about it more, I begin to imagine an older, more ancient intelligent species in the Galaxy. And I compare Humans, at our stage, as children. BUT, then I realize that children are born innocent...they learn from the attitudes of the culture they are born into, and develop their own minds, and bigotries, or non-bigotries.....

So, it is WE, the 'adults' who damage (unintentionally) the children we love so much. Think of the various and myriad cultures that still exist on this planet....from Eskimos to Aborigines (aboriginines? Hard to spell, sorry).

EVERY human child will be indoctrinated, based on the society he/she is born into. Some will grow outside of the societal biases, some will stay locked in the death spiral of hate and enmity.



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 12:08 PM
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reply to post by weedwhacker
 


For sure if we advance to become science-fiction-godlike, immortal and invulnerable, if not omnipotent...then we could afford to become quite tolerant of neighboring life forms...live and let live, you know, why not.
But I kind of disagree about the children...to me a baby is pure ego, pure evil what some would say...it would destroy the universe to get another taste of sugar in its mouth, if it could only figure out how...Nothing wrong with that, mind you...very "Lord of the Flies" anyway



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 12:12 PM
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reply to post by nine-eyed-eel
 


NEE.....!!!!! OK, thanks for that, you actually made me laugh out loud!!!!

I'm picturing babies in a playpen, all with handguns, fighting over the sugar!!!!!

LOL!!



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 12:26 PM
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Everyone , no matter what color, religion, creed, etc is prejudiced. The only problem comes when those people actually deny it, or try to "cure" other peoples prejudicial beliefs.



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 12:27 PM
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Originally posted by nine-eyed-eel
reply to post by schrodingers dog
 


I find it amazing that the article can avoid drawing the obvious conclusion (even as a straw-man hypothesis to fake-fairly consider and then knock down) that racial hatred must be adaptive/correct/have-survival-value-in-the-selfish-gene-sense or else it wouldn't be so firmly hardwired in to nice universal brain structures. Hello?
It reminds me of...oh this is getting off topic but still...of how people speak against violence, without fear of contradiction...violence is a sacred part of our human inheritance like language and agriculture...
But people like to talk as if that were not true, uh-kay.




I wish I didn't have to agree with you NINE-EYED-EEL, it's a very good point.

I believe the human race is growing and changing and I hope that one day our hardwiring will no longer need this survival set-up. Meanwhile we have to try our best to control the irrational fears and take note of the the ones that we need.

I agree completely with WEEDWHACKER that children are born without prejudice and fear and then they are screwed up by adults.



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 12:33 PM
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Originally posted by nine-eyed-eel
reply to post by weedwhacker
 


But I kind of disagree about the children...to me a baby is pure ego, pure evil what some would say...it would destroy the universe to get another taste of sugar in its mouth, if it could only figure out how...Nothing wrong with that, mind you...very "Lord of the Flies" anyway


WOAH!! what a vision! You were obviously a bit of a handful at nursery!



posted on Jun, 27 2008 @ 06:05 PM
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reply to post by slackerwire
 





Everyone , no matter what color, religion, creed, etc is prejudiced. The only problem comes when those people actually deny it, or try to "cure" other peoples prejudicial beliefs.


I agree. You should not try to correct what others believe, but rather your own prejudices. Of course you must be willing to sacrifice your ego and your comfort in believing you are right to do that...

I also agree with weedwhacker regarding children. They are like sponges. They absorb everything you tell them without questioning it.

Alexandros




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