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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Flood the Zone: Race in America

The Science Times has a fascinating piece on people's unconscious biases.

Asked to make split-second decisions about whether black or white male figures in a video game were holding guns, people were more likely to conclude mistakenly that the black men were armed and to shoot them, a series of new studies reports.

The subjects in the studies, who were instructed to shoot only when the human targets in the game were armed, made more errors when confronted by images of black men carrying objects like cellphones or cameras than when faced with similarly unarmed white men. The participants, who in all but one study were primarily white, were also quicker to fire on black men with guns than on white men with guns.

Late in the story, we learn that a study with mostly black "shooters" produced a similar result - a tendency to gun down black men - but the result are still under review.

And check the web site they describe thusly:

Some researchers have said there might be alternative explanations for the findings. The researchers have a Web site, www.tolerance.org /hidden_bias/, that lets visitors take a series of online tests of hidden biases.

In the Colorado studies, the researchers found that subjects' scores on a measure of racial prejudice were not linked with their performance in the shooting task. In one study, black participants were also more likely mistakenly to shoot unarmed black targets and were quicker to shoot black targets holding guns.

That website for tolerance-testing is here.

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