Tuesday, May 13, 2008

People have stereotypical beliefs

Scientific American magazine reports:
"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life,” Jesse Jackson once told an audience, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

Jackson’s remark illustrates a basic fact of our social existence, one that even a committed black civil-rights leader cannot escape: ideas that we may not endorse -- for example, that a black stranger might harm us but a white one probably would not -- can nonetheless lodge themselves in our minds and, without our permission or awareness, color our perceptions, expectations and judgments.

Using a variety of sophisticated methods, psychologists have established that people unwittingly hold an astounding assortment of stereotypical beliefs and attitudes about social groups: ...

Now researchers are probing deeper. They want to know: Where exactly do such biases come from?
One of the themes of this blog is that when researchers attempt mindreading, they often devise overly complex theories when simple ones suffice. In this case, there is a simple explanation for why someone might fear being robbed by a black man more than a white man.

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