Apparently, I Am Prejudiced

Currently listening to: What Doesn’t Kill Us by What Made Milwaukee Famous

So, this morning I came across an article on the cognitive science of morality (the relationship between our mental activities and our moral failures).  This particular article was about a cognitive test run by Harvard, known as the Implicit Association Test (IAT).

The idea of the test is that our prejudices are based, not on our conscious, introspective minds (our goals, values, and morals); instead, prejudice comes from our more primal, unconscious mind–the part of us that drives our quick responses and is relatively walled off from our “thinking selves.”  This could indicate that our actual prejudices towards others (be they Muslims, African Americans, gays, whatever) have little to do with our reasoning.  Saying (or even believing about ourselves), “I am not racist” or “I do not want to be racist” does not mean that we are actually not racist.

I decided to check out the test for myself, and what I found was surprising:  unconsciously, I am not the same person as I think I am on the reasoning level.  I am morally different (I would say inferior) on the primal level of cognitive processing.  I am more prejudiced in my unconscious mind than I would like to believe or admit to myself and others.

I suppose what this means is that, at the end of the day, who you think you are may not be who you actually are.  In the complexity of the human person, it is important to recognize that goals, values, and morals are not enough to assure that we are actually good people.  How we actually change our unconscious selves, I do not know.  But, I can at least begin to pay attention to my underlying prejudice and how this affects my behavior.  I recommend taking the test yourself.


~ by eternaldode on 26 August 2009.

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