Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An end to racism?

No, I am not talking about the election of Obama, but about some new research that Wired reports on.

Researchers Try to Cure Racism

After being trained to distinguish between similar black male faces, Caucasian test subjects showed greater racial tolerance on a test designed to to measure unconscious bias.

The results are still preliminary, have yet to be replicated, and the real-world effects of reducing bias in a controlled laboratory setting are not clear. But for all those caveats, the findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that science can battle racism.

"Any time you can get people to treat people as individuals, you reduce the effect of stereotypes," said Brown University cognitive scientist Michael Tarr. "It won't solve racism, but it could have profound real-world effects."

I doubt it really surprises my readers that familiarity makes people less like to stereotype. It's the hurdle to get people to familiarize themselves with the people they stereotype that's hard to cross.

Sadly, no matter what the research shows, there is still a very long way to go before we see an end to racism. If there was any doubt of that, a quick look at the comments to the Wired article should make that clear.

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