Everyone's a little bit racist
Blame TV and magazines? Not likely. It's inborn. You can even find it in babies, rather amazingly -- JR
As the song from hit musical Avenue Q says, everyone’s a little bit racist - but scientists believe it may not be your fault. Instead they are blaming TV, the internet and even the books that we read.
Researchers from Georgia Tech's School of Psychology in the U.S. used a word association test to discover that most people have ‘built-in’ prejudices.
However, this racism isn’t necessarily something they believe in, but something that seeps into the subconscious from modern-day culture, they claim.
Study leader Paul Verhaeghen exposed people's inherent racism with a straightforward, but sneaky, word test. Volunteers were asked, for example, if the letters g-u-b formed a word, then if the letters g-u-n formed a word. He found that participants gave their answer much more quickly if they were shown a black face before the letters g-u-n.
Another part of the test involved measuring response times to stereotypical word pairings, such as black-violence. ‘It suggests that most people associate black people with violence and this seems to be universal,’ he said. [Because it's true}
Keen to find out the source of this racist thinking, his team examined a collection of works known as the Bound Encoding of the Aggregate Language Environment (BEAGLE).
This contains a sample of books, newspaper and magazine articles, about 10million words in all, thought by psychologists to be a good representation of works that are in the American culture. They found that racist pairings of words, such as black-murder, were fairly common in the various literature. And in the test it was these associations that participants responded fastest to.
In other words, popular culture appears to be drip-feeding people with prejudice. Examples included women/weak, white/greedy and old/wise.
Verhaeghen said: ‘What you have is stuff you’ve picked up, from reading, watching stuff on the internet.’
He stresses, though, that how people behave towards one another is far more important than how they react instinctively to what they read or watch.
He added: ‘One of the things these findings suggest is that for those of us who, like me, very often feel guilty about these gut reactions you have and you're not supposed to have is those gut reactions are normal and they have very little to do with you. ‘They have more to do with the culture around you. What is more important is your behaviour, rather than your gut reaction.’
The results of the study will be published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Social Psychology.