Monthly Archives: May 2010

IAT for Dummies

Are you prejudiced?

It’s a simple question, but a tough one to truly answer.  I believed that I held no prejudice, no bias, no favoritism… but I was wrong.

The IAT – Implicit Association Test – is a very clever way to root out your long-held subconscious prejudices. Let me explain how it works… let’s say you’re given 2 categories, red and green, and you’re told to sort a bunch of objects into these categories (press the “red” button for tomato, “orange” for carrots, etc.).  You’ve been told to do this task as quickly as possible, and each response time between seeing the object and sorting it is being timed. Now, you’re told to sort blue and green items. Again, a simple test. Here comes the hard part – you’re given 2 categories, “red or green” and “blue or orange”. Think this might slow down your answers a bit? Every time you see an item (such as “ocean”) you need to associate it first with a color (blue) and then with a button (blue or orange). But it gets easier – the last part of the test asks you to sort “red and blue” and “green and orange”. Why is this easier than the previous part of the test? Because we have given associations for these colors already. You may even, before you start, label them mentally “primary colors” and “secondary colors”.  Because of this previous association, this part of the test is much easier and faster.

So what does this have to do with prejudice?  Well, the color idea is just a hypothetical example – you won’t find it among the tests online.  What you will find is a test about skin color, one that tests your association with ideas such as “good” and “bad” with “blacks” and “whites”.  Because we already hold mental shortcuts that associate these ideas in our unconscious mind (if not the conscious mind, too) we’ll find it easier to sort whites with good or bad and the same with blacks, too.  At the end of the test you’ll be told the results, about how strongly you associate with one race or the other (or in other words, how biased you are towards a race).

Fear not if it shows you to be a redneck racist (or biased against gender, age, or whatever your test was designed to find) – I took 2 of these tests and found that I am indeed racist, as well as homophobic.  After ‘flunking’ both tests, I decided I had enough self-discovery for one day.  But I would still recommend taking these tests.  Hold a mirror up to your subconscious mind and see what it looks like, because even if you don’t like what you see, you’ll never be able to fix it if you never become aware that it needs fixing.


The Good Samaritan

Luke 10:30-37 Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?” He said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

We’ve all heard this story.  I think we all want to be the “Good Samaritan”.  The Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – is a moral among believers and unbelievers alike, and I am willing to bet that you too believe you follow it.  So I pose today’s topic question to you – Do you do things to others that you want done to you?

Perhaps you do, but more likely than not you only think you do.  I want you to truthfully answer a few test questions…

Do you give rides to hitchhiking strangers?

Do you  assist those who are handicapped?

Do you give to the poor and homeless?

These aren’t random questions – they more or less pertain to the exact circumstances in the parable of the Samaritan.  He stopped to help a wounded man by the side of the road, even going so far as to find him a home and set him up financially for a time.  Would you do the same?

I am currently homeless and without a vehicle.  I woke up this morning to rain.  It’s unpleasant and embarrassing to sleep outside, but I don’t have an alternative.  I have plenty of friends, family, and coworkers who all have homes and haven’t offered me a roof (except my dear friend Ben, an Atheist).

I don’t get picked up by strangers, even when carrying lots of heavy bags of groceries.  I almost never see a car stop for me while I’m waiting at a crosswalk (despite our state law requiring it).  These are random samples of strangers who don’t offer to help when it’s clear that I could use it, and I’m almost certain they’d appreciate it if circumstances were reversed.  Everyone knows the Golden Rule.  Everyone agrees that it’s a good idea.  So why isn’t it being applied?

I’m not using myself as an example in order to get sympathy or help, but rather I’m citing myself as a source.  I see a total lack of the Golden Rule from day to day.  It is not followed, and it seems unreasonable and illogical not to “pay it forward” when we receive favors.  I think the reason for this is because we’re unwilling to see ourselves in a bad light, to think that we ourselves don’t follow the most basic of moral principles.  Do you follow it?  Have you been given the opportunity to help someone in need and passed on it because it was inconvenient?

One last example before I leave this topic.  About a year ago there was a homeless kid sleeping behind the gas station where I work.  When I came in for the overnight shift, the police were talking to him about his “crime” of vagrancy, and my coworkers were telling me that I shouldn’t allow him on the premises because he was acting weird – eating coffee creamers and sandwich spreads (one man’s “weird” is another man’s “starving”).  My coworkers, onlooking shoppers, and a policeman all had a great opportunity to help a young man who was desperately in need, and none of them did.  And he wasn’t even bleeding, left for dead and in need of first aid.  In fact, he was a pleasant and kind guest despite his circumstances, just requiring a little food and shelter.  The policeman warned me that he was crazy, but I never saw even a hint of it.  It was easy and rewarding to share my good fortune while I had it.*

This world could really use some Good Samaritans.  Try it – I think you’ll like it.

-S Nova

*I’m pretty sure this is why I don’t believe in Karma.