Race on CNN and at SMM

Race: Are We So Different?  More about the exhibit
Race: Are We So Different? More about the exhibit

The Science Museum of Minnesota will be the world premiere location of an exhibit about race and human variation called RACE: Are We So Different? on January 10th. I just finished watching the Paula Zahn NOW show on CNN tonight on Racism in America that covered many of the same topics that are discussed in the RACE exhibit, such as white privilege and the history and current status of racial preference in housing. It was interesting, and it was good to see race be openly discussed on national television.

One interesting web-based feature the show featured was a test developed by Harvard University researchers that used a series of words and images to highlight the differences between how we believe we act and think about race and how we subconsciously think about race.

Psychologists understand that people may not say what's on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so. For example, if asked "How much do you smoke?" a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may purposely report smoking only 2 packs a day because they are embarrassed to admit the correct number. Or, the smoker may simply not answer the question, regarding it as a private matter. (These are examples of being unwilling to report a known answer.) But it is also possible that a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may report smoking only 2 packs because they honestly believe they only smoke about 2 packs a day. (Unknowingly giving an incorrect answer is sometimes called self-deception; this illustrates being unable to give the desired answer).

The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between purposely hiding something from others and unconsciously hiding something from yourself. The Implicit Association Test makes it possible to penetrate both of these types of hiding. The IAT measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.

It’s pretty interesting research, and a pretty interesting method. I recommend checking out the web site and trying a test or two out for yourself. You may be surprised by the result, and you may not agree with it, but I think it is interesting to learn about what our unconscious automatic preferences are. The RACE exhibit at the Science Museum will, I think, do the something similar to what this test does – give us a chance to look closely at ourselves and examine how we see others.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Joe's picture
Joe says:

There was a follow up town hall discussion last night as well, which was also very interesting.

posted on Thu, 12/28/2006 - 6:35pm

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