Is your brain racist?
The answer may not be simple.
For decades, sociologists and scientists have been studying racism and racial bias. And it turns out, human brains may be at the root.
There are two types of bias: explicit, which is obvious, and implicit, where preconceived ideas of which people are unaware influence their behaviour.
While people may hold the steadfast belief that they aren’t racist, it’s still likely they exhibit implicit bias.
There’s even a test for it, the Implicit Association Test. Developed by researchers at Harvard University, it measures people’s automatic associations between concepts and evaluations.
The test measures responses when sorting black and white faces while connecting them with words. The key is hesitation. A person may try to associate good with a particular race, but it might take them longer to respond, a sign that subconsciously, a person’s brain associates unpleasantness with a particular race.
So when do people begin to exhibit signs of racial bias? Some studies suggest it begins when babies are mere months old.
Kang Lee, a developmental neuroscientist who studies social cognition and behaviour at the University of Toronto, has done several studies on racial bias.
‘They don’t attach negativity to people they’re not familiar with. But by six months of age they start to do that.’
— Kang Lee, University of Toronto
Most recently, Lee published two studies in the journal Child Development. One study suggested that racial bias may be present in babies between six and nine months old.
The study concluded that between these ages, babies begin to associate faces from their race with pleasant music and faces from other races with sad music.
“Basically, at three months of age, they like to look at things that are familiar, like…