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Can you be Prejudiced Against your own Students? Teacher’s Unconscious Bias in the Classroom

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Can you be Prejudiced Against your own Students? Teacher’s Unconscious Bias in the
Classroom
Ali H. Al-Hoorie, Nottingham University, UK
Jubail Industrial College, KSA
The IAFOR International Conference on Education - Hawaii 2016
Official Conference Proceedings
Keywords: implicit attitudes, prejudice, Implicit Association Test, unconscious motivation
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The International Academic Forum
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The IAFOR International Conference on Education - Hawaii 2016
Official Conference Proceedings
1
Most teachers would like to be neutral and treat their students fairly. However, as the saying
goes, easier said than done. Psychological research shows that what people intend to do
constitutes the conscious level, while the unconscious level can operate without the
person’s permission or even awareness. For example, a person might declare that males
and females are equal in their intellectual abilities, but in actual behavior that person might
prefer to work with a male partner in a challenging task. This might imply that the
individual has an unconscious bias toward males in terms of intellectual ability. This is an
example of a situation in which ideals are not borne out in actual reality.
Psychologists have examined this conscious–unconscious dissociation. At the extreme
level, it has been described as “a split in consciousness, such as mutually unaware person
systems occupying the same brain(Greenwald & Nosek, 2009, p. 65). Researchers have
found that this dissociation occurs in many contexts. This is how the typical experiment is
done. The participant is first given a questionnaire to solicit their preferences, e.g. male vs.
females or White vs. Black. Most people state that they are neutral and that these categories
do not matter to them. This constitutes the conscious level. Afterward, the participant is
asked to complete a psychological test of their unconscious attitudes such as the Implicit
Association Test (IAT, Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998). This test will give the
participant a score, which may or may not be equivalent to that from the questionnaire. In
the last phase of experiment, the participant is asked to engage in a task. The behavior in
this task is analyzed by the researchers in order to determine whether it shows any signs of
bias, and whether it is better predicted by the conscious or the unconscious measures.
An experiment by Glaser and Knowles (2008) illustrates this idea well. The researchers
used ‘the shooter task’, which was originally developed by Correll, Park, Judd, and
Wittenbrink (2002). In this task, the participant sees a series of pictures of individuals on a
computer screen. They are required to ‘shoot’ criminals that are holding hostile objections
(e.g., a gun or a knife) and refrain from shooting civilians that are holding benign objects
(e.g., a flashlight or a camera). The individuals shown in the picture are White or Black
people, and the task requires the participant to respond as fast as possible. Obviously, the
skin color of the individual in the pictures should have no effect on the decision to shoot,
because it is a matter of whether the individual is holding a hostile or a benign object.
Surprisingly, the participants whose scores on the implicit test showed that they were biased
against Blacks also tended to misidentify Blacks as criminals and shoot them erroneously.
This study gives a clear example of the effect of implicit biases on spontaneous behavior.
On a more positive note, Glaser and Knowles (2008) also found an interesting result. That
is, the above results were moderated by level of attitudes toward prejudice. More
specifically, those who had a negative attitude toward prejudice were able to neutralize the
effect of their implicit biases on their behavior in the shooter task. These results suggest
that having an implicit bias is not the end of the world, as these biases can be counteracted.
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References
Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C. M., & Wittenbrink, B. (2002). The police officer’s dilemma:
using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 83, 1314–1329. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.83.6.1314
Glaser, J., & Knowles, E. D. (2008). Implicit motivation to control prejudice. Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 44(1), 164–172. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2007.01.002
Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1998). Measuring individual
differences in implicit cognition: The Implicit Association Test. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1464–1480. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.6.1464
Greenwald, A. G., & Nosek, B. A. (2009). Attitudinal dissociation: What does it mean? In
R. E. Petty, R. H. Fazio, & P. Briñol (Eds.), Attitudes: Insights from the New Implicit
Measures (pp. 65–82). New York: Psychology Press.
hoorie_a@jic.edu.sa
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Article
Using a simple videogame, the effect of ethnicity on shoot/don't shoot decisions was examined. African American or White targets, holding guns or other objects, appeared in complex backgrounds. Participants were told to "shoot" armed targets and to "not shoot" unarmed targets. In Study 1, White participants made the correct decision to shoot an armed target more quickly if the target was African American than if he was White, but decided to "not shoot" an unarmed target more quickly if he was White. Study 2 used a shorter time window, forcing this effect into error rates. Study 3 replicated Study 1's effects and showed that the magnitude of bias varied with perceptions of the cultural stereotype and with levels of contact, but not with personal racial prejudice. Study 4 revealed equivalent levels of bias among both African American and White participants in a community sample. Implications and potential underlying mechanisms are discussed.
Article
Many recent experiments have used parallel Implicit Association Test (IAT) and self- report measures of attitudes. These measures are sometimes strongly correlated. However, many of these studies find apparent dissociations in the form of (a) weak correlations between the two types of measures, (b) separation of their means on scales that should coincide if they assess the same construct, or (c) differing correlations with other variables. Interpretations of these empirical patterns are of three types: single-representation — the two types of measures assess a single attitude, but under the influence of different extra-attitudinal process influences; dual-representation — the two types of measures assess distinct forms of attitudes (e.g., conscious vs. unconscious; implicit vs. explicit); and person vs. culture — a variant of the dual- representation view in which self-report measures reflect personal attitudes, whereas IAT measures reflect non-attitudinal cultural or semantic knowledge. Proponents sometimes interpret evidence for single versus dual constructs as evidence for single versus dual structural representations. Behavioral evidence can establish the discriminant validity of implicit and explicit attitude phenomena (dual constructs), but cannot choose among single- vs. dual-representation interpretations because the distinct constructs remain susceptible to interpretation in terms of either one or two representations. Selecting among representational accounts must therefore be based on considerations of explanatory power or parsimony.
Article
This research examines whether spontaneous, unintentional discriminatory behavior can be moderated by an implicit (nonconscious) motivation to control prejudice. We operationalize implicit motivation to control prejudice (IMCP) in terms of an implicit negative attitude toward prejudice (NAP) and an implicit belief that oneself is prejudiced (BOP). In the present experiment, an implicit stereotypic association of Blacks (vs. Whites) with weapons was positively correlated with the tendency to “shoot” armed Black men faster than armed White men (the “Shooter Bias”) in a computer simulation. However, participants relatively high in implicit negative attitude toward prejudice showed no relation between the race-weapons stereotype and the shooter bias. Implicit belief that oneself is prejudiced had no direct effect on this relation, but the interaction of NAP and BOP did. Participants who had a strong association between self and prejudice (high BOP) but a weak association between prejudice and bad (low NAP) showed the strongest relation between the implicit race-weapons stereotype and the Shooter Bias, suggesting that these individuals freely employed their stereotypes in their behavior.
Article
An implicit association test (IAT) measures differential association of 2 target concepts with an attribute. The 2 concepts appear in a 2-choice task (2-choice task (e.g., flower vs. insect names), and the attribute in a 2nd task (e.g., pleasant vs. unpleasant words for an evaluation attribute). When instructions oblige highly associated categories (e.g., flower + pleasant) to share a response key, performance is faster than when less associated categories (e.g., insect & pleasant) share a key. This performance difference implicitly measures differential association of the 2 concepts with the attribute. In 3 experiments, the IAT was sensitive to (a) near-universal evaluative differences (e.g., flower vs. insect), (b) expected individual differences in evaluative associations (Japanese + pleasant vs. Korean + pleasant for Japanese vs. Korean subjects), and (c) consciously disavowed evaluative differences (Black + pleasant vs. White + pleasant for self-described unprejudiced White subjects).
The police officer's dilemma: using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals
  • J Correll
  • B Park
  • C M Judd
  • B Wittenbrink
Correll, J., Park, B., Judd, C. M., & Wittenbrink, B. (2002). The police officer's dilemma: using ethnicity to disambiguate potentially threatening individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1314-1329. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.83.6.1314
Implicit motivation to control prejudice
  • J Glaser
  • E D Knowles
Glaser, J., & Knowles, E. D. (2008). Implicit motivation to control prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(1), 164-172. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2007.01.002