Tag Archives: prejudice

Knowing without Knowing – Implicit Learning in Action

Lyn Abramson

Lyn Abramson

Implicit learning – knowing without conscious awareness – has positive effects like accelerating foreign language learning and developing more secure computer authentication systems.
It also has negative consequences like prejudiced, biased decision-making.
All of these effects require sufficient sleep to enable memory consolidation of implicit learning.

Patricia Devine

Patricia Devine

When implicit learning leads to inaccurate beliefs about others, the result is often prejudiced behavior.
In contrast,  when biased perceptions are about one self, they can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or grandiosity, according to University of Wisconsin’s William T. L. Cox, Lyn Abramson and Patricia Devine with Steven Hollon of Vanderbilt.

Brian Nosek

Brian Nosek

A validated way to identify hidden beliefs about race, age, gender, weight, and more is the Implicit Association Test, developed by University of Virginia’s Brian Nosek, Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard and University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald.

Mahzarin Banaji

Mahzarin Banaji

Banaji and Greenwald’s popular book provides numerous examples of frequently used thinking short cuts that lead to biased beliefs, decisions, judgments, and behaviors.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Similarly, most people make quick assessments of others based on appearance using habitual strategies that don’t account for perceptual limitations, noted journalist Joseph Hallinan, who summarized research on bias, misperceptions, and judgment errors.

Joseph Hallinan

Joseph Hallinan

He cited the impact of situational framing on decision making:  When a decision option is posed as a potential gain, most people are less inclined to take risky decisions.
However, they are more willing to take risks if the option is positioned as a possible loss.

Kara Morgan-Short

Kara Morgan-Short

Implicit language learning was demonstrated by “immersion” listening to multiple native speakers.
University of Illinois at Chicago’s Kara Morgan-Short teamed with Karsten Steinhauer of McGill University and Georgetown’s Cristina Sanz and Michael T. Ullman to conduct brain scans on these language learners, and found they showed “native-like language processing.”
By contrast, explicit grammar training did not improve language learning.

Karsten Steinhauer

Karsten Steinhauer

Likewise, implicit learning principles can increase computer security authentication, useful in high-security nuclear plants or military facilities that usually require the code-holder to be physically present.

Cristina Sanz

Cristina Sanz

Security can be compromised when attackers:

  • Steal the user’s hardware token,
  • Fake the user’s identify through biometrics,
  • Coerce the victim into revealing the secret key or password (“rubber hose cryptanalysis”).
Hristo Bojinov

Hristo Bojinov

Unconscious knowledge” is a highly secure approach to biometrics authentication, demonstrated by Stanford University’s Hristo Bojinov and Dan Boneh, collaborating with Daniel Sanchez and Paul Reber of Northwestern and SRI’s Patrick Lincoln.

They included implicit learning principles in a computer game to subliminally deliver a security password without the user’s conscious awareness of the password.

Paul Reber

Paul Reber

Players “intercepted” falling objects in one of six non-random positions on a computer game screen by pressing a key corresponding to the screen position.
The game repeated a hidden sequence of 30 successive positions more than 100 times during game play.

Players made fewer errors when they encountered this sequence on successive rounds, suggesting they implicitly learned the sequence.
Skill re-tests after two weeks demonstrated that players retained this learned skill, but they were unable to consciously reconstruct or recognize fragments of the planted code sequence.

Patrick Lincoln

Patrick Lincoln

Team Bojinov’s implicit learning game demonstrated a new method of highly secure authentication that resists “rubber hose cryptanalysis” by implicitly training the user to enact the password without conscious knowledge of the code.
Their new project analyzes the rate of forgetting implicitly learned passwords and optimal frequency of security authentication refresher sessions.

However, this innovation in security authentication is dependent on the authenticator having sufficient sleep to consolidate implicit learning in memory, found Innsbruck Medical University’s Stefan Fischer, I. Wilhelm, and J. Born, who examined sleep’s impact on implicit memory formation in children ages 7- 11 and 12 young adults between ages 20 and 30.

Fischer’s team measured serial reaction time task before and after eight implicit learning sessions concentrated on rules underlying grammatical and non-grammatical language structures.
Most volunteer responded quickly, demonstrating implicit rule understanding, even though they couldn’t explain why their performance improved.

When adult participants had an interval of sleep between training sessions, their response times were quicker.
In contrast, well-rested children did not show a similar performance improvement, suggesting that sleep actually interferes with implicit performance gains among children.

Implicit learning can boost performance, seemingly “effortlessly,” but requires sufficient sleep to consolidate longer term performance improvements.
These findings are another argument against sleep deprivation in “Crunch Time” all-night work marathons.

-*How do you capitalize on implicit learning to improve performance?

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Increase Self-Control with Purpose in Life, Positive Outlook, Humility

Anthony Burrow

Anthony Burrow

People with a sense of purpose are more likely to make choices with long-term benefits like saving for retirement and children’s education.
In addition, they are less likely to be diverted by short-term gratification and impulsive actions like such as cigarette smoking, drug use, gambling, and driving under the influence, found Cornell’s Anthony L. Burrow and R. Nathan Spreng in work with more than 500 adults.
As a result, Purpose in Life was related to reduced impulsivity and increased self-control.

Nathan Spreng

Nathan Spreng

Volunteers completed a personality inventory and a self-rating of Purpose in Life before making choices about whether to take a smaller amount of money immediately or a larger amount at some later date.

Waiting times and amount of the payoffs differed during each trial.
Participants who said they had a clear life purpose made longer-term, higher-payoff choices, suggesting greater ability to curb the impulse for an immediate reward, and greater self-management capacity.

Chai Jing

Chai Jing

Another factor in reducing one type of impulsive behavior – dangerous driving – is a “positivity bias,” hallmarked by seeing positive events as more salient than negative incidents, reported University of Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Chai Jing , Weina Qu, Xianghong Sun, Kan Zhang, and Yan Ge.

Weina Qu

Weina Qu

They studied more than 40 non-professional drivers using electroencephalograph data, self-reports of driving, violation reports, and International Affective Picture System (IAPS)  scores to measure negativity biases.

Volunteers identified whether a series of 80 pictures had blue borders or red borders around images that implicitly evoke negative, positive, or neutral emotions.
Dangerous drivers took longer to respond on the border-color task when the image was negative, suggesting greater attention to negative input.

Patrick Hill

Patrick Hill

Sense of purpose is also linked to greater longevity in a study by Carleton University’s Patrick Hill and Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester, in their study of more than 6100 Americans followed over 14 years.

Rachel Sumner

Rachel Sumner

Purpose in Life can increase White adult’s comfort with diverse groups, and may be associated with reduced prejudice, noted Cornell’s Burrow and Rachel Sumner, Maclen Stanley of Harvard, and Carlton University’s Patrick L. Hill in their study of more than 500 Americans.

Maclen Stanley

Maclen Stanley

Participants who received an experimental prime of life purpose also reported less preference for living in an ethnically homogeneous White city.
These effects persisted were independent of volunteers’ positive affect and perceived connections to ethnic out-groups.

Eddie M.W. Tong

Eddie M.W. Tong

Humility is another characteristic associated with reduced impulsivity and greater self-control in research by National University of Singapore’s Eddie M.W. Tong, Kenny W.T. Tan, Agapera A.B. Chor, Emmeline P.S. Koh, Jehanne S.Y. Lee, and Regina W.Y. Tan.

Defined as the ability to tolerate failures without self-deprecation, and to view successes without developing a sense of superiority, humility primes were associated with improved performance in a physical stamina (handgrip), resisting chocolate, and an insoluble tracing task.

Kenny W.T. Tan

Kenny W.T. Tan

Humility’s effect on self-regulation was significantly different from self-esteem, which had no impact on self-control.
Likewise, achievement motivation and compliance motivation did not explain increased performance.

Taken together, these findings suggest that effectively managing oneself in the face of challenging and tempting circumstances is enhanced by having a clear purpose in life, cultivating a positive bias and humility.

-*To what extent does having a sense of purpose make it easier to maintain self-control in challenging situations?

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Recalling Supportive Relationships Can Reduce Dislike of Outsiders

Animosity toward perceived outsiders remains a powerful driver of political attitudes and aggressive behavior toward out-groups, even in diverse societies.

Muniba Saleem

Muniba Saleem

However, intergroup discord can be reduced by recalling times of connection to supportive others, found University of Michigan’s Muniba Saleem collaborating with Sara Prot, Ben C. P. Lam and Craig A. Anderson of Iowa State, plus Harvard’s Mina Cikara and Margareta Jelic University of Zagreb.

John Bowlby

John Bowlby

Their study is based on observations by John Bowlby of London’s Child Guidance clinic and his protégée, University of Virginia’s Mary Ainsworth, that healthy social and emotional functioning depends on healthy attachment to at least one reliably supportive person in childhood.

Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth

Saleem’s team confirmed that evoking early positive memories of attachment can modify aggressive thoughts and behaviors based on fear and insecurity, particularly among those strongly identified with their in-group.

Muzafer Sherif

Muzafer Sherif

This approach proved more effective than earlier prejudice-reduction techniques requiring different groups to work together on shared goals such as in Muzafer Sherif’s Robber’s Cave experiment with University of Oklahoma colleagues O. J. Harvey, B. Jack White, William R. Hood, and Carolyn W. Sherif.
Saleem’s intervention produced more robust attitude change because it  reduced fear that can lead to aggression.

Muzafer Sherif - Robber's Cave

Team Tasks at Robber’s Cave

In Team Saleem’s experiments, more than 275 people from University of Michigan had the opportunity to undermine counterparts from a rival school, Ohio State, with no negative personal consequences.

Sara Prot

Sara Prot

Participants completed surveys of their propensity for attachment anxiety and avoidance of close relationships.
Then, half described someone “who loves and accepts you in times of need” while the remaining volunteers described a person “who lives in your neighborhood, but you do not know well.”

Craig Anderson

Craig Anderson

Next, University of Michigan participants assigned 11 puzzles of varying difficulty to an Ohio State student, who could win a $25 gift card by completing all the puzzles within 10 minutes.
University of Michigan volunteers could reduce the likelihood of the OSU student winning the gift card by assigning more challenging puzzles.

Mina Cikara

Mina Cikara

Those who strongly identified with University of Michigan and who were primed to think about the close, loving personal relationship were significantly less likely to assign difficult puzzles.
This result suggests that the positive emotional memory reduced the impulse to undermine a rival’s positive outcome even with a strong in-group preference.

In a related study, more than 260 Americans recalled one of several situations:

  • Someone close was available, supportive, and loving,
  • Typical, uneventful workday,”
  • When you accomplished a meaningful goal.”
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Saleem’s team tested related scenarios closer to current geo-political concerns:  Volunteers in the US reported their reactions to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Their descriptions included “angry,” “disgusted,” and “fearful.”

Finally, participants indicated their degree of support for “militaristic and aggressive policies intended to counter terrorism,” such as “I think it is OK to bomb an entire country if it is known to harbor ISIS terrorists.”

Gordon Moskowitz

Gordon Moskowitz

Volunteers prompted to recall a secure attachment were less likely to support military and aggressive measures against ISIS members and demonstrated significantly reduced negative stereotypes and negative emotions.

This effect was not due to increase positive mood because participants who recalled the positive experience of accomplishing an important goal responded significantly more aggressively.

Irmak Olcaysoy Okten

Irmak Olcaysoy Okten

Though promising, the impact of this work may be limited to those who have the advantage of experiencing close, secure relationships.
People who have missed these experiences are more likely to express prejudice, lack of remorse for aggression toward others.
In addition, cross-school rivalry and fears of terrorists are at least partially condoned, whereas racial and cultural prejudices are socially unacceptable to many.

As a result of social disapproval, some prejudices becomes implicit or unconscious.
They can be detected only through indirect measures such as the Implicit Association Test, and more recently, by evidence of biased time perception accompanying racial prejudice.

Cynthia Gooch

Cynthia Gooch

For example, White people who were concerned about appearing racially prejudiced were asked to judge the length of time they viewed faces of White men and Black men.
These White volunteers thought that time passed 10% more slowly than measured by clock time: They reported viewing faces of Black men for longer than they actually had, found Lehigh University’s Gordon B. Moskowitz and Irmak Olcaysoy Okten with Cynthia M. Gooch of Temple University.

Perceptual bias about time is also relevant to high stakes situations including perceived duration of job interviews for candidates of a different race than the interviewer, and physicians’ perception of the length of medical encounters.

This intergroup perceptual bias also can have significant consequences when white police officers’ estimate the duration of an encounter with a suspect of another race, and when they determine lethal force should be initiated.

First Person Shooter Task

First Person Shooter Task

This research reinforces the importance of early and later supportive relationships in reducing bias, subtle undermining, and over aggression toward other groups

-*How do you reduce prejudice and aggression across work teams?

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