Using Science to Cure Racism by Altering Perceptions

Wired has a fascinating story up about researchers at Brown University using Human behavior is profoundly shaped by perception; snap judgments based on very limited information (often visual) determine how close we stand next to someone in an elevator or whether we will hire them based on a job interview.

Harvard University’s “Project Implicit” has a battery of tests one can run through to gauge how susceptible they are to unconscious biases. The general idea behind all of his is:

“The IAT is a tool in the development of theories of implicit social cognition, a body of results that suggest that many cognitive processes that affect behavior are unconscious in nature and are inaccessible to observation by the actor. These implicit processes affect perception, influence behavior, and color interpretation of past events.” [Wikipedia]

It’s exciting to think about what research like this could do when synthesized with other technological applications like the immersive environments provided by video games.

Imagine future where children, regardless of their geographic location or place in the socioeconomic strata, being immersed in virtual environments that expose them to realistic portrayals of people from other races and cultures – allowing them to shed the latent biases we’re all (and I do mean ‘all’) currently lugging around.

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