Implicit Knowledge

Thanks to the guys over at Freaknomics, specifically Ian Ayers editorial in the Los Angeles Times by the Police Commissioner, I have found a new tool.

Ayers did a study on who gets stopped by the LA PD. Minorities are stopped much more often, searched, frisked and questioned much more than whites, even when violence is controlled for. His study also shows that these minority searches and questionings turn up far fewer results than when questioning and searching whites.

So the Police Commissioner complained in an editorial about Ayers study. The link above is the response by Ayers to those remarks. Very telling, and very scientific. Clear thinking, as opposed to the blustering of the Police Commissioner.

In any case, near the end of the post, Ayers suggest that to begin to alleviate the problem, every officer on the force should take the Implicit Association Test, developed at Harvard and free online. These tests measure whether you have a prejudice (prejudging) toward some group of people or ideas. I took the Fat/Thin test as an example. It showed fat people and thin people in pictures. I had to quickly identify by pressing one of two keys on the keyboard (one on the right, the other on the left) as quickly as I could, without thinking. Then I had to match vocabulary to the words GOOD and BAD. Then the pictures and words were combined in different orders. I had to match faces or vocabulary quickly, without thinking.

It takes about 10 minutes to do a test, and it takes your full concentration. Try it out for a number of possible unconscious (or pre-conscious) leanings. I am going to get my students to do the gender one. They have versions in many different languages.

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