Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cultural Influence on Cognitive Bias

After reading the article by Linda Krieger on Cognitive Bias on Employment Discrimination, I wondered what theories, if any, there were concerning how the media shapes decisions of employers. I came across this short excerpt:

Charles R. Lawrence, III, The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection: Reckoning with Unconscious Racism, 39 Stan L. Rev. 317, 323 (1987) (“T]he theory of cognitive psychology states that the culture—including, for example, the media and an individual's parents, peers, and authority figures—transmits certain beliefs and preferences. Because these beliefs are so much a part of the culture, they are not experienced as explicit lessons. Instead, they seem part of the individual's rational ordering of her perceptions of the world. The individual is unaware, for example, that the ubiquitous presence of a cultural stereotype has influenced her perception that blacks are lazy or unintelligent. Because racism is so deeply ingrained in our culture, it is likely to be transmitted by tacit understandings: Even if a child is not told that blacks are inferior, he learns that lesson by observing the behavior of others. These tacit understandings, because they have never been articulated, are less likely to be experienced at a conscious level.”).

I have always thought that the media is a catalyst in instilling several strong beliefs or stereotypes about certain minority groups that adults and children carry with them throughout their lives. People see minority groups as inferior, aggressive, passive, or any other characteristic everyday on television or other media sources. In support of Linda Krieger's article, people then categorize this individuals and form opinions in relation to them or in opposition to them.

I guess my question is whether anything can be done to combat these stereotypes that are being instilled in everyone starting at a very young age. There are attempts for political correctness, but many times it is ineffective with how obvious it is being portrayed. What are your thoughts?


Blogger Nicole said...

I wanted to further consider Nick Hursh’s posting below. He asks if anything may be done to combat stereotypes that are instilled at a very young age. Perhaps since the “media, and an individual's parents, peers, and authority figures” are largely responsible for the development of a child’s beliefs and perceptions, the battle needs to begin with adults. Although it might be impossible to change the core beliefs and prejudices of adults, a simple change in their behavior may be quite effective.

Perhaps the massive decline in prejudices regarding civil rights was due to the change in behavior over time, rather than an immediate change in beliefs. For example, as schools became desegregated, it became less and less strange for children of different races to socialize. This is not necessarily because their parents forgot all previous stereotypes, but because their parents were forced to obey the desegregation laws. Subtle changes in the law, like this, have the ability to effectively diminish discrimination over time. Perhaps this is the only way to legitimately even out stereotypes and prejudices. Overnight tactics, such as educational programs at school, just seem like they would not work.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Vaughn Ganiyu said...

I agree with Nicole that "quick fix" solutions, such as aggressive educational programs, would do little to alleviate the subtle prejudices instilled in many children by the time they reach elementary school or middle school. Given the social and political restraints of our society, changes in the law and legislation regarding discrimination are the only options to combat these inherent prejudices. After reading Linda Krieger's article, I feel that from an extremely young age our minds are predisposed to categorize elements in our surroundings creating inherent prejudices in our subsconcious. She refers to it as part of our "normal cognitive process." Since people are predisposed to discriminate, it's very challenging for the law to determine the exact intent behind every potential allegation regarding discrimination. That is why I believe that the discrimination laws currently on the books are the most effective tool we have to fight these inherent biases. The process maybe painfully slow at times, but over time they show their effectiveness.

7:00 PM  

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