Americans have become less biased — in regard to race, disability, and sexuality — since 2004
The study suggest implicit biases can change significantly over a relatively short timeframe.
- The study examined the results of more than 4 million tests designed to measure implicit and explicit biases.
- The tests measured attitudes toward groups defined by age, disability, body weight, race, skin tone, and sexuality.
- All explicit biases decreased during the study's timeframe, while several categories of implicit bias diminished.
In an era when identity is brought to the forefront of nearly every cultural conversation, a new study highlights a somewhat counterintuitive trend: Since 2004, Americans seem to have become less biased—both implicitly and explicitly—toward certain social groups.
The study, published on January 3 in the journal Psychological Science, examined the results of 4.4 million online tests that measured explicit and implicit biases toward groups defined by age, disability, body weight, race, skin tone, and sexuality. Taken by people living in the U.S. from 2004 to 2016, the results showed that explicit (self-reported) biases in all categories decreased during the study's timeframe. However, not all biases dropped equally.
"The rates of explicit attitude change ranged from a rapid 49% decrease in explicit bias towards gay and lesbian individuals, to a relatively slower 15% decrease in explicit bias towards overweight individuals," Tessa E. S. Charlesworth of Harvard University, the first author on the study, told the Association for Psychological Science.
But more surprising was the finding that Americans' implicit (or automatic) biases also seemed to drop significantly.
"Implicit sexual orientation, race, and skin-tone attitudes have all decreased in prejudice over the past decade, with the rates of change ranging from a rapid 33% decrease in implicit bias towards gay and lesbian individuals to a relatively slower 15% decrease in implicit bias towards dark-skinned individuals," Charlesworth said.
All groups of Americans generally reported less implicit bias toward groups defined by sexuality, while millennials showed the greatest decreases in implicit biases toward groups defined by race and skin tone. However, some biases don't appear to be diminishing. Implicit attitudes toward groups based on age and disability remained stable over the study's timeframe, while negative attitudes toward overweight people actually increased.
To measure implicit bias, the researchers used variations of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a word-based test that asks respondents to quickly match certain groups to descriptors, and then measures how long it took for respondents to form those associations. For example, an IAT might ask a respondent to pair "male" or "female" with the attribute "logical." The idea is that quicker associations represent stronger implicit biases.
Implicit biases can change
The results are promising because they show that our implicit biases can change significantly over the course of a decade, the researchers said.
"We provide the first report of long-term change in both implicit and explicit attitudes – measured from the same individual – towards multiple social groups," Charlesworth said. "This research is important because it shows that, contrary to previous assumptions that implicit attitudes were stable features of the mind or society, implicit attitudes appear, in fact, to be capable of long-term durable change."
Still, it's worth noting that the study only included answers provided from 2004 to 2016, and some polling data shows that many Americans report feeling that racism or race relations have gotten worse in recent years. For instance:
- In February 2018, the Associated Press/NORC Center poll asked black Americans if race relations in the U.S. are better, worse or about the same as in February 2017. About 7 percent said better, 65 percent said worse, and 27 percent said about the same.
- A 2017 Pew Research Center survey showed that, compared to 2015, the share of Americans who said racism was a "big problem in our society" rose by 8 percent—an increased reported almost entirely by Democrats.
- An NBC poll from 2018 showed that 64 percent of Americans felt that racism remains a "major problem in our society."
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
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