Thursday, October 08, 2009

Success of Birther meme may be due to implicit prejudice

Steve Mirsky in Scientific American

Today, of course, the commander in chief of the U.S. military is black, and President Barack Obama gets the best seats in the house. A black president, however, causes great cognitive dissonance in some. But members of the “birther” movement have found a clever solution: Obama isn’t really president! Because he wasn’t really born in the USA!


A part of the answer may lie in what’s called implicit social cognition, which involves the deep-rooted assumptions we all carry around and even act on without realizing it. Harvard University psychologist Mahzarin Banaji is a leader in implicit social cognition research. She excavates the hidden beliefs people hold by measuring how fast they make value judgments when shown a rapid-fire succession of stimuli, such as photographs of faces.


The study found that white Europeans are more “American” than are nonwhite Americans in most minds.

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