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Social contexts change implicit bias

Whereas past work had assumed that implicit attitudes and stereotypes are learned early in life and change slowly, our research has uncovered immense plasticity in people’s implicit attitudes toward social groups in response to small changes in local environments.

  • When people see images and stories of admired members of negatively stereotyped groups in the media (racial ethnic minorities, lesbians and gay men, women leaders, the elderly), they show substantially less implicit race bias, anti-gay bias, gender bias, and age bias. Media stories are especially impactful for people who have little or no real life contact with members of these groups.


  • White Americans’ implicit attitudes toward racial and ethnic minorities depends on how “ethnic” they appear. Racial and ethnic minorities are implicitly liked more if they present as ‘non-ethnic’ in appearance and speech and implicitly disliked if they appear ethnically identified.


  • Implicit bias in the mind translate into biased behavior when motivation to be egalitarian is not a high priority for a person or when the behavior is difficult to control.

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