A new study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that despite our best efforts, unconscious racial biases affect who we trust—especially with our money.

ABC News reports:

In Monday’s study, researchers focused on the extent to which unconscious racial biases may affect explicit preferences when we make decisions about whom to trust. Researchers measured implicit and explicit racial bias among 50 racially diverse participants using an Implicit Association Test (IAT) and questionnaires assessing self-reported racism.

Using these results as points of comparison, researchers then asked participants to rate the “trustworthiness” of nearly 300 faces (they were shown people of many races, though only scores for blacks and whites were used in the analysis). Then they had participants play a trust-based economic reward game. Participants were shown a photo of their supposed “partner” in the game, who was either black or white.

Overall, if people showed an unconscious bias toward whites, they were more likely to rate whites as trustworthy when asked, and more likely to risk more money with white partners. The same bias was true in the minority of participants who showed a pro-black bias.

While the study’s findings may seem obvious, many people are completely unaware of their internal biases, which can affect how they relate to others.

In a similar study of doctors who serve minority communities, researchers found that the unconscious biases they held about their patients led them to prescribe different medications based on race.

The conflict between our unconscious prejudices and the way we carry ourselves every day will continue. However, being more aware of our biases will help us rectify this conflict, or as one researcher put it, “Acknowledging this bias is part of bringing our behavior in line with intentions.”

What do you think? Are you aware of your prejudices and biases? How do you deal with them?


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