Bonus: Your tax dollars are certainly involved in this.
Researchers at Northwestern University conducted a study to see if people’s “biases” could be reduced while they sleep.
CBS News explains: “Previous research has shown that common social stereotypes, even subconscious ones, can have negative consequences in everyday life. One study found that employers were less likely to hire women for math jobs even when they were equally qualified as their male counterparts. Another found that while playing a video game, when participants were told to shoot only people carrying weapons, they were more likely to shoot unarmed black targets as opposed to those who were white. (This occurred whether the person being tested was black or white themselves.)”
Science magazine has published a new study where researchers attempted to alter biases via sleep conditioning.
Forty participants in the experiment completed two training exercises, one designed to counter racial bias and the other gender bias. In the first task, images of females appeared on a computer screen with words that counter gender stereotypes, like math and science terms. Pictures of black individuals were paired with positive words. Two distinctive sounds also played during each image-word pairing, creating a strong association between the sounds and the pairs.
After the exercise, the participants took a 90-minute nap. While they were in deep sleep, the researchers played one of the sounds repeatedly, but not loud enough to disturb sleep.
The researchers found that the “biases” were reduced. “The results showed that the implicit biases among the participants were reduced when compared to a baseline measurement before the training exercise and nap. The change even held up when they were tested again one week later, though the association was weaker.”
It seems like this technique might be used to alter all kinds of beliefs and behavior…
Ken Paller, senior author of the study and professor of psychology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences also noted that the study could have implications for reducing other kinds of unwanted social biases and even may help reduce bad habits, such as smoking, self-centeredness, phobias, or unhealthy eating behaviors.
So, some good news for those of you with socially undesirable biases you just can’t quit. At the very least, this sounds like a great premise for a movie, if there already isn’t one out there.