The Effect of Implicit Prejudice on Economic Inequality

In my psychology class, we have been exploring anti-social relations, including the differences between explicit and implicit prejudice. Explicit bias is easy to spot as it takes place at the conscious level, is deliberately formed, and is easy to self-report. Implicit bias, however, is formed at the unconscious level, is involuntarily formed, and a person isn’t typically aware of it. This means that people can unknowingly form unjust opinions about an individual’s intelligence and integrity on the basis of race, age, gender, and/or sexuality. This can lead to discrimination at all levels, but in the context of economic inequality, implicit prejudice allows for discrimination by employers towards equally skilled applicants who vary in race or gender in the hiring process. Researchers have found that, when handed two identical resumes, one from a man named John and the other from a man named Jamal, the employers would chose John. The employer would also select John’s resume if the name Jamal is replaced by Joan meaning that the same discrimination exists for women.

It’s difficult to do anything about implicit prejudice since we aren’t aware of this type of bias that we may hold. It seems as though our society has ingrained in us higher trust in the capabilities of men compared to women as well as the view that whites are more credible than racial and ethnic minority groups. This poses several problems, but a major one is the resulting stagnation in upward mobility for anyone who does not identify as a white male. I believe, as evidence strongly suggests, that implicit prejudice plays a significant role in the drastic gender and racial wage gaps. Implicit prejudice can also be seen in photo and word association tests. For example, when one group was shown an image of a white man and a wrench, and the other group was shown an image of a black man and the same wrench, the groups believed that the white man would use the wrench as a tool whereas the black man would use it as a weapon. This demonstrates the fact that, even when coming from a high socioeconomic background, black males have to take more precautions so as not to be perceived as threats to society.

It’s distressing to accept that a great amount of discrimination remains prevalent in our supposed equal and free country. It’s disturbing to see the persistent residential segregation by race that leads to the unequal distribution and quality of resources that hinders upward mobility. We can take measures to try to reduce explicit prejudice through the positive ways of normalizing behavior (like including more roles portrayed by people of color in books or on television). As it stems from unconscious brain activity, not knowing how to solve the problem of implicit prejudice is incredibly frustrating. However, decreasing levels of explicit prejudice through education and positive methods of normalizing behavior might be worthwhile towards creating a more equal and unbiased society. I’m not so naive as to believe that all prejudice and discrimination will cease to exist or considerably diminish, but I have hope in a world where justice and acceptance will prevail over social stigmas and ignorance.



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