Last fall, Emile Bruneau, a cognitive neuroscientist from M.I.T., was in Budapest running a series of behavioral experiments designed to measure anti-Roma bias in a cohort of Hungarian schoolteachers. Anti-Roma bias is rampant in schools throughout Central and Eastern Europe; in many countries, including Hungary, it takes the form of full-blown segregation. Bruneau wanted to see if he could not only quantify this bias, but also break it down into its constituent parts, and from there, figure out how to alleviate it.Here’s how the experiment would work: Each teacher would be made to sit in front a computer screen and communicate with a student whom they believed was in another room, completing a numbers and logic quiz as part of a study of online learning habits. The teachers would have the option of giving positive, neutral or negative feedback at various intervals throughout the quiz. The “students” were really actors—some of them Roma and some of them non-Roma—that Emile’s team had pre-recorded assuming different postures (attentive, bored, frustrated, pleased and so on). The hypothesis was that the teachers who tested as more overtly biased on psychological assessments, which Bruneau had administered on a previous visit, would be more inclined to give negative feedback and less inclined to praise or encourage the Roma students.Bruneau wanted to keep the true intentions of the study hidden from the teachers so as not to trigger any feigned responses. “We want them to believe that these are real students that they’re interacting with, students who are sitting at a similar computer screen in a nearby building,” he told his research assistants. “So just think of things you would do if that were true. You’d maybe text the person in that other room, or wait to hear from them before hitting the start button.”I couldn’t bear to post the rest of this article which is filled with clichéd attempts at “studying” prejudice. It’s as if the “human behavior industry” have all been locked in the same windowless room for the past century; don’t bother to look at the “real world,” and go on blithely believing that if they just do one more study, and maybe a few more, and more after that, they will control individual human behavior and thus, save the world. The problem is, their goal is to change human behavior through SHAMING, which is not going to happen. Being nagged, tagged and reprimanded for pan-human traits and then subjected to social condemnation has never worked.
And, they are looking for the source of racism in the wrong arena.
As long as humans live in steep social hierarchies, some groups will be at the bottom of the pyramid, and those people will be abused. It’s a consequence of the structure of human societies. Unless the structure changes, racism, prejudice, inequality and violent extermination will continue.