Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A test we should all do
I'm a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell's writing, both in the New Yorker and his fantastic book "The Tipping Point". So I bought his new book "Blink" on Friday, and spent the weekend up in Bains Kloof devouring it. While not as good (IMO) as The Tipping Point, it gives some fascinating insight into how humans make snap decisions. One of the most interesting things he discusses is the Implicit Association Test (IAT) which is a online test run by Harvard University that gauges your subconscious association between factors. The test asks you to distinguish faces of European and African origin along with associated words, ultimately indicating whether you have an automatic preference for white over black. Gladwell notes in Blink that most people in the US, including Black people, have an automatic preference for Whites. This finds its antecedent in the media world, business world and social world, where White people are largely given more face time. Given our more recent past in South Africa, most Black people would have a natural association of Whites and evil, so that preference would undoubtedly be reversed.

It's a fascinating test to undertake though, and it opens your subconscious bare. I ended up with a "slight automatic preference for white people" which surprised me at first, but when we consider what the Apartheid environment we've grown out of, I suppose that it is a subconscious stream that is still working its way out. A range of tests, including the race test, is available on the Harvard site. Give it a go, and let me know how you scored, and how you felt about it...