Friday, April 01, 2016

Are we all sexists and racists?

I want to point to Miller's review of work of Levanon et al., as well as other studies, showing that that when women have moved into occupations in large numbers, those jobs have begun paying less even after controlling for education, work experience, skills, race and geography.
A striking example is to be found in the field of recreation — working in parks or leading camps — which went from predominantly male to female from 1950 to 2000. Median hourly wages in this field declined 57 percentage points, accounting for the change in the value of the dollar, according to a complex formula used by Professor Levanon. The job of ticket agent also went from mainly male to female during this period, and wages dropped 43 percentage points...The same thing happened when women in large numbers became designers (wages fell 34 percentage points), housekeepers (wages fell 21 percentage points) and biologists (wages fell 18 percentage points). The reverse was true when a job attracted more men. Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.
In the vein of work described in a previous MindBlog post, an excellent article by Ojiaku, a former Neuroscience Graduate Student at the University of Wisconsin, gives extensive references to work demonstrating that our unconscious racism starts early, and creates a deadly empathy gap. The studies Ojiaku cites:
...showed racially biased differences in cognitive and emotion-related brain regions, including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). One of the ACC’s functions is registering when you experience your own pain or empathy for another person’s pain. In the study, Chinese and Caucasian college students were shown video clips of both Chinese and Caucasian faces either in pain or not in pain as scientists conducted brain scans. The researchers measured increased ACC activity in the brains of those viewing painful expressions on the faces belonging to their own race, but decreased ACC activity when viewing pain in another race, uncovering a racially biased difference in empathetic response to pain in the brain.
Another study:
...asked participants to view video images of white, black, and violet-illuminated (for racially neutral) hands being pricked with a needle. While watching the prick, the volunteers were tested for their empathetic response via transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS); the greater the reaction to the stimulation, the higher the empathetic response to the pain...Interestingly enough, both black and white participants had an adequately empathetic response to seeing the violet hand being pricked. However, all of the participants – both black and white – failed to react as strongly to the pain of someone who was outside their racial group. The study also found that people who scored higher in racial bias on the IAT (implicit association test) – meaning that they showed more implicit preferences for faces belonging to their own race – also showed less reactivity to pain experienced by someone from another race.
The last straw: a study from the University of Iowa published in Psychological Science in February 2016. Incredibly, the researchers found that when white test subjects were primed with photos of five-year-old black boys, they were far more likely to mistake objects such as toys for guns – or even to claim to see guns when there were none. In sharp contrast, when subjects were primed with photos of five-year-old white boys before seeing the objects, the effect reserved, as they were more likely to mistake guns for toys. These findings are ominous for black children, because it shows that youth does not mitigate their potential to become targets of racist events, as in the case of the 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a young black boy carrying a toy ‘BB gun’ in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, whom the police shot in less than two seconds after arriving on the scene.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Deric,

    Your post reminds me of the analysis and findings of Ivan Ilich in his profoundly radical and controversial study of Gender (

    If you have not seen it, you may want to look at this gem.