Race, Trust, and Split-Second Judgments

Watch one of our 30 Top Thinkers Under 30 explain his research: "Our unconscious biases can actually impact the visual perception of another person."
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Watch one of our 30 Top Thinkers Under 30 explain his research: "Our unconscious biases can actually impact the visual perception of another person."

In a split second, you can decide the race, age, or sex of a person—even whether that person is trustworthy or not. These judgments affect so many of our beliefs and actions, and yet, since so much of it is unconscious, they are hard to study and understand.

One person who has made significant progress in this arena is Jonathan Freeman, who we selected this April as one of our 30 Top Thinkers Under 30. He's now the director of New York University's Social Cognitive & Neural Sciences Lab, which released a video this week featuring some of his most interesting work. For instance, Freeman found that if you ask people to judge the race of a person, it depends on the clothes they are wearing. Ambiguous faces that were dressed in low-status clothing (janitor's uniforms, for instance) were more likely to be judged as black than faces appearing in professional clothing.

As Freeman says in the video, "Our unconscious biases can actually impact the visual perception of another person." Now, with brain scans and mouse-tracking software that Freeman designed, these unconscious biases are open to our interpretation. —Bettina Chang

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